“Red hair is my life long sorrow.” ~ from Anne of Green Gables, a classic Canadian novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Poor Anne and her red hair!
Most Canadian teenage girls know Anne Shirley from having read Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables or having travelled to Prince Edward Island where tourists can visit Anne's home.
Anne came to mind when I started this little series of red-haired women.
Hot tempered Anne runs into trouble with Mrs. Lynde who describes her as being "terrible skinny and homely....And hair as red as carrots!"
Anne flies into a rage and yells hateful words to Mrs. Lynde who then suggests to Marilla that Anne deserves a good whipping.
After much persuasion, in typical drama queen behaviour, Anne kneels in front of Mrs. Lynde and begs to be forgiven.
Mrs. Lynde accepts her apology saying that maybe Anne's hair might turn auburn when she grows up.
So this incident is definitely one that makes an impression on a young reader and seems to confirm the long-held belief that red haired people have fiery tempers.
When I decided to paint a series of red-haired women, I researched beliefs that have been held through time and found a few fascinating myths that dogged redheaded people, mainly women, in the past.
1. During the Middle Ages, several European countries, burned women at the stake as witches. What proof was needed to proclaim them as witches? Red hair was seen as abnormal as were freckles. In many countries women with red hair were burned in the belief that they were crazy, violent, or unlucky. A woman with red hair and green eyes could be accused of being a witch, a vampire, or a werewolf!
2. Red haired people were conceived during menstruation. This was another commonly held falsehood.
3. Bees stung red haired people more often than they did blondes or brunettes. There never was any scientific proof to substantiate this belief.
4. Finally, another myth held about redheads is that they were more highly sexed than blondes or brunettes.
So not only did they have a hot temperament, but also, they were believed to be more fiery in bed.
There were many more generalizations held about red-haired women, more than I wanted to write about in this post.
Lucy Maud Montgomery must have had an inkling that these beliefs existed when she wrote her novel and described Anne as having red hair.
More than any other hair colour, redheads have provoked more intense feelings through history.
Anne certainly believes her red hair is the root cause (yes I know!) of her bad behaviour. She tells Marilla, "You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair."
Much later in Anne's House of Dreams, she explains to Gilbert, "Please just call me red-headed and forgive me."
But Gilbert loves Anne's red hair, so all is not lost if you too have been blessed with this most glorious colour: "When a fellow has a home and a dear little, red-haired wife in it, what more need he ask of life?"