Franco-American Women's Institute
of Maine & throughout the U.S.

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Who Belongs to The Franco-American Women's Institute?

Women who have contributed to the Franco-American culture and to the state of Maine in many significant ways. They have carried and passed on the Franco-American culture to their families. They have worked in the mills and on the farms to help their people prosper. They have become the women of the future in their own right. The Franco-American Women's Institute exists to record their contributions of the past, present, and for the future.

The Franco-American Women's Institute came out of a journal writing session one morning trying to solve the opportunity:

What do you do about a group of diverse Franco-American women? 

How do we pool the diverse group of women--community, academic, professional, Québécois, Acadian, Métis, and Mixed Blood, varied geographies, and more? 
The Women of the Franco-American Women's Institute, FAWI, are of the same spirit, but of different gifts, to borrow a famous quote. 
Where could a net be found with the strength to catch such a catch? 
How could we all come under the rubric Franco-American Woman and still be ourselves?
Where is the net that doesn't let the Franco-American woman's soul fall through? I wrote and wrote and wrote in my journal until I reached the definition of the Franco-American Women's Institute. A NET designed to capture, catch, and free the diversity of expression of the women, their maman's and their maman's mamans. Daughter's, too. Because daughters are the best insurance for the future. This daughter/maman knows. 

The Institute is an archival place

The Institute is an archival place, a recording place, an egalitarian place, a gathering place, a way to capture and record Franco-American women in a way which allows them to develop programming, panels, presentations of their gifts and talents, while at the same time leaving a record of their initiatives. Becoming visible after generations of invisibility and vocal after generations of silence. Demanding recognition for the contributions of our mamans and la femme franco-américaine. 

How have Franco-American Women contributed?

Women listed for their gifts, for their talents, and for their contributions. Women polled to include their name in the Institute. There are community women who knit a mean afghan, and we know who they are. Women who write a dissertation on a famous, but heretofore, neglected Franco-American woman author, and we list their name along with the woman doing the research. Women recorded for their lifelong contribution to their families. Their recipes, knitting patterns, pictures of quilts, babies by the dozens, bread baking, and jam making. Lost arts of healing--found again. Family histories. A sample of cloth and the common tools of the household. Historical societies. Immigration--émigré stories. Woman church. Nuns. Orders and order of nuns. Business women contacts. The ARTS-high and low and in between. Birthing practices. Birth stories. Death dates. Wedding pictures. THE DISH TOWELS OF OUR LIVES*. 

(*See "HERSTORY in the making," by Suzanne Gordon, Boston Globe Magazine, January 1, 1993)

The reason the net is wide is to make us fishers of women who are all different. While preserving our heritage for archive and museum, we are an alive, present, and accounted for cultural group of women moving towards our future. Ours is a lived culture.

This is a way of making woman's history her way out of the artifacts and rituals of the Franco-American women's lives. Culture is a relationship--first with ourselves and then with others--and out of those relationships, we create artifacts, and rituals. We are looking for women to add to the Institute. The collection is a three-dimensional history--the narratives of our lives as told through relationship, artifacts and rituals.

The collection process is on-going. If you wish to register yourself or someone you know, type up a short biography on yourself or a woman you wish to have registered in the Institute and email it to The Franco-American Women's Institute to the address below.

Or, if you would like to know more about joining the Franco-American Women's Institute, contact us at the email below or write to: FAWI, 641 South Main St., Brewer, Maine 04412-2516. 

The Women's Collection Process Is Broad and Inclusive

  • Community Women 
  • Academic Women 
  • Women of Faith 
  • Women of Skepticism 
  • Women of Art 
  • Women of the Seam 
  • Women of the Knitting Needles 
  • Women of the Pots and Pans 
  • Women of the Thimble 
  • Women of Sensuality 
  • Women Born Again Pagan 
  • Women of the Hammer 
  • Women who Farm 
  • Women who work in Factories 
  • Women who write Pulitzer Prize novels 
  • Women who write Herself in a journal 
  • And many more... 

Rhea J. Côté (Cote) Robbins, Founder and Executive Director

Design of FAWI logo 
Commissioned in Spring of 1997


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