believe that it is time to
introduce these French women
pioneers. As a young lady once asked
me, 'Were there ever any?'"
The immigration of the French to the
continent, for the most part, does not take
place with immigrants
passing through Ellis Island. The entry
point for the French
immigrants, beginning in the early 1600s up
until the conquest by the
English in 1765 for Quebec and the
deportation in 1755 in Acadia, was
into Canada, also known as New France, and
then immigrating via a
border crossing into the United States.The
French came to North America, New France,
via the St. Lawrence River
and settled the many towns along the river.Québec,
Ville-Marie as Montréal was first
known, Isle d'Orleans and many more towns
were the first homes to the
French, and how they came to
be in the state of Maine and the Northeast
via a land bridge, border
crossing, makes them a unique cultural
They came for many reasons, some to stay in
U.S. and some who returned to their
homelands in Canada. Most of them
came to live and work and have been here for
levels of society immigrated to the U.S.:professional,
clergy, religious, laborer,
merchant and more.
long history of
immigration to the North American
continent by the French culture,
since the 1600s, brings to
mind the question:Who
Franco-American heroines? The following
is an introduction to a play written by
Corinne Rocheleau, an early
Franco-American women writer,
was commissioned by the Cercle
Jeanne-Mance in the early 1900s, and it
brings to mind the idea that there were
heroines who made important
contributions to the settlement and
development of the North American
legacy of these women
lives today in the Franco-American women
& EXCERPTS FROM THE
LIVES OF THE PRINCIPAL HEROINES OF NEW
As performed in
Worcester, Massachusetts on
February 10, 1915
say that a happy people have no history.If
this saying applies to individuals, we
must believe that the first
French women in America were happy for we
seldom hear about them.
have often discussed the major feats and
accomplishments of the
French colonists, but we have left their
"better halves" in
semi-darkness.I believe that it is
time to introduce these French women
pioneers. As a young lady once
asked me, "Were there ever any?"
is truly sad that so few details survive
concerning these courageous
women who confronted the dangers of long
and stormy ocean crossings to
establish themselves in a strange and
foreign country.The centuries have
practically erased all traces of
their footsteps on American soil.
find the names of these heroines, we must
Québec, of Montreal, of Detroit or
of New Orleans.If this proves to
be too much, we need only to look in the
Généalogique de Tanguay"
would prove to us that so many thousands
of these pioneer women lived
genealogical dictionary, however,
does not tell their stories.
by studying the Canadian and American
archives, these women appear
- almost like magic -from
theirpages.Taken aback by their
beauty, their charm and dare I say
have retrieved them - one by one - from
the cloudy depths of history
they have been hidden - first of all for
the sheer pleasure of admiring
them like cameos from the past and finally
for the greater pleasure of
them reborn as interpreted by the members
of the "Cercle Jeanne-Mance."
one asked me why I did not interpret Marie
Marguerite Bourgeois and the "Soeurs
Hospitalieres".It is because these
have been interpreted by
others more capable than I.It is
also because I thought it best to leave
these religious sisters hidden
beneath their veils, in their cloisters,
relegating to those who worked
alongside them - women such as Madame de
la Peltrie and Jeanne Mance - the
task of revealing the arduous life of
these wonderful women.
Massachusetts - August 1915
As well as those
mentioned above, the play is about heroines
(which can all be
researched on the internet) such as:
her daughter, first female settlers in
Samuel de Champlain
Mrs. de la
Mrs. de la
baronne de St. Estienne
Jacques de Lalande
Mrs. de la
and in theEPILOGUE
mother and her daughters
Marie and Françoise.
Note: To the above list, I would add Les
Filles du Roi, the King's
almost a century has passed and we are to
investigate the lives of the
Franco-American women and we too believe
that it is time to introduce these
French women pioneers and to learn
more about their descendants.
Where would a
learner begin to look for the
Franco-American women in the history of
would their presence be felt
are they and where have
they left their imprint?What was the
primary language for many of these women?Were
they French speakers exclusively, and when
or where is the English
language introduced? What are the issues
of becoming a citizen of the United States
when one is of the French
language and cultural heritage group?What
happens in the process of assimilation, or
what does that mean for a women?
To begin with,
Franco-American women are not all the
Some are of Québéc heritage,
some are Acadian,
Métis, Mixed Blood, French
Canadian, 'Cajun, Creole and Huguenot.
French heritage and culture (more than 10
million) having full or
partial expression of the North American
French language and culture
reflecting at least two distinct
historical experiences as well as
Québec roots: History,
folklore, culture and language marked by
the Québec rural farm depopulation
of the latter part of the
century and first half of the 20th
century and their
settling in urban textile manufacturing
areas of the Northeast with
numbers in the wood cutting and farming
Acadian roots: History,
folklore, culture and language marked by
the maritime--Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick and Prince Edward
Island--historical home of their forebears
and the Acadian dispersion of 1755 and
1785. In the North East
they are found mostly in Maine's St John
Valley with smaller
settlements elsewhere in Maine, in
person of mixed racial/cultural
to Native American and French American
"métissage" of race and
People of mixed French Canadian and Indian
person of French and other cultural
older version defining the French
population of the Northeast.
Comparable to Franco-American.
I include the next
of the possibility of comparison/contrast
history being done with the
connection to the Maine
Franco-American/Acadian heritage group:
Cajun is a person who descends
from Acadian exiles banished from Nova
Scotia in the eighteenth century
and -- importantly -- all the ethnic
whom those exiles and their offspring
intermarried on the south
Louisiana frontier (for example, French,
German, and Spanish settlers).
Creole, however, is a native
south Louisianan whose ancestry is black,
white, or mixed-race
black-white-Indian), usually of
The Huguenots were French
Protestants who were members of the
Reformed Church established in
France by John Calvin in about 1555, and
who, due to religious
persecution, were forced to flee France to
other countries in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Considerable numbers of Huguenots
migrated to British North America,
especially to the Carolinas,
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Their character and talents in
the arts, sciences, and industry were such
that they are generally felt
to have been a substantial loss to the
French society from which they
had been forced to withdraw, and a
corresponding gain to the
communities and nations into which they
remains why this particular heritage group
is of importance to address
in the Maine classroom.Sheer numbers of
immigrants coming from Québec and
Acadian lands would warrant a
serious look at this cultural group.
and 1930 roughly 900 000 French Canadians
left Canada to emigrate to
the United States, mostly to the
Northeast. This important migration,
which has now been largely forgotten in
Quebec's collective memory, is
certainly one of the major events in
Canadian demographic history.
According to the 1980 American
census, 13.6 million Americans claimed to
have French ancestors. While
certain number of these people may be of
French, Belgian, Swiss, Cajun
or Huguenot ancestry, it is certain that a
large proportion would have
ancestors who emigrated from French Canada
or Acadia during the 19th
and 20th centuries. Indeed, it has been
estimated that, in the absence
of emigration, there would be 4 to 5
million more francophones living
in Canada today. Around 1900,
there would scarcely have been a
French-Canadian or Acadian family that
not have some of its members living in the
United States. (Belanger,
August 12, 2001.
The 4 to 5
million residents are now in the United
States and 40% of the
population of the state of Maine is of
Of these, many are women.
Where are the
women and how
to study their contributions?
Maine can be divided into Northern,
Central, and Southern sections when
looking at the geographical gathering
points for the Franco-Americans.Each section
would reveal a history of rural,
urban, mill worker, professional, farmer,
farmer's wife, life of the
religious, and more.There can be
templates of the inherent culture of each
geographical section, but the
danger would be to allow stereotypes to
define these women and their
each category of cultural
geography there would be many subsets of
history defining the lives of
the Franco-American women.
Each section would
cultural geography which is unique and
similar to the larger cultural
definition of Franco-American historical
have played a very important role
in the settlement and development of the
entire state.The challenge would be to
learn the known contributors
and to further investigate the women of
the various communities.
Starting in one's
or community, conducting interviews of
the local women will reveal much about the
history of their lives.Some women might tell the
interviewing them that they have nothing
of interest to say, but if
prompted, they have a wealth of
information to share.The women have not always
understood the value of
their lives and their contributions.First
person accounts such as interviews would
build a data base of the life stories of
the women, their mamans, their
mémères, ma tantes, nieces
Some of the
not exhaustive, for finding these women
and their histories are to be
found in the following:
Small Town Residents
Single Woman Status
Married Woman Status
Public Monuments to
Each section of the
would also have women who have
biographical histories have been recorded
about some of these women and
much remains to be done.Some
of the women, such as Marguerite "Tante
Blanche" Thibodeau of northern
is an example of one of the unsung
heroines of the
culture (see Resource List for web site).
Senator Margaret Chase Smith who was also
Franco-American heritage--a little known
fact that her mother was of
of such an influential woman as Chase
Smith would reveal the size of
contributions that Franco-American women
have made worldwide.The Margaret Chase Smith
Library has yet to recognize
The first president
Maine Press and Radio Women was a
Franco-American woman from Lewiston,
name was Charlotte Michaud.
That organization is still in operation
today known as the Maine Media
history of this organization
is due in part to the dedication of the
founding women, one of which
was a Franco-American.
These are only a few
examples of the women who are prominent
and not always included in the
many more can be
discovered and recorded.
Another source of
would be in primary documents within the
family or community such as
letters, prayer books, recipe books, baby
books, knitting or crochet
patterns, baptismal, First Communion,
Confirmation records, cemetery
headstones, old newspapers, magazines as
well as any other type of
record keeping that would help define
these women and their often
silent, but dedicated existence.Family
and community folklore, stories, songs,
plays, and other means of
recording the culture of a group who
immigrated to the state of Maine.Histories of
the many orders of nuns is also
a little known piece of the general
history of Maine.Each
geographical area of Maine would have had
own order of nuns, or even several orders
doing work in the community.There are also
Franco-Americans who have been
members of Protestant religions, both in
the past and in the present.An example would be the
French Baptist Church
town histories would
be a source of this kind of event.
What follows is a
not exhaustive, of resources.Some will
have information on the Franco-American
women, and some will not.This is a
caution to a student doing research.
Simply because an organization or
individual offers Franco-American
cultural information, it may not be
specific to the women of the
order to arrive at the
women's lives and their contributions, a
student doing research must
focus specifically on the women and not on
the general culture.General
Franco-American cultural study does not go
deep enough into the inquiry
reveal the women's lives.
Staying on topic, both in the interview
and inquiry process, should be
criteria for the workbeing done on
Franco-American women's history.
There is no better
history to embark upon such a learning
experience because of the
resurgence of the local communities and
the Franco-American culture to
re-learn their histories.The field of
study is varied and rich in possibilities!
Roy, Jeannine Bacon,
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Orono, Maine, Peace Studies Program, 1995.
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out of all the continent of America.[microform]
Humbly offered to the consideration
of -- --, Esq; : This pamphlet came in the
last ship from London to a
gentleman in Boston, and we hear it has
been highly approved of, and is
recommended as very useful at this time to
every friend of liberty.: New-England, :
Re-printed and sold by D.
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P. Celeste, 1960-,"These lines of my
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P. Celeste, "I Learned Things Today That I
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Lise A., 1960- An exploration into the
illness beliefs of a Franco-American
community : the description of a
clinical reality .Orono, Me., 1995.
Farm Security Administration in Maine's
St. John Valley 1940-1943.Orono, ME:
University of Maine Press, 1991.
Emma, Mirbah, National Materials
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History , The Women's Press,
Toronto, Canada, 1987. Translation by
Roger Gannon and Rosalind Gill.
Anna, Les Deux Testaments,
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Bertha Caron, Au Temps des
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Cambridge, Mass. : National Assessment and
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Michael J. (Michael James), La foi, la
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Forum, ed. Lisa Michaud,
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Marie Thérèse Beaudet, My
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Adam in Eden.
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236 p. ; p., 18
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(Illustrator), Reading level: Ages 9-12,
Hardcover (November 1997),
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Rhea Côté, The River
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"Franco-American Women's Literary
Tradition: A Central Piece in the
Literary Mosaic," University of Maine at
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Rhea Côté, L'Ouest
Français et la
"De l'Ile à la Tortue,
à laNouvelle France, à
la Nouvelle-Angleterre : lutte
une identité vivable," Chapter 5
Something That Will Cure,
de L'Université d'Angers, Angers,
Rhea Côté, Petrie, Lanette
Kristin , Slott, Kathryn , Je suis
fière de l'être/I am
Franco-American and proud of it : an
anthology of writings of Franco-American
women, Women in the
Curriculum, University of Maine, Orono,
"Canuck and Other Stories [Paperback]." Amazon.com:
Canuck and Other Stories (9780966853629):
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04 Mar. 2013.
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bois : Franco-American woodcarvers of
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niggers of America.
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blancs d'Amérique: autobiographie
précoce d'un terroriste
French-Canadians, Québec (Province)
-- History -- Autonomy and
independence movements. Québec
(Province) -- Social conditions.Alt titles
d'Amérìque. White niggers
of America : the precocious autobiography
of a Quebec "terrorist"
Chinese of the East" was used in a
government report: Carroll
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1881.computer [Bangor, Me.] : Maine Public
Robbins was brought up bilingually in a
neighborhood in Waterville, Maine known as
'down the Plains.'Her maman came from
Wallagrass, a town in the
northern part of the state and her
father was from Waterville. She has
spent many years researching
origins and visiting the hometowns
of her ancestors in Canada and
Robbins was the winner of the Maine Chapbook
Award for her work of
creative nonfiction entitled, Wednesday's
a founder and Executive Director of
Women's Institute.She has written
a sequel titled 'down the Plains.'
She lives in
Brewer with her
husband, David. They have three grown