Last Sunday, I spent an hour and a half curled up in bed, watching a girl who is long since gone protray one of my favourite heroines, who became so well known for the role that she changed her name to that of her most famous character: Anne Shirley. It was made in 1934, and based on the lovely novel written in 1908.
I couldn’t help but think about how expectations and society’s place for women has changed since those two years. Written by my very favourite author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, the sparkling series of books told of a red-headed orphan and her life and loves. She is outspoken, strong-willed, ambitious and turns into an educated, experienced author. This is nothing spectacular for women in England nowadays. But the first edition was published when it was still relatively modern for women to have such a strong and independent voice, let alone leave home to study, become college educated and pursue her own career.
I have loved Anne (spelled with an E) like so many girls around the world, identifying with her hot temper, rash tongue, awful scrapes and passionate heart, but I’ve never stopped to think of how inspiring she must have been to thousands and thousands of young ladies catching a read in between stitching patchwork quilts, tightening their corsets and getting married in their teenage years. When the nosy but good-hearted gossip Rachel Lynde shakes her head darkly over the Cuthberts adopting a mere girl (when only last week another orphan girl murdered her adopted family through poisoning the well) in only the first few pages of Anne of Green Gables, you start to fight for Anne’s corner. Not only as an orphan, an outcast, an underdog and a heroine, but for being a girl.
Anne lives on today, her red hair shining, her charming and witty defiance in the face of adversity. Her beloved puffed sleeves, needlework and hay rides shouldn’t be classed as old fashioned when Montgomery’s heroine lifted her well-shaped nose and flaming locks high and carved a path for women to follow: her dreams. My hero.
More: Buy “Anne of Green Gables” from just an English penny on Amazon