Lucy Maud Montgomery named The Guardian's 2008 Newsmaker of Year

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 31, 2008
Anne of Green Gables, first written 100 years ago by Lucy Maud Montgomery, continues to have an impact upon the Island in putting the province into the hearts and minds of people around the world. Guardian graphic

The Guardian's 2008 Newsmaker of the Year died 66 years ago.
Lucy Maud Montgomery has always maintained a strong presence in Prince Edward Island over the past decades through her lasting literature. Her fictional freckled creation has created a wealth of interest in her home province.
Even today, more than 10 per cent of first-time visitors say the main reason they are attracted to the Island is because of Anne Shirley and the world of Montgomery.
And while the writer's beloved pigtailed character has most frequently held the lion's share of tourists' attention over the author, the life and works of the world-renowned writer was well illuminated in 2008 during the 100th anniversary of the publication of her most cherished work, Anne of Green Gables.
Montgomery managed to have a wide-ranging impact this year in putting the province in the news and in the minds of people around the world.
"This is marvelous news! Of course LMM deserves to be Newsmaker of the Year on P.E.I. - and for so many wonderfully positive reasons,'' said Elizabeth Epperly, an expert on the author and founder of the L.M. Montgomery Institute.
Publications hitting the book stores this year included the well-received prequel, Before Green Gables, the 100th anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables and Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery with textual notes from Epperly.
Epperly, a former UPEI president, says on a more controversial note, Irene Gammel's Looking for Anne and Mary Rubio's The Gift of Wings will keep the paid and unpaid scholars arguing for years about how anyone can know the "real" Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Waterston's lyrical Magic Island will delight those curious about Montgomery's books and how they reflect her love for the Island.
Montgomery's granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, also made a shocking revelation in September when she wrote in The Globe and Mail on a long-held secret that the author most likely took her own life.
Butler wrote that despite her grandmother's great success, Montgomery suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. Butler shares the belief of family members that Montgomery committed suicide at age 67 through an overdose.
Epperly told The Guardian following the revelation that she knew for years that Montgomery's untimely end most probably came at her own hands, but she had no interest in being the person to make the revelation.
Many applauded Butler, who wrote that she was inspired to reflect on her own family's history with depression after reading a series on mental health, with helping to highlight the realities of mental illness.
Most of the Montgomery-related news, though, was celebratory and upbeat.
The new L.M. Montgomery Theatre in Cavendish's Avonlea Village gave stellar performances this year of plays Montgomery knew and loved; and more quality programs are already scheduled for 2009.
In Georgetown, theatre-goers were treated to a meticulously and lovingly researched work-in-progress, The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery. Anne and Gilbert charmed more audiences.
The L.M. Montgomery Institute helped Canada Post in co-ordinating the launching of two Anne stamps.
The L.M. Montgomery Institute hosted a successful international conference on Anne of Green Gables as a classic, and papers were presented from 10 different countries, including Japan and Iran.
Montgomery's home, the Leaskdale Manse built around 1886 in Uxbridge, Ont., was designated a national historic site in June. Here Montgomery penned 11 of the 20 books she published in her lifetime.
The Confederation Centre of the Arts paid a special tribute to Montgomery throughout yet another successful season of the musical of Anne.
And in the art gallery, a large exhibition called Imagining Anne: Celebrating the Creation and Centenary of Montgomery's Classic, Anne of Green Gables, showed how Montgomery's fascination with colour and shape inspired the images that she would eventually immortalize in the story of Anne.
A number of living, breathing Islanders were also considered by The Guardian's editorial staff for the distinction of Newsmaker of the Year.
One of the stronger contenders, Gail Shea, made headlines by ending the Liberal party's stranglehold on the riding of Egmont by winning a seat for the Tories as the Harper government was returned to power in the Oct. 14 federal election. Shea was later chosen to take the post as federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the first woman to ever hold the portfolio in parliamentary history.
Kristin Roe was also given serious consideration as top newsmaker for her impressive dual feat of her double swim of the Northumberland Strait in July, combined with her strong role in the Women Making Waves campaign to raise funds for Farmers Helping Farmers and The Stephen Lewis Foundation.
In the end, Montgomery got the nod.
"The public may find it ironic that someone who has been deceased since the early 1940s has been selected as The Guardian's 2008 Newsmaker of the Year, but the fact remains that Lucy Maud Montgomery continues to exert an enormous cultural and economic influence on Prince Edward Island," said Gary MacDougall, managing editor of The Guardian. "And in this past year, her benevolent influence loomed larger than ever."
And Epperly says the author still has plenty of staying power.
"Montgomery will continue to make the news on the Island, in Canada and around the world because she continues to speak to audiences across cultures and time,'' said Epperly.
"When I recently saw a Korean edition of Imagining Anne, I began to think how many readers - in new forms and with new kinds of texts - are going to be drawn to Montgomery and to the Island she loved and celebrated all her life.''

Others considered:

In no particular order, here are the candidates considered for the top newsmaker of 2008:
- Richard Brown
- Mayor Peter Llewellyn
- Ron MacKinley
- Heather Ross
- Rev. Gael Matheson
- Gary Webster
- Kristin Roe
- Byron Carr
- Robert Ghiz
- Olive Crane
- Jared Connaughton

Past Newsmakers:

- 1993: Catherine Callbeck first female P.E.I. premier;
- 1994: 7 1/2 per cent public sector wage rollback;
- 1995: Bombing of P.E.I. legislature;
- 1996: Mayor Ian (Tex) MacDonald;
- 1997: Confederation Bridge;
- 1998: Deputy Police Chief David Griffin;
- 1999: Lorie Kane;
- 2000: Lorie Kane;
- 2001: Blair Ross;
- 2002: Lucille Poulin;
- 2003: Robert Ghiz;
- 2004: Brad Richards;
- 2005: Jared Connaughton and Mark MacDonald, tie;
- 2006: Premier Pat Binns;
- 2007: Premier Robert Ghiz;