"Oh, Father, I don't think any of them like me, unless perhaps Aunt Laura does a little."
--Chapter 4, Emily of New Moon

One day I was searching the Web for sites about Emily Starr and L.M. Montgomery, when I stumbled across a paper written by a student named Kristen Tozer. It was entitled Emily Byrd Starr, First Wave Feminist? Immediately I rolled my eyes and grumbled about how everyone is always trying to stick feminism into books written by women. Now I am going to attempt to express my opinions on this matter in what will hopefully be a more intelligent and articulate manner.

I have read the Emily series many times--more times than I can remember--ever since I was 10. At first there were many things in the books that I couldn't grasp very well, as they were simply over my head. But as I have gotten older (I know, I'm still not very old!), I have begun to see just how much more there is in the series. Digging deep into the philosophies contained therein has been a stimulating experience, and it is very interesting to see how L.M. Montgomery's own beliefs work their way into her writing.

From what I know about L.M.M., she does not seem to have been a feminist. Or at least not as blatantly as the term usually means these days. While I do know that she was, in a sense, a trailblazer (she attended college in a time when that was still not the most popular choice for a woman to make, and made her living by writing, including being a "newspaper woman"), and was more broad-minded in her views concerning the role of women, I have never read anything by her that railed against the tyranny of men, or the suppression of women. However, I am the first to admit that I could very well be wrong about her; I have only read one volume of her published journals, and I have not read any of her letters. But I do not think it is necessary for me to know for sure whether or not L.M.M. herself was a feminist. My purpose is to determine whether Emily Starr herself was one.

This brings me back to what I said before. It does indeed seem that people are bent on making feminists out of every famous woman writer. There are people who try to make Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters look like feminists, which makes me giggle more than it makes me fume. Some of what critics write regarding these matters is simply hilarious. I still haven't figured out why they are so set on achieving this goal--that all intelligent women living before 1900 were feministic--though I may have a clue. Is it because they are afraid to admit that cultures past were not really as harsh towards women as they would like us to believe? That it was possible for women to be clever and well-educated without having the vote, wearing pants, and entering the workplace?

And now it's being done to Lucy Maud Montgomery and poor little Emily Starr.

When I read the Emily books, and I reflect upon the character of Emily, I see no feminism. I see no trace of feminism in anything she says or does. What I do see is a noble ambition to become a great writer, and where is the feminism in that? If the opposite of feminism means that women must always be "barefoot and pregnant," or sitting around in hoopskirts and fainting every five minutes, then yes, I suppose you might say Emily was a feminist. And you might say that I am one, too. Yet the opposite of feminism is not at all what I just described. Certainly there are small groups of people who are that extreme, but one can always point out that there will always be extremes on either side of anything. One of the last things I would describe myself as would be a feminist--I am sure that many people would agree. And Emily Starr is no more a feminist than I am.

I can imagine someone reading this, sitting back in their chair, rather stunned, and thinking, "So what? Does it matter?" Well, no, I guess it really doesn't matter if Emily Starr is a feminist or not. But I haven't seen any responses to Kristen Tozer's article, and I thought there ought to be one, so that you can decide for yourself. Besides, as a L.M.M. fanatic, I find it irresistible to give my opinions on any subject pertaining to her or her writing! --Bethany

 

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