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The heartbreaking truth about Anne's creator

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Kate Macdonald Butler reveals a long-held secret about her grandmother, one of Canada's most beloved authors, Lucy Maud Montgomery ...Read the full article

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  1. David any from Loon-a-Tick, Canada writes: Alot of great art has come from profound sadness.What a big family secret you have revealed! A lot of us feel better knowing that seemingly perfect people have suffered the same problem. Thanks for the story. Somehow I am sure this type of thing does help.
  2. Aaress Lawless from Houston, United States writes: Thank you for your courage in revealing your family's story. As a lifelong reader of your grandmother's work, this news has not changed my opinion of her legacy.

    If anything, it has made me respect her more so as she clearly wrote under an immense amount of duress, making her works so much more precious.

    May God continue to give your family strength and grace as you continue to uphold her legacy.
  3. Eleanor Gregory from Vancouver, Canada writes: I grew up reading all the Anne books and as a mother took great delight in passing on my love of all things Anne to my daughter and my son. My daughter, now 19, and I even made a pilgramage to Montgomery's homestead, now a national park, in PEI, two years ago, when we were in the Maritimes. I've also read most of Montgomery's published journals. The description of her death in 1942 did seem rather abrupt but I didn't give that abruptness much thought. Now it all makes sense. I want to thank Montgomery's family for sharing their story--they are not alone.

    Another note, the photo of Kate Macdonald Butler, aged 6, reading Anne of Green Gables is wonderful. The delight on her face is wonderful.
  4. A B from Vancouver, Canada writes: Thank you for sharing your family's story regarding depression. Today many people suffer from depression because they are not conscious of the fact that we are going through an intense Planetary and Spiritual evolution which will see the breakdown of the old patriarchal society (financial system is breaking down as I speak) and the establishment of Unity and Peace on Earth. Many of today's kids are "wired" for the "New Earth" and find it extremely difficult to "fit into" this old dying paradigm which is heavy with negativity and just so "slow" and "low" in frequency and vibration ... those kids labeled ADD, ADHD, etc. Being one of these "newly wired" people who came in in the late 1950s, I too suffered from depression because of being born into a world that just didn't make sense to me. "Where is the love?" was my mantra. The good news is that we're well into the "shift" that is occurring on the Planet and those sensitive to it are not alone. There are many people, like myself, who are actively participating in its unfoldment. You can too. It may just be your destiny and salvation (as in finally discovering the reason behind your depression ... if physical reasons have been ruled out). Start asking questions. Start looking at the status quo and questioning its truth and relevance. Perhaps you're not "crazy" or depressed at all, maybe your just MORE awake then anyone else around you. Surf the web for information on Spiritual and Planetary evolution. Come to understand the Plan for the Planet as set out in the Mayan Calendar researched by Dr. Calleman. We're on an evolutionary path and each and every one of us is a participant whether we're aware of it or not. Realize that the answers to your depression may not lie in the old medical/mental health paradigm, they may very well lie outside of it ... in the new paradigm we're moving into. And, make no mistake, those answers are out there. If your answers aren't working, try asking a "different" question.
  5. bethany middleton from Vancouver, Canada writes: I spent my childhood with LMMontgomery, wiling away the hours with Anne, Emily, Valancy and the rest. I read her journals when they were first published and was struck by the melancholy that permeated them. RIP Lucy Maud. Your heroines were the heroines of so many young girls - you taught us to dream, and for that I thank you.
  6. Ken Jensen from Saskatchewan, Canada writes: That was a brave article. L.M. Montgomery's depression was not unusual for women of her generation, nor much different from the one my own mother suffered. In both cases, the women were positive, enthusiastic and caring individuals to start with, but crushed by their marriages, joyless religion and lack of freedom that both brought. Their depressions were reactive and not endogenous. It is a mistake to single out the 'illness' as a stand-alone item without looking at the strangulating lives women had to live in those days. Todays' women are much more lucky (unless you happen to be muslim) because they have so many more choices and the tools available to develop into healthy individuals.
  7. John Connor from Canada writes: Let us hope that the world can be as understanding to those currently dealing with depressive and mental illness. Talking about it is still very much a taboo. Thank you for sharing, although it was not at all necessary.
  8. Sonia Di Placido from Toronto, Canada writes: Dear Kate,
    I imagine it must be hard to submit your family story as a public written piece with such a strong cultural heroine, internationally famous who is the underlying history of your life line. Revealing such information close to a century ago, I believe, would have, undoutedly, been scandalous for your grandmother but, the issue seems to be irrelevant now as a taboo subject. I was about 7 years old when I fell in love with your grandmother's voice not yet knowing that her voice was an extension of my own. Her stories prescribed to a whole world thirsty for culture and identification. My childhood and my years as a solitary young reader, who wanted to be a writer didn't know this for certain until I read your essay. It seems, for me, there is a connection to be a writer and a poet, born in this country, a Canadian woman, with a passion for the literary, writing and poetry. As a published poet for 5 years now, I've been suffering with clinical depression for over a decade. I was born a century after L.M. Montgomery, in 1974. I find it incredible how the nature of someone like your grandmother, a successful creative story teller and a poet, who struggled with mental illness and also had a mentally ill partner is not an uncanny or uncommon thing. Rather, I believe that the two tend to go hand in hand. Hence, such great, effective works that reveal the humanity of a time, culture and its people is a large light, which also carries a despairing darkness. Writers, whether we know it or not, are usually drawn to those like ourselves and veer toward specific writers' and their works for strength and personal emotional identification, and this, even at 7 or 87 years of age, is what I have learned through your story. It is as if I am finally seeing the hidden shadowed mirror from behind, at 7 w/no idea of who it is that I am reading. I always identified with L.M. Montgomery, only to find out that her situation is so similar to my own. I know this is perfectly ok.
  9. flea trugger from Toronto, Canada writes: Thank you so very much, Kate Macdonald Butler, for writing this article. It really touched me in its honesty and compassion and I especially love your last line:

    "We realize now that secrecy is not the way to deal with the reality of depression and other mental-health issues."

    This is so very true.

    I also want to thank the writer A B from Vancouver as I too was born in the late 50's and have always struggled with a sense of not fitting in which lead to depression. Now, however, I too sense the paradigm shift you are talking about and that something I have always related to is being more and more readily accepted and understood in greater numbers and that some of those younger than us already embody this newer and healthier way of relating.

    I also see this article and the fact that it was written and published at all as proof of that shift towards a greater good and I for one couldn't be happier!
  10. Puzzled One from Canada writes: Thank you, Kate Macdonald Butler, for your courage and compassion in writing this article. Like many young (Canadian) women, I grew up reading about Anne's life, and then about the life of her author.

    What touched me most about your piece, however, is your compassion for your father and his childhood with mentally ill parents. As the child of a parent who struggles with mental illness, I wept as I read your lament for him.

    Thanks to you and your family for putting yet more faces to mental illness.
  11. Kipling Hedley from Nanaimo, Canada writes: My late mother's all-time favourite book was The Blue Castle. She suffered from depression, too. It resonated with her like a sacred work. It was the only Montgomery novel in our house, it was the first edition, and it was her prized book. As a teenager in the 1960's, I read it and was blown away. Thinking about it again after all these years, it is the great Canadian novel, a neglected classic ahead of its time.
  12. bob gervitz from United States writes: A compelling story, and one I am glad Kate has now told. Those who know the story of LMM well may not be surprised at the cause of her death, but will be grateful for learning the end of the story.

    Actually, it is not really the end of her story for LMM lives on through her works. And such great works they are too.

    But there is even more to her tale. Prince Edward Island has been associated with Lucy and Anne for many years, and rightly so, but there is another place that has been forgotten, but which also deserves mention.

    That place is a small town just outside of Uxbridge, Ontario. The manse in the hamlet of Leaskdale is where LMM wrote 11 of her 22 books. She moved there in 1911 as the new wife of the local pastor, bore her chldren there, and she wrote Chronicles of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne's House of Dreams, The Blue Castle, etc. The manse is now a National Historic Site. In 1926 she moved to Norval and later Toronto where she took her life in 1942.

    A great, great Canadian author whose glory won't be diminished by her tragic death.
  13. Dave Macdonald from Barrie, Ontario, writes: Great job on the "write-up" Kate. Thank you for telling the story so well.

    cousin David Macdonald (the other side of the family)
  14. ed ncda from Canada writes: I suspect that most readers found themselves empathizing with the author. How ironic that we are trying to deal with these issues in an enlightened way only to be thwarted by privacy laws which make it virtually impossible to get professional help for friends or loved ones who are in denial - until such time as they become a public "nuisance", or worse.
  15. Sharon Varney from Edmonton, Canada writes: I think it took grace and courage for Ms. Butler to write this article and I thank her for her honesty and her forthrightness.

    Your father sounds like such a good and decent person. May they all rest in peace. They've earned it.
  16. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Though I enjoyed reading this article, I personally don't think it must have taken that much courage to write it. Writers and artists battling depression and other mental illness seem to be the norm, not the exception; and the truth is, after 100 years, there isn't much of a risk exposing this truth about LM Montgomery. Still, it's good to know this about her. I'm sure there are a few writers and clergymen's wives and daughters out there sighing a sigh of relief knowing they're not alone... And that's the whole point of this exercise, isn't it: to know that we're not alone, that even our best and our brightest and our most respectable are not immune to mental illness. That's part of the process of de-stigmatization. (sp?)
  17. John Deriso from Edmonton, Canada writes: Cousin Voltaire from Canada - I don't think there is a stigma anymore. It seems like everyone is either bipolar or unipolar. It's almost unnatural to be "normal" these days.

    I'm all for the truth being told about what mental illness really is, and the debunking of the Dr. Phil idea that everyone is mentally ill, in some small way, when real mental illness can lead to such tragedy.

    Kate Macdonald Butler isn't telling us that we're all okay, she's telling us that some of us are really in need of help. I don't think that we should just shrug that off. Depression is not being sad about a lost job or not being able to pay the bills. It's so much more. We all need to understand that.
  18. Who do you trust? from Toronto, Canada writes: That there are only 18 comments at this point in time (Monday Sept 22nd at 8am) is instructive. People lack the understanding and the need to understand mental illness. Like so many other illnesses this one will remain marginalized if somewhat less stigmatized. Our society will continue to delegate the responsibility for those who suffer from it to the legal system rather than the medical system where it costs too much to provide care.
  19. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: John -- I disagree. I think there is still much stigma. The point I wanted to make is that there is no stigma attached to what happened to a dead author 60 or 70 years ago. It's the ones living today with depression today and are going through it today who are stigmatized. Maybe not by as many people, but they still are. Got to go...
  20. Nigel Beale from Ottawa, Canada writes: I touch on LMM's depression in an interview with Prof. Irene Gammel for The Biblio File. You can listen here:
  21. Jane Mitchell from Waterloo, Canada writes: We visited PEI this summer and took in all of the Ann sites. After reading L.M. Montgomery's bio and chating with the people at the sites, I found I didn't know how she died. At one of the sites, the young attendant told me the truth.

    I am so glad you told us the truth. Many creative people suffer from depression and she was not alone.
    While I love Ann and her world, I'm glad we live today where people can get help and can admit that they need help, even if a stigma still exists.
    Now if only we could get more treatment centers and therapists for mental illness. There's an election topic.
  22. Geraldine Ryan-Lush from Canada writes: I am an established author and poet, with several books and a collection of poetry to my credit. I have been studying the life and career of L.M. Montgomery for years, and at the height of the Road to Avonlea T.V. series, wrote a lengthy bio paralleling her life with some of her works. It is my fear now that her legacy will be somewhat overshadowed by the label "mentally ill." One only has to look into her early young adult and adult life , to note the effervensence and spirit that emanated from this gregarious lady! She was not a depressive personality, her depression in later years was situational and incidental, not innate! And this should be remembered! I have a problem with all the "experts on her life" who are coming out of the woodwork self-diagnosing this beloved author as "bipolar, biological disorder," and a litany of other psychiatric maladies, accrediting their diagnostic diatribes with the authority of "their professional opinion." They weren't around in 1942! I also have a problem with those who tout all creative people as "depressive." That in itself is the worst stigma, and damaging to artists of all disciplines. L.M. Montgomery was deep and complex, but she was joyful, open and charismatic, embracing life, not shunning from it. It is sad that she lacked the love and balance of marital/relationship happiness she needed to flourish and live to a ripe old age. In this case, it is my "professional opinion" that sleeping dogs should have been left to lie.
  23. David Demner from Bowen Island, BC, Canada writes: Geraldine Ryan-Lush, I think your comment is a perfect example of the stigma that is referred to in the article...
  24. Cousin Voltaire from Canada writes: Geraldine, does it make a difference if depression is "situational" or "innate"? Is there such a thing as innate depression to begin with? Anyone who has lived through depression, whether just one bout or several, can almost always find the trigger in their experience with loss, be it early or later in life. Also, struggling with depression doesn't mean one walks around look all depressed and all that. There are lots of vibrant, energetic, gregarious people out there who have been dealing with depression for years! And why would knowing the truth about LM Montgomery demean our love of her to begin with? Finally, about my comment -- for I'm responsible for that comment -- that it seems that a lot of artists and writers struggle with one form or another of mental illness. I'll agree, I was being too emphatic. What would be more correct to say is that a great many writers begin writing in order to deal with one trauma or another in their lives. I'm thinking of Virginia Woolf, for instance, who wrote something to the effect that the shocks in her life, be it loss or disease or whatever, are what prompted her to try to explain them by writing about them. I think it is true that a great many writers find healing through the act of writing. But if there's a need to heal, doesn't that imply dis-ease in some shape or another?
  25. Thea Duxbury from Hamilton, Canada writes: Ms. Montogomery's stories have weaved themselves through every facet of my life, from reading Anne of Green Gables when I was very young, to enjoying Emily of New Moon up until very recently. Somehow, the characters in her novels always made me feel less alone, and that there was someone out there with as big an imagination as myself!!!! She created romantic characters. And in an era of very few "romantics", I knew I always had Anne, Emily, Marigold and others to turn to. As someone who has suffered from bouts of anxiety and sadness, I applaude Ms. Butler for coming out with this information. It does not entirely surprise me, but it deeply saddens me. Lucy Maud Montogomery is my kindred spirit and one of my literary heroes. The world she created through her characters has shaped my life in an infinitely profound way.

    Rest in Peace Maud.
  26. Sheila Epstein from United States writes: Yes, it is shocking to learn this, but no, the suicide of a notable creative writer is not all that unusual. After all, Ernest Hemingway, another notable writer, killed himself once he realized that he couldn't write anymore. At the time, it was reported as an accident while he was cleaning his gun. Right. Some accident.

    I applaud KMB's honesty in revealing what her family obviously felt they had to hide in the past. But it isn't much of a risk these days. People aren't going to change their minds about the books LMM wrote. They will feel sympathy for her sad end.

    The differences between situational and innate depression don't matter much to a person in the throes of pain. The main reason family members keep these things quiet is to protect the vulnerable suffering person. If shouting it to the rooftops would help the person recover, families would ignore potential stigma and start shouting. Mental illness is dreadful and real.
  27. truth betold from Canada writes: "...In this case, it is my 'professional opinion' that sleeping dogs should have been left to lie...."

    In other words, pretend she wasn't ill. Just what mentally ill people fear about revealing their own malady.
  28. Geraldine Ryan-Lush from Canada writes: I am so heartened to read Dr. Mary Rubio's article on today's Globe and Mail, and congratulate her on taking the time and energy to enlighten further on last week's revelation, at what has to be a most demanding and busy time for her, with the soon-to-be released biography on the author's life. She is indeed a well-respected scholar whom I'm always admired, and I look forward to her upcoming book, as well as other insights she may be generous enough to offer
  29. Elizabeth Absher from Harpers Ferry, United States writes: I own multiple editions of all the books LM Montgomery has written and visited with pleasure the places she described in her books. They defined my childhood. I thank her for her contribution to my life and thousands of others. I thank Kate McDonald for being that supportive daughter of her father, and sharing with us a heart-wrending empathy for a grandmother she never really knew. My daughter is 6, and is currently reading Anne of Avonlea. She will know the love and enthusiasm for life, no matter the hardship, that L.M. Montogmery illustrates in her books (despite- or perhaps because of -what she may have felt inside).
  30. Rosemary Bright from Bryan TX, United States writes: My Mother's mother took her own life in 1918. My Mother wasn't told the truth until she was 38. When I turned 38 she also told me the truth. All those years I thought my grandmother had died as a result of the flu epidemic in 1918.

    My Mom also carried a deep sadness within herself, that she hid very well with a great sense of humor and sharp wit.

    It's possible that these great works that were written by Montgomery were the very things that kept her here - she was focused on something other than her feelings of despair.

    Clinical depression that leads to the taking of one's life is a mystery and excrutiating to those who do not experience it. Even more so to those who do.
  31. David Bloomfield from Calgary, Canada writes: The tragedy wasn't her supposed mental illness. Anyone taking that many drugs would appear mentally ill. Her entire life was dedicated to the earnest pursuit of security and status. Why should Lucy be happy? She married strictly for status, and lived with a man she loathed her entire life. And she choose to forsake the man she really loved, because he didn't have enough money. As brutal as this sounds, that's exactly what happened. I don't know why people believe they can ignore emotional needs. Fame, fortune, and status are not enough. There are consequences to our life choices. If you don't live your truth, you pay the price. Death would have come as a relief from what had become an otherwise meaningless existence.
  32. Bridget Blinn from Fort Worth, United States writes: I am so sad to hear this piece of the history of this favorite author. I love all Ms. Montgomery's stories.
  33. Julie Brinston from A0A 4K0, Canada writes: Kate & David MacDonald, I have been researching my family link to your grandfather Ewan MacDonald. I would like to ask you some questions as I have already spoke with George Campbell many years ago and have yet to find the link. Please contact Julie via email at

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