By Alyssa Gillespie
Wherever L.M. Montgomery and her works travelled, touching the hearts of readers worldwide, her heart always belonged to Prince Edward Island, as evidenced in her journal when she wrote: “in leaving it felt that I was leaving the only place on earth my heart would ever truly love” (January 28, 1912). This love is not only reciprocated, but celebrated across PEI, especially at the L.M. Montgomery Institute.
Image of Epperly Plaza. Alyssa Gillespie, 2021.
At the rear entrance of the Robertson Library of the University of Prince Edward Island, there is the Epperly Plaza, named after Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Rollins Epperly who established the L.M. Montgomery Institute (LMMI) in 1993 to promote research into the life, works, and impacts of the Island born writer. The LMMI lives inside the Robertson Library, hosting one of the largest collections of Montgomery artifacts and publications. Since 2019, visitors have also been able to find a plaque in honour of Montgomery’s legacy in Epperly Plaza. This plaque is one installation in a much larger project: the L.M. Montgomery Literary Tour which allows Islanders and tourists to follow Montgomery’s footsteps by visiting the places that shaped and inspired her.
Image of L.M. Montgomery Walking Trail Plaque. Alyssa Gillespie, 2021.
The plaque is shaped like a book and designed to look as though the left page is being turned. An image of Claude Roussel’s bronze sculpture of Montgomery is featured on the left page (the actual statue can be found inside the Robertson Library). Accompanying the image is a quote from “The Day Before Yesterday,” an essay Montgomery wrote recalling her time at Prince of Wales College, one of the forerunners of the University of Prince Edward Island. The right page is decorated with a green bookmark and a pair of flowers, and is inscribed with a brief synopsis of the Robertson Library, the LMMI, and Montgomery’s educational connection to UPEI. All writing is printed in English, French, and Japanese.
Image of Claude Roussel’s Bronze L.M. Montgomery Sculpture. Anne Victoria Photography, 2018.
As a current graduate student at the UPEI, and as a woman, I am drawn to this plaque as it is representative of what women who pursue their intellectual passions can achieve. After Montgomery received an education at Prince of Wales College, she went on to post-secondary education at Dalhousie in Halifax, making her one of the few women of her time to pursue higher education.
The plaque also honours another woman, Dr. Elizabeth Epperly.
Epperly sought an education from the University of Prince Edward Island, and was actually the first student to register at UPEI, due to her love of Montgomery. She went on to be the first female president of UPEI from 1995 -1998. Her portrait can be found hanging inside the Robertson Library. Without Montgomery’s belief that there was a place for women in education, Epperly may not have made her way to being the first female president of UPEI.
Having a plaque that honours such impressive women on campus serves as a source of inspiration for present students, especially female identifying students. Montgomery and Epperly’s accomplishments through their pursuit of knowledge is an example of what we can achieve.
While visiting this installation, consider also having a look inside the Robertson Library. There you will find the L.M. Montgomery Institute, as well as the L.M. Montgomery Archival and Special Collections Material including material which can be found on KindredSpaces (See Simon Lloyd’s “Research Two-Step”, a guide on how to navigate these collections here).
The LMMI has also been involved with several innovative and exciting projects that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home:
Learn more about The Inspiring World of L.M. Montgomery: A Literary Trail here.
Learn more about the L.M. Montgomery Institute here.
Learn more about the Projects and Possibilities of the L.M. Montgomery Institute here.