The opening sentence of Anne of the Island, “Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” truly resonates with us in September, when we can see hay bales by the Lake of Shining Waters and the cool morning air and light early morning fog over the lake remind us of a slower time waiting just around the corner. It has been a very busy summer, just like every typical Prince Edward Island summer. We were very fortunate to meet a lot of Anne and Maud fans and got to chat with some of you in our Charlottetown and Avonlea Village Anne of Green Gables Stores as well as in the Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner where some of you took Matthew’s Carriage rides, got to taste our homemade (or bottled) raspberry cordial or stroll the beautiful grounds L.M. Montgomery loved so much. Thank you for making it a truly exceptional summer for us and we sincerely hope you had an amazing time visiting our beautiful island.
As we are starting a new school year and settling into our everyday routines it seems appropriate to talk a little more about Maud and teaching. As you well know Anne Shirley became a teacher and L.M. Montgomery’s account of the experience included in Anne of Avonlea was drawn from her own experience. Although a little bit older than Anne herself, L.M. Montgomery started teaching in 1894 in a one-room schoolhouse in Bideford, PEI, located some 70 kilometres west of Cavendish. Unfortunately, the schoolhouse has not survived, but you can still take a trip west to see the Methodist Parsonage where Maud boarded while teaching in Bideford. The famous anodyne liniment cake incident immortalized later in Anne of Green Gables was inspired by an actual event that took place in the Parsonage when the minister’s wife, Mrs. Estey, made a similar mistake and served the cake to a visiting minister, who gladly ate the whole serving. In her 1917 autobiography, The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, L.M. Montgomery recounts the incident:
“The notable incident of the liniment cake happened when I was teaching school in Bideford and boarding at the Methodist parsonage there. Its charming mistress flavoured a layer cake with anodyne liniment one day. Never shall I forget the taste of that cake and the fun we had over it, for the mistake was not discovered until tea-time. A strange minister was there to tea that night. He ate every crumb of his piece of cake. What he thought of it we never discovered. Possibly he imagined it was simply some new-fangled flavouring.”
After Bideford, Maud went to study for one year at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she planned to learn how to become a better writer. She was able to draw heavily from her university experience while writing Anne of the Island (1917) and fictionalized Dalhousie as Redmond College.
Upon return to Prince Edward Island the aspiring authoress taught in two other schools – her second teaching job was in Belmont and her third and last one was in Lower Bedeque, on the south shore of PEI. The Belmont schoolhouse can still be found right next to our own Anne of Green Gables Store in Avonlea Village in Cavendish (do not miss the class photo in front of it) though it has been re-purposed in recent years and has become a home of a PEI-made soap and souvenir store, Moonsnail Mercantile. The Lower Bedeque schoolhouse has been restored to the late 1800’s and is open to visitors in July and August.
It is also noteworthy that Anne of Avonlea (1909), the second volume of the series describing Anne’s work as a teacher in the Avonlea school, is dedicated to L.M. Montgomery’s favourite teacher – Miss Hattie Gordon. Having a female teacher in 1880’s must have been a huge influence in Maud’s life, just like Anne and Maud influenced a lot of young girls who later chose this very profession.
As the holiday season approaches please make sure to visit our online store for beautiful gifts designed by the Campbell family, direct descendants of LMM and the owners of the Anne of Green Gables Museum.