Today's reflection for the Anne of Green Gables Read-a-long is by the LMMI's Avery-Award winner, Michaela Wipond, who has been helping with many of the social media initiatives getting us ready for the L.M. Montgomery and Reading Conference. Michaela's post on "Chapter XXIV: A Queen's Girl," gives us some history on Montgomery's experience at the Prince of Wales College and how this informed Anne's experience in the novel. At the conference, Michaela will be speaking on, "The Montgomery Myth: Prince Edward Islanders Reading Montgomery."
Chapter XXXIV: A Queen’s Girl
By Michaela Wipond
When “Chapter XXXIV: A Queen’s Girl,” opens, Anne is busy preparing to leave for Queen’s Academy in Charlottetown. According to Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, the fictional Queen’s is based on the real Prince of Wales College (PWC), which was established as Central Academy in 1835 and eventually absorbed in the University of Prince Edward Island. Providing teacher training and preparation for university, PWC became open to women in 1879—five years after Montgomery’s birth (Anne90).
Montgomery attended PWC for one year between 1893 and 1894. Like Anne, she completed two years of college during this time, taking a double course load of English, French, Greek, Latin, Agriculture, Mathematics, Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Chemistry, Horticulture, Roman History, Hygiene, and School Management. She then had to compete for teaching positions with students who had been able to afford a three-year course (Rubio 72-4).
For most of Montgomery’s life, the non-degree-granting PWC was the only local option available to PEI women in pursuit of post-secondary education. Despite the Maritimes’ reputation as a leader in the higher education of women (Macdonald 94), PEI lagged significantly behind the rest of the country in this regard. In 1875, Grace Annie Lockhart (1855-1916) graduated from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Science and English Literature. She was the first woman to receive a bachelor’s degree from any institution in the British Empire (Reid 3). Contrastingly, St. Dunstan’s University, a Catholic institution and the only university on PEI until 1964, did not accept any women until 1941 (Macdonald 94). Thus, women like Montgomery and her fictional heroine were forced to either settle for a teacher’s license or else travel to an out-of-province university.
Anne has barely even begun her studies at Queen’s before she sets her sights on bigger and better things:
"An Avery scholarship! Anne felt her heart beat more quickly, and the horizons of her ambition shifted and broadened as if by magic. Before Josie had told the news Anne’s highest pinnacle of aspiration had been a teacher’s provincial license, Class First, at the end of the year, and perhaps the medal! But now in one moment Anne saw herself winning the Avery scholarship, taking an Arts course at Redmond College, and graduating in a gown and mortar-board, all before the echo of Josie’s words had died away." (Anne 224)
Rubio and Waterston note that Redmond College is modeled on Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which actually had an Avery scholarship (Anne224). In April of 1895, Montgomery received a letter from the Halifax Ladies’ College advising her that she was too far advanced for their courses and should “take a selected course at Dalhousie if [she] did not care to enter as an under-graduate.”
“‘Care to enter,’” Montgomery wrote in her journal, “there is nothing on earth I would like so much but there is no use in thinking of it, for I could not afford to complete the B.A. course. I shall likely take the selected course if I decide to go at all. I am anxious to spend a year at a real college as I think it would help me along in my ambition to be a writer” (Complete Journals 265-6).
The money Montgomery saved from one year of teaching, combined with a contribution from her maternal grandmother, was enough to fund her year at Dalhousie (during which time she took both first- and second-year English). She could not, at the time, afford the remaining three years of her degree, and she never returned (Rubio 78-86).
One has to wonder whether Montgomery’s inclusion of the Avery scholarship in her novel is an indicator of her own disappointment that she was not given the opportunity to complete her education. It is important to note, however, that Montgomery chose to attend university for a year even though she knew she was unlikely to graduate. She believed in education—and, more specifically, in the education of women—for its own sake, as demonstrated by this excerpt from an article she wrote for the Halifax Heraldin April of 1896:
"A girl does not—or, at least, should not—go to a university merely to shine as clever students take honors, “get through and then do something very brilliant.” Nay; she goes—or should go—to prepare herself for living, not alone in the finite but in the infinite. She goes to have her mind broadened and her powers of observation cultivated. She goes to study her own race in all the bewildering perplexities of its being. In short, she goes to find out the best, easiest and most effective way of living the life that God and nature planned out for her to live." (“Girl’s Place” 153)
Montgomery’s passion and aptitude for education was remarkable even by today’s standards. It is a shame she did not have an Avery scholarship to help her through.
Macdonald, Heidi. “PEI Women Attending University Off and On the Island to 1943.” Acadiensis 35, no. 1 (2005): 94-112.
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
---. The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1900, edited by Mary Henley Rubio and Elizabeth Hillman Waterston. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
---. “A Girl’s Place at Dalhousie College, 1896.” Atlantis5, no. 1 (1979): 146-153.
Reid, John G. “The Education of Women at Mount Allison, 1854-1914.” Acadiensis12, no. 2 (1983): 3-33.
Rubio, Mary Henley. Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings.New York: Anchor Canada, 2010.
Michaela Wipond is a fourth-year Honours English student with a double minor in History and Theatre Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. She is the recipient of UPEI’s inaugural Avery Award and will be speaking at the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s 13thBiennial Conference in June. Twitter/Instagram: @michaelawipond.