Exploring the Anne of Green Gables Treasury
"It’s a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables, than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn’t it?"
Finding Out More About Life in the Late 1800s as Anne Would Have Known it
Some time ago, I ordered the Anne of Green Gables Treasury. I was looking for books that delved into life as it would have been in the Canadian Maritimes, when a red-headed orphan crossed the Northumberland Straight and took a ferry ride to Prince Edward Island, then a buggy ride, to reach Matthew and Marilla's farmstead.
Of course, that didn't actually happen but Lucy Maud Montgomery incorporated enough details of the island and of life at that time, that from a historical perspective, I wanted to learn more.
I'd already seen the Kevin Sullivan movies that had so enchanted audiences in the 1980s and I'd later read the story online, and intrigued by the descriptions of life as it would have been during that time period, I sought to find a volume that approached Anne's life from that angle.
Many, upon reading the books, feel an admiration for the hard-working people they come to know through Montgomery's writings and they become fascinated with how people actually lived on the island in the late 1800s. While these simple folk worked hard and didn't have many of the modern conveniences that we do today, somehow, there's a charm in a way of life embodying "plain living and high thinking" as expressed so aptly by the poet Wordsworth and as embodied in the Anne books, one that has touched a chord within many of us.
When I came across the Treasury, I noted that authors Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson had also sought to find out more about life as Anne would have experienced and lived it.
The Rustic Farmhouse Where it All Began
A Well-Thumbed Keepsake
Montgomery and Anne's World
From the moment I received my own copy of the Treasury, I felt tempted to turn the pages, because the front cover depicts Anne and Matthew riding up to Green Gables and is framed in such a way that the reader wants to climb right inside the scene.
Each page is bordered by a strip of wallpaper that would have been used during that time period.
Chapter One gives an overview of author Lucy Maud's Montgomery's birth and events during her childhood years. As one reads, one can't help but be struck by the parallels: how events in Montgomery's life mirrored events in Anne's. Both were orphaned, both looked after young children, both went to live on a farm on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, both lived with strict adults, both received teacher's licenses, both returned to the island to teach. And just as Montgomery's grandfather died and she returned to live with her grandmother, so too Matthew died and Anne later returned to live with Marilla. Both had vivid imaginations and both wrote and were published. Lucy Maud's favorite places around Cavendish became Anne's and, by extension, became favorites to a worldwide audience.
While both Montgomery and Anne have passed from the worldly scene, thanks to their depictions, present and future generations can enjoy green Gables, Lover's Lane, the Haunted Wood, the vast sandy beaches of Cavendish and the other places mentioned in the novels.
A map is included depicting the north shore area as it stands today and after a section providing information and images of the Anne books, a larger map is provided of Avonlea as Anne would have known it. This chapter ends with Anne's family tree.
Green Gables Farm as Depicted in the Treasury
A Closer Look at the Farmhouse
Chapter Two takes readers into the Green Gables farmhouse. A detailed description of the rooms provides insights:
- How two doors helped to keep the cold out. Maritime winters can be challenging with bone-chilling temperatures, laden with ocean moisture.
- The iron cook stove was an innovation of the mid-ninteenth century that provided warmth and a easier method of food preparation.
- Without refrigeration, a pantry was an essential room, as was a root cellar, plus ice houses. But because certain food items, such a milk, cream, and eggs were usually readily available, these didn't have to be refrigerated as they are now.
- Water had to be drawn from a well, and bedrooms contained washstands with a pitcher and a large bowl for daily sponge baths. People might bathe occasionally in a tub set down in the kitchen but that would have been quite an undertaking, to both haul and heat the water to fill the tub.
- Without closets, clothes were generally hung from pegs on the walls, stored in wardrobes, and stowed in trunks.
Well-Traveled and Beloved Paths
A short distance away from the farm was the house where Montgomery lived with her grandparents. She could go visit her cousins, the Macneills, by way of a wooded path that led to the house that inspired the Anne books.
Green Gables is situated on a hill that slops downward to a little creek and bridge. When visitors cross that and climb the hill, they enter the Haunted Wood. This is the same path Lucy Maud would have taken to return to her grandparent's home and it's the same path Anne and Diana would have traveled.
Another map identifies locations of places around the farm and mentioned in the Anne books. This visual guide helps readers to get a better feel for where everything is situated in relation to Green Gables.
Timeline of Important Events
Chapter Three offers a timeline from when Anne was born in 1866 through the years the books encompass up to 1919, when Anne is 53, and important dates and world events are correlated to Anne's own journey.
So much was happening in Canada and around the world. The Dominion of Canada was formed and P.E.I became a Canadian province. Inventions that would change the very way of life were coming to fruition: the telephone, the phonograph, the electric light bulb, the bicycle, the Model T automobile, the transcontinental railway. Major literary works were created, significant events would both rock the world and propel it to new frontiers.
Anne's way of life would soon vanish, so from a historical perspective, readers, through the Anne books, were given a glimpse into a world that was ending.
School Days and Activities
Chapter Four discusses Anne's school days and what it was like to go to school in a one-room school house, to use slates, and to master a curriculum that was very challenging. Readers will remember fondly that Anne took the path through Lover's Lane and Violet Vale to get to the little school house in the woods.
Both Montgomery and Anne were avid students who also became teachers. We learn that the one-room schoolhouse continued in use up till the 1920s in Canada.
This chapter also offers fascinating glimpses as to how people spent their time and what leisure activities they enjoyed in a world without radio, television, and shopping malls.
Lover's Lane and the Haunted Wood
To take the path to Diana's through the Haunted Wood (horizontal path to the right of the house) or take the Lover's Lane path Anne would have traveled to get to the one-room schoolhouse (vertical path behind house and going towards bottom of image), grab the orange man and when the blue lines appear, set him down on either path and hit the directional arrows to move forward.
Aerial view of Green Gables and paths: Haunted Wood and Lover's Lane
Tea Time and Treats
Chapter Five is a delight offering up glimpses of tea time and goodies that graced many a table.
At this stage, this book becomes "interactive." Instructions are given for brewing the perfect pot of tea and recipes are provided, including lemon biscuits, caramel pie, and of course, Marilla's plum puffs. Young girls or teens might enjoy recreating a tea party as it would have been conducted in Anne's time and collecting ferns and flowers to add to the table as Anne would have done.
Even more interesting, readers can learn how to sugar flowers and how to make candy violets.
In Chapter Six, we learn that people in Anne's day spent many hours knitting, crocheting, sewing and more. An interesting tidbit is that girls of that time were expected to do a little handiwork each day. This helped them to form a lifelong habit and would have equipped them with the skills needed to later outfit their homes.
Women were expected to furnish many items for the home, from window coverings to table linens, from quilts (old fabric was recycled into patchwork quilts) to floor coverings (long strips of fabric were turned into braided rugs), from serviceable to decorative items. And they also had to outfit their families in everyday wear to warm outer wear. Every scrap of fabric, every piece of yarn, and every piece of wool was used.
Readers will find instructions for making crocheted lace, plus instructions for making baby bonnets. Because clothes had to be either hand-sewn or sewn on a treadle machine, aprons played an important part in keeping clothing from getting soiled, which meant less hand washing and less wear. Instructions for a bib apron are also included.
People also engaged in other activities, such gathering petals to make rose bowls, making fragrant sachets and potpourri pillows. With no air fresheners, it can be seen why bringing the scents of the garden into the home would have been most welcome. Readers also learn how to press flowers for making bookmarks, cards and pictures.
Doing a Little Handwork Each Day Added Up Over the Year
Clothing and Fashion
In Chapter Seven, readers learn that back in Anne's day, people didn't have lots of outfits to choose from, nor was clothing readily available. Sensible dresses that could withstand daily chores were the order of the day.
A girl or woman might have one or two best dresses only worn to church or on special occasions. They might have one or two others for visiting or for other occasions when their plain work dresses wouldn't suffice.
Most clothing was made by hand and at home, so making clothing was a labor-intensive process. Singer sewing machines lightened the load somewhat but still, to keep family members clothed would have been challenging indeed.
A long dress might take 20-30 yards of cloth and money was scarce, so garments, as well as other clothing items, were taken care of and worn for many years.
This chapter offers some interesting tidbits about female clothing and propriety, discussing such items as corsets, high collars, trains, and bustles and how young ladies were expected to be covered from top to bottom, even down to having their arms covered most of the time.
Flowers and Gardens and Beauteous Things
Chapter Eight discusses how gardens were essential as they were a supply of fresh vegetables for the household. Houses of the time also included berry patches and orchards to supply berries and fresh fruits. Putting up enough vegetables and fruit to last throughout the winter months took many weeks of preparation.
Flower gardens brought delight to the soul and senses and this last chapter offers a wealth of information about flowers that would have grown around Green Gables, in the woods nearby, and in Anne's other homes, and mention is made of flowers that were Anne's favorites.
This last chapter offers summer and fall projects: how to make a nosegay in a flower pot, how to plant a spring bulb garden and make a tabletop garden, and it even includes a project for winter.
Have You Been to Green Gables?
Step Into Anne's World
A Treasure Trove of Interesting Information
As touched on in this article, the Anne of Green Gables Treasury offers a wealth of information and activities for Anne fans. The moment you open this book, you are transported to another time. It's the perfect choice for anyone looking to increase their knowledge about life as it was lived in the late 1800s on the island.
What I Liked About This Treasury
I would highly recommend this Treasury for anyone who wants to get a better feel for Anne's world. This publication stands out with its charming illustrations and interesting and historically accurate facts, and with the selection of activities that teen or adult readers can choose from to try, It's a valuable volume to add to the home library.
© 2016 Athlyn Green