I just listened to the Anne of Avonlea audiobook on a road trip with my mom, and this post reminded me of a snippet from the book that was fairly formative to me as a child:

"Gilbert had finally made up his mind that he was going to be a doctor.

“It’s a splendid profession,” he said enthusiastically. “A fellow has to fight something all through life . . . didn’t somebody once define man as a fighting animal? . . . and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance . . . which are all members one of another. I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne . . . add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began. The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me. It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race.”

“I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people know more . . . though I know that is the noblest ambition . . . but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me . . . to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”

That ambition of Anne's felt wild and freeing and gorgeous in a way I could never articulate as a child, and it's interesting to see it come from her as a character who was raised to wish to be useful, like you noted throughout the post. I think she saw usefulness and duty and her responsibilities as a matter of course, and this was her true motivation in life- to add beauty to things. It's not as tangible or capitalist friendly as most life goals that I think I was offered as a child- to be a famous author, to create pieces of art, to be an excellent dancer, to be a CEO, to have lots of things. It shaped a lot of my thinking in my teenage years and it's something I come back to still. All from a girl who was told her only object was to be useful.

Thanks for sharing your research!

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Jun 13, 2022Liked by Emily F. Popek

My 14-year-old made this point to me recently. "Why did you even have us? We're expensive, we don't listen to you and we're not even grateful". Maybe the desire to have children is now a political one and not an economic one. My hope is to create children that will continue the work that I have started--to be advocates of social justice, to be educated and engaged citizens and to use their privilege and talents to create a more just world. It's my hope they contribute positively to their community. And I am obsessed with Anne of Green gables.

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