In Celebration of Mollie Gillen's 90th Birthday

Yuka Kajihara

The Avonlea Traditions Chronicle.Winter 1998-99, Issue No.26.

As a fan of L.M.Montgomery, 1998 was a special year for me. Not only was it the 90th anniversary of the publication of _Anne of Green Gables_, but it was the year in which my exceptional friend celebrated her 90th birthday. Her name is Dr. Mollie Gillen, and she is the author of what remains to this day the most complete biography of LMM, _The Wheel of Things_ (1975). Mollie's birthday is in November, which is also the month of LMM's birthday. I was fortunate to be invited to join Mollie's birthday party held on November 1, 1998 at the home of retired _Chatelaine_ editor Doris Anderson.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Mollie first came to Canada in the 1940s as a war bride, and in the 1950s she began writing articles for Canadian magazine _Chatelaine_ where she later became an associate editor and staff writer. Along the way Mollie published several biographical books, including _The Masseys: Founding Family_(1965), _The Prince and his Lady _(1970) about Queen Victoria's father.

In 1973 Mollie was given an assignment to write an article about LMM for the centennial celebration of her birth for _Chatelaine_ by then editor Doris Anderson. "If Doris hadn't ask me to write about Maud, I wouldn't have had a chance to read her books nor write about her at all," Mollie told me once when I asked her about her how she had come to know about LMM.

This assignment led Mollie to serious research on LMM, reading all of her published works and interviewing many of her friends and relatives who were alive at the time. Putting her sleuthing capabilities to good use (Mollie also has a detective novel to her credit) as well as her experience as a biographer, Mollie was able to locate letters written by LMM to one of her long-term correspondents--George Boyd MacMillan in Scotland. The existence of these letters was unknown at the time.

Looking back through her life at her accomplishments, one of the things Mollie is most proud of is the fact that she was able to disciver the MacMillan letters, thereby saving these Canadian literary treasures from destruction, repatriating them to the National Archives of Canada.

Mollie's work has been well recognized by her home country, as in 1995 she not only received a Doctorate of Letters Honoris Causa from University of Sydney but was also inducted into the Order of Australia in honour of her work on the first European settlers in Australia published as _The Founders of Australia: A biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet_ (1989), and a book on her own 'first fleet' ancestor _The Search For John Small _(1985).

Now in her 91st year, Mollie is hard at work writing a book about a Canadian sailor who served for the famous Captain Bligh in the 18th century. But we will have to wait for the book publication to find out just who this person is. Mollie still never misses an opportunity to combine an element of mystery with her history.

On this bright November day, Mollie happily blew out nine tiny candles on her birthday cake. Surrounded by her friends, Mollie enjoyed reading e-mail greetings from members of "Kindred Spirit" E-mail discussion group.

More than two decades after the publication of The _Wheel of Things_, readers still appreciate Mollie's work on LMM, a fact that continually fills her with amazement and joy.


LMM in Ontario

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