She stands on guard for Anne

Author's granddaughter protects Green Gables

Kate MacDonald Butler... and friend.
Kate Macdonald Butler… and friend. (AMY MCNEILL/TORONTO OBSERVER)

Kate Macdonald Butler defends her family name on a daily basis from a small office space in East York.

“A typical day? Just look at my messy desk!” she said during a recent interview.

Local and international agreements for merchandising are piled neatly beside her computer.

“It’s all just putting thoughts to paper,” she said of the stack.

Macdonald Butler is the granddaughter of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author behind the iconic novel, Anne of Green Gables. She is in charge of licensing merchandise, productions and projects related to Montgomery’s legacy.

First published in 1908, the novel tells the story of a young orphan sent to help an aging brother and sister on their Prince Edward Island farm. She eventually becomes a beloved member of their family.

Macdonald Butler is also the executive producer of the latest take on Anne Shirley’s adventures, which aired Feb. 15 on YTV. Lucy Maud  Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was produced by Breakthrough Entertainment and stars Canadian actress Ella Ballentine as Anne, Emmy-award winning actor Martin Sheen as Anne’s adoptive father, Matthew Cuthbert, and Sara Botsford as Marilla Cuthbert.

This instalment, Macdonald Butler says, delves into the deeper connections between the characters Anne, Matthew and the seemingly strait-laced Marilla.

“Because it’s more about the relationships, we took our time,” she said of the film. “Relationships take time to develop. That’s what we held onto. My grandmother would be proud of that.”

Whether audiences read the novel in 1908, 1975 or last week, it’s relevant, Macdonald Butler maintains.

“It’s about belonging, it’s about home and all of these things are still with us,” she said. “That’s why people still identify with Anne.”

After deciding to take over the legacy in 1994, Macdonald Butler has worked to keep her grandmother’s name, works, and memory respected and wholesome. The turning point came when she got fed up with her family’s legacy being managed by lawyers she barely knew. That’s when she decided to step forward and take charge.

Since then, she trademarked the name L.M. Montgomery, holds international frequent academic conferences, has exhibited Montgomery’s personal belongings in Japan and regularly certifies new Anne products.

“I feel very fortunate and grateful to have this legacy. I take it very seriously, and I know my family is grateful for me in taking this on,” she said. “I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t stepped in.”

Macdonald Butler is a fighter, just like her grandmother, she said.

“When my grandmother was alive, she was in a legal battle with her publisher,” she said.

Montgomery, who died in 1942, fought for eight years and finally won a court case regarding publishing unauthorized original works.

“I’m not afraid of a difference of opinion,” Macdonald Butler said. “I have to protect this; I have to protect her. I carry on because of the troubles my grandmother went through.”

Anne Shirley would have done the same, she added.

“She gets into lots of scraps, but for good reasons. For love and belonging. Those are the kinds of values that makes Anne important to me.”