From Nancy Drew to Little House on the Prairie, most women have that one book series from their childhood that still sticks with them today. For a lot of young lesbians, it was in
books that prioritized girls and girls’ relationships with each other
that they saw the first glimpses of themselves in media – one such book series
that continues to be loved by wlw today is Anne
of Green Gables, which was first published on this day in 1908.
One of the original 1908 book covers for Anne of Green Gables shows a portrait painting of a young girl sporting Anne’s famous red hair (x).
Lucy Maud Montgomery, better-known as L.M. Montgomery, wrote
the first novel in what would eventually become the 12-book long Anne of Green
Gables series as she sat at her bedroom window watching the sun set over the
fields of Cavendish. Growing up in the rural area of Prince Edward Island,
Canada, the aesthetic of Lucy’s childhood along with a photo of Evelyn Nesbit
found in a magazine served as the blueprints of the series. The first novel tells
the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who is sent to live with an elderly brother
and sister, as she settles in to her new home, makes new friends, and ultimately
finds a family at the sleepy seaside farm called Green Gables. The book
was an immediate hit and to this day it has sold
over 50 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 20 languages.
The 1989 television series shows Anne sharing a hug with her “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit” (and first love) Diana Barry (x).
Aside from its hazy, quaint depiction of childhood, wlw
flock to the Anne of Green Gables series for its depiction of Anne’s
relationship with her “bosom friend,” Diana Barry. In the first book, Anne
describes a bosom friend as, “an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred
spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my
life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have
come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too.” Anne’s dream of a bosom
friend comes true when she meets Diana, who remains her closest friend for the
entire series. Throughout each novel, Anne and Diana’s relationship is
described with the most flowery, romantic language implemented in the whole
series: “I’ll never have another bosom friend—I don’t want to have. I couldn’t
love anybody as I love you,” “If you love me as I love you, nothing but death
can part us two,” “I can give Diana half [my chocolate], can’t I? The other
half will taste twice as sweet to me if I give some to her. It’s delightful to
think I have something to give her.” In the latest Netflix adaptation of the
series, “Anne with an ‘A,’” the writers even incorporated a canon wlw character
in the form of Diana’s Aunt Josephine and gave a nod to the frequent lesbian
readings of the novels:
Diana: [My aunt] is disinclined to stay at home since her
Anne: Her companion?
Diana: Her best friend forever and ever. Aunt Josephine
never married. Neither of them did. They lived with each other their whole
Anne: I’d live with you forever if I could, but I know
you’ll leave me the day you get married to some wealthy and handsome gentleman.
I hate him already.
Is it any wonder little lesbians who may or may not have a crush on their very own “bosom friend” read those words and
somewhere deep down see themselves in Anne? Diana perhaps puts it best
when, after meeting Anne for the first time, remarks, “You’re a queer girl,
Anne. I heard before that you were queer. But I believe I’m going to like you