Women we never met helped to raise many of us. It was their words--the stories they told us and the characters they created--that tended us. A chapter a night, perhaps, we are indebted to them forever. Two among them were Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. While I have known of both of their lives, I know Montgomery better because I have read her journals many times. It is one of my most treasured books. In Anne of Green Gables she gave her readers the essentials of her own life, but it was a thread rather than entire fabric.
The discussion of Louisa May Alcott and Orchard House, her home in Concord, Massachusetts, brings to my mind an important fact: Behind the children's classics that we have come to love and call our own own, each in our own way, were flesh and blood women--and women of their times. Their fiction gives us hints, but it is not the whole story of their lives.
Two new books on these icons of our childhoods, The Woman Behind Little Women and Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, are biographies you may want to read. From what I know of them, they will have disturbing notes. But I've ordered them, and when they arrive, I'll talk more about each. But what I will remember most is the little girl in the Newfield Public Library devouring the books that seemed written just for her. What a gift for a writer to touch hearts and souls, perhaps even when her own life had hurt and sorrow.