Once published, Anne of Green Gables was an immediate success. The central character, Anne, an orphaned girl, made Montgomery famous in her lifetime and gave her an international following. The first novel was followed by a series of sequels with Anne as the central character. The novels became the basis for the highly acclaimed 1985 CBC television miniseries, Anne of Green Gables and several other television movies and programs, including Road to Avonlea, which ran in Canada and the U.S. from 1990-1996.
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. Her mother, Clara Woolner Macneill Montgomery, died of tuberculosis when Maud was a mere 21 months old. Her father, Hugh John Montgomery, moved to Saskatchewan when Montgomery was only seven years old. She went to live with her maternal grandparents, Alexander Marquis Macneill and Lucy Woolner Macneill, in the nearby community of Cavendish and was raised by them in a strict and unforgiving manner. In 1890, Montgomery was sent to live in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, with her father and stepmother, but returned to the home of her grandparents after a year.
In 1893, following the completion of her grade school education in Cavendish, she attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. Completing a two year program in one year, she obtained her teaching certificate. In 1895 and 1896 she studied literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1898 Montgomery moved back to Cavendish to live with her widowed grandmother. For a short time in 1901 and 1902 she worked in Halifax for the newspapers Chronicle and Echo. She returned to live with and care for her grandmother in 1902. Montgomery was inspired to write her first books during this time on Prince Edward Island.
In 1908, Montgomery published her first book, Anne of Green Gables. Three years later, shortly after her grandmother's death, she married Ewen (found in Montgomery's notes and letters as "Ewan") Macdonald (1870 - 1943), a Presbyterian Minister, and moved to Ontario where he had taken the position of minister of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Leaskdale in present-day Uxbridge Township, also affiliated with the congregation in nearby Zephyr.
Montgomery had three sons: Chester Cameron Macdonald (7 July 1912 – 1964), Hugh Alexander Macdonald, who was stillborn 13 August 1914 and inspired the death of Anne Shirley's first child, Joyce, in Anne's House of Dreams, and Ewan Stuart Macdonald (7 October 1915 – 1982).
Montgomery wrote her next eleven books from the Leaskdale manse. The structure was subsequently sold by the congregation and is now the Lucy Maud Montgomery Leaskdale Manse Museum. In 1926, the family moved in to the Norval Presbyterian Charge, in present-day Halton Hills, Ontario, where today the Lucy Maud Montgomery Memorial Garden can be seen from Highway 7.
In 1935, upon her husband's retirement, Montgomery moved to Toronto, buying a house on the Humber River in the city's west end, which she named "Journey's End". Montgomery continued to write, publishing Jane of Lantern Hill in 1937, and the final Anne novel Anne of Ingleside in 1939.
Beginning in 1940, Montgomery began work on a collection of short stories and poems called The Blythes Are Quoted. The stories were previously published works that were slightly rewritten to include Anne and her family as mainly peripheral characters; the poems (in the context of the book) were accredited to Anne and her son Walter. The book was not published until 1974, when it was issued as The Road To Yesterday, with all but one of the poems removed.
In all, during her lifetime she had published 20 novels, over 500 short stories, an autobiography and a book of poetry. She was buried at the Cavendish Community Cemetery in Cavendish following her wake in the Green Gables farmhouse and funeral in the local Presbyterian church.
Her major collections are archived at the University of Guelph, while the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island coordinates most of the research and conferences surrounding her work. The first biography of Montgomery was The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery (1975) written by Mollie Gillen Dr. Gillen also discovered over 40 of Montgomery's letters to her pen-friend George Boyd MacMillan in Scotland and used them as the basis for her work. Beginning in the 1980s her complete journals, edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, were published by the Oxford University Press. From 1988-95, editor Rea Wilmshurst collected and published numerous short stories by Montgomery.