Volume 1 Number 2
La Revanche des Berceaux
A Ride Back
"Woodstock 69" The Nurses Odyssey
A Loving Memory of Rachel Morin
He Always Insisted I "Smile, face lette"
Child-rearing in the Franco-American Culture
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE A FRANCO-AMÉRICAINE FEMME À LA NATURELLE ?
A RIDE BACK
By Trudy Chambers Price, Woolwich
7-25-94 Red lights flash, the arms come down. I stop my car at the tracks, first in line. A little thrill approaches with the train. I wave to the engineer the way I used to, but he doesn't seem to notice. Disappointed, I still count the cars: 1....2....3....4....only 9, and no caboose! What kind of train is this? It says MAINE COASTAL on the side, the summer tourist train from Wiscasset to Bath. No matter, it takes me back to Grandmother's, where I heard the whistle every morning at 5, where the cousins and I went up town at noon to see the B & A come through. They were railroad people, my family. Dad, a telegraph operator, waiting for someone to die so he could be a station master. Grandfather was a section foreman. Uncles worked part time keeping the tracks clear, shoveling snow in winter. Auntie was the office secretary. If someone had a nickel, we placed it far down on the tracks, then raced back to the station to see who was getting off and on, who was greeting or sending people. As the train pulled away, we ran alongside to the nickel spot. In unison we counted the cars as it left: 1....2....3....4....and watched the huge iron wheels clack over the nickel. Our train had 34 cars, and a caboose, a red one! We inspected the nickel. Good, the Indian's nose was flattened, his feathers smoothed, and the buffalo's hump had grown.
All Contents are Copyright©Trudy Chambers Price, 1997
(A poem found in the on-line conversations of the FAWI)
By Kim Chase, BurlingtonWhen I think of my husband's great grandmother with 24 children who grew to adulthood--never mind the ones she lost Maybe I have a permanent Quebec haze on my brain and my precious baby girl rabbit Actually, she belongs to my daughter, but I absolutely feel that she is mine because I'm the one that takes care of her the most. Women having many, many babies was used twice in Quebec history to undo the power of the conquering English. Families were paid in land and money for families of ten or more children. The priests preached this. Incessantly. The policy was called: The Revenge of the Cradle. In French it is called: La Revanche des berceaux I ask for some help with the naming of it the other day, no response Can't think of a good name, I'm not a really creative person. Beanie-Bop is a cotton tail, gray and weighs about three pounds. we used to have over a hundred--and not one was sold for meat. what kind of a mother would you be if you didn't worry a little? In French it is called: La Revanche des berceaux It was 1890 that the law was again reinstated...and that was called the law of 12 children. la loi des 12 enfants... the baby of 15 children, and he talks of going to bed hungry and wearing his sisters' blouses Like my cousin used to say when he lived with us I could sleep at the foot of one of your beds and I promise I won't take very much room. God, how us girls loved to scare the dickens out of anyone who lived with us--going from room to room at night with a flashlight shoved into our mouth or hanging those glow in the dark Christmas icicles from our mouth and just standing over their beds. I have albums (no kidding) of my babies--they were all named after flowers/living things--Lupine, Buckwheat, Pumpkin, Honesty, Burdock..... By six months a doe is ready to breed with 24 children the baby of 15 children la loi des 12 enfants... in commercial rabbitries as soon as the young are born, the mother is rebred--damn the male when he reaches his climax he falls on his side and screams away--the female just waits and then has another litter. "If she could have canned a fart and made use of it she would have." I guess we make jokes to keep from crying. once again pulls the fur from her already raw chest and so on until she is worn out--about a year-old tops. Then she is sold for stew meat, her feet for lucky charms and her pelt has little value because there was never enough nutrition for her own body. which one of us mothers has not felt the pangs of worry, fear, or needed direction in raising our children. Then someday they just get too damn big and we have to let them go. We had one doe who somehow managed to kill every buck we bred her with! He wouldn't die right away, it would be a couple of days after. someone has to stop this and scream we are here, we have been here, There was a time when a rabbit was killed, its meat was used to feed the family, its fur to keep the family warm and allow for bartering, and the young of the rabbit promised a continuance. Not sure about the rest of you but I let my sons go (gladly) early on. I wanted to kiss their wives' feet for taking them off my hands. When I mentioned like raising children and then letting go -I don't mean from the Stillwater bridge or the empire state building--I mean release it from within. Shit--fog index went up--I don't even know what the hell I am saying anymore. my father loved to eat rabbit. You're not sleeping in my room if you bring any of those glow in the dark icicles. In French it is called: La Revanche des berceaux
All Contents are Copyright©Kim Chase, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
Poem By Joyce FairbrotherAll Contents are Copyright©Joyce Fairbrother, 1997
Widow's Walkfor Ziegfreid The Captain's lady climbs the attic stairs to the widow's walk, noticing the center of the treads worn smooth ; she thinks she's journeyed round the world and back, waiting for him. Her own restlessness moves her higher, bound only by the sky. She knows too well the Love that takes a sailor to the sea doesn't always bring him home again. Opening the rooftop door, She is, as always, blinded by the juxtaposition of sun and shadow, red portentous sunset blooding the world. Heartbeat's hesitation, afraid to look, afraid to see the horizon flat as a solitary dinnerplate. The dark blanket of the sea spreads out before her, womb-barren. Small sailboats dart across the harbor's sibylline surface, piloted by town boys already seduced by the siren call of windlust. Making no deals with the sea, she anchors her life to an infinite chain of nows, tethering fast to Hope. Eyes closed, she absently caresses the Indian silk shawl he brought her half a life ago, saying it added a touch of foreign elegance. Self-encircling, she can almost smell his unexpectedly tender hands, scented with exotic spices & stories, holding the small of her back against the thrust of his hard hips. Fixed as a figurehead to this high place, she rides the waves of her desire for him, Tomorrow, she tells herself, tomorrow he will come, safe harbor won, love lighting a beacon to guide him back to the realism of her soft arms. She is true North leading him home. a constant point fixed between the sea and the horizon. Dark descends. no friend, and she only leaves the endless possibility of the walk when her straining eyes can no longer pierce the ocean's evasive veil. Down below there are meals to cook, gardens to tend, children to grow but up here, on the pinnacle of hope, the Captain's Lady envies the cooing doves both their hollow-boned wings and the easy fulfillment of their desire. June 19, 1997 June 23 Revision 4
Back To Table of Contents
A Loving Memory of Rachel Morin
By Amy Bouchard Morin, Old TownMy husband's Aunt Rachel was a gem. She left this world and joined her parents on November 11, 1996 after having spent 5 years in the Orono Nursing Home and another year-and-a- half in a boarding home in Brewer. The people in the nursing home and the boarding home enjoyed having Rachel with them. Her memory was excellent, and she quoted poems, told jokes, teased, and related happenings from her childhood right up until the last two weeks of her life.
Rachel always had a story and a pocket full of Chicklets (that candy coated gum) for the kids. She lived alone in her house on French Island in Old Town. She never married, and she used to say, "Not everyone needs to be married. That was just not my vocation." She used to tell the story that her father would come home from the store to eat lunch at noon and say to her, "Qu'est que tu dit ma petite fille, quand je retourne du magasin a soir on va couper l'herbe." "That was my clue," said Rachel. "When he went back to the store, I would hurry and mow the lawn with the push mower and trim around the house and flowers with scissors, weed---do all the yard. Then when he came home he didn't have to do that work. He was glad, you know." Rachel always loved to work outdoors and her yard was always neat and flower gardens weeded. After Rachel's father died, she and her mother lived together for several years in a house that Rachel had built on Chapman Street on French Island. One morning Rachel went over to the neighbor's house on an errand and left her mother sitting in the rocker in the kitchen saying her rosary. When Rachel returned she found her mother had died. This was quite a shock, and one that she spoke of often. She used to tell me, "Always be good to your mother. She brought you into this world, and she is your best friend. When she is gone you will have lost a treasure you can't replace. You can never bring her back, and you just have the memories."
One time she told us about how, when she was about five years old, her favorite cousin Bernice, who was a little older than she, was going down to the river to swim. Bernice asked Rachel if she wanted to go and of course Rachel said yes. Now, Rachel's parents had forbidden her to go near the river, but she wanted to go swimming with the other kids. Bernice went home and picked up one of her jersey shirts (similar to what we call t-shirts) and some safety pins. She put it on Rachel, pinning it between her legs to make a bathing suit. When Rachel told this story she always laughed, "What a funny-looking bathing suit that was!" They went down to the river and her cousin taught her how to swim. Rachel said her parents punished her over and over again for going swimming in the river, but they finally gave up because they couldn't keep her out of the water. She loved the water, and years later whenever she came to our camp with us she would borrow a bathing suit and go swimming, or she would get into the little rowboat we had for the kids and row them around the cove. Rachel said that when she was young one of her neighbors had a little rowboat that he had made, and he would let the neighbor kids use it. They used to row out to the islands in the river, or over to Sandy Point, and sometimes they would fish. They didn't have store-bought poles, but would take a branch from a tree and tie a string on with a safety pin and use worms. She said, "We mostly caught suckers and would feed them to the cats, but when we caught a good fish we would take it home to eat. We used to skate on the river in the winter, too. We really had a lot of fun on the Island."
She remembered when her brother Nelson was born that she was in kindergarten at the Island school. They lived in the house next to the school, and at recess she had a paper she wanted to take home. When she got home the door was locked. Her father came to the door and said, "Go back to school, Rachel. The Indians are here bringing a new baby." When she got home from school the midwife was cleaning up the baby and she went to see her new brother and saw the umbilical cord. She said that she thought that was a pretty funny thing to have on his tummy, but that he was a beautiful baby and she loved him from the first time she layed eyes on him. Rachel and Nelson always got along, and when they were older used to hang around and go to the library together. Nelson was her favorite sibling, and she made no bones about that. The week before her final illness when she still had her senses, she told this story to my husband and I for the last time. Nelson was always on her mind.
Rachel used to tell us the most wonderful stories about her growing up in a large family. Even though Rachel had no children of her own she loved children and would play games with my young ones any time she came to the house. She would tell stories about the "old days", which of course my children didn't appreciate. But she always had a riddle, or a joke which they did enjoy.
Rachel and her brothers and sisters grew up in the house right beside the Island school, and she told of watching the boxing matches from a bedroom window. She said her father let the people who ran the fights run a cord and plug it in his house to supply the light. One day she was telling about when she was high-school age they used to have Box Socials. "The girls would pack a picnic lunch for two and decorate the box all pretty. They wouldn't put their name on the box or anything. Then the boys would bid on the box, and whoever got your box you had to eat with them. It didn't matter who it was, or whether or not you liked the boy. "Boy, we took the chance! It was fun anyway and something to do."
Rachel told how in the winter she and her mother would hurry to clean up the kitchen after supper so they could go up to one of the bedrooms and quilt. They would turn on a radio and listen to a Montreal station while they worked. They would hear the news in French and listen to French music. Since her mother spoke only French, they both looked forward to that time of day. The work they did was beautiful and evey stitch by hand. Rachel gave the quilts to me and asked that I pass them on to the children to keep them in the family. My children are now treasuring their gifts from the past, and I am sure will pass them on to their children as family heirlooms. Rachel also did beautiful crochet work and has passed on some centerpieces and doileys as well as quilts. What wonderful memories come to mind when we look at this work. I never knew my husbands grandmother, but I've seen pictures of her and when I see these works of art I can picture Rachel and her mother sitting, listening to the radio and quilting. It is too bad that nobody took a picture of them busy with their needles.
Rachel used to come over almost every Saturday evening. She would go to mass and then walk over to visit with us and watch TV. Then when she was ready we would take her home. She also came over often during the week, once the snow left and the temperature warmed up. We always had a big garden and Rachel loved snapping beans . She would always walk down to the garden and check it out, and when the beans were ready she'd say, "I'll come help with the beans tomorrow." She didn't often pick (even though she wanted to) because my husband and I would try to get that done before she got there, since that work is so hard on the back. But she and my mother-in-law would sit and help me snap beans for hours on end...and tell stories. In those days I'd can 40 to 60 quarts of beans and 80 quarts of tomatoes each summer. Believe me, I appreciated their help, and I treasure my memories of these two wonderful women. I bet they are together with the angels telling their stories and laughing. At least that is how I picture them.
I wish I could remember the poems Rachel quoted. Some of them were quite long (I am sure several pages in a book since she would quote non-stop for over five minutes). I should have taped them, but of course we always have "should haves" after people have gone. Those poems and stories were almost always very funny. I used to envy her memory. Whenever we would leave her she would always say "See you later alligator." Of course we would reply, "After awhile crocodile." and she always got the last word with, "Not too soon, baboon." Rachel is the only person I ever heard say that last comeback. I don't know if she made it up or heard it somewhere. Anyway, here's to you, Rachel. "See you later, alligator! You've left lots of great memories."
All Contents are Copyright©Amy Bouchard Morin, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
He Always Insisted I "Smile, face lette"
By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer
A Eulogy Robert Timothy Côté May 4, 1949--November 29, 1990 I went to see you dead. In Place. "They'd already done it." the funeral director said when I inquired after your grave had you been laid in it? I went yesterday when the ground was still bare uncovered by snow I looked for a mound of fresh flowers when no one answered my knock on the St. Francis Cemetery office door. I drove slow. Looking. Charlie had told me where you'd be. Ray had already been to see you. "I'll find him," I said. Determined to know where you'd be. I see the flowers heaped high on two other graves close by. I pray. I am timid. I lock my truck. I approach the mound contemplating the other two freshly dug graves their dirt under canvas protection waiting occupancy. I've come to know where you'd be to gather flowers in memory to pluck a bit of life from you yet. I am not sure if this place of death is yours. I approach warily thinking I'd come upon someone's else's dying. I am shocked. startled. Taken Aback. Relieved. There are envelopes with your name on every one. with each bouquet sentiment of flower I see your name in death. I tear at an envelope to take as proof of life. I pull my hand back horrified by my greed of you. I pluck a ribbon scanning its word gaining a clue on who you are or were to them. Godchild. These are from aunt Rhea. I snatch at the ribbon. Wildly. Madly. I circle the mound flowers protecting you from bareness of being unloved. Us, from the view of stark earth freshly wounded. Ourselves. We can still perfume the world of our loneliness with the living thoughts of you. I circle. I circle. I circle the mound. I chant a sound all alone I breathe quick, piercing cold air. I am circling you. Choosing my final mementos of flowers. You said you hated flowers. Too much weeding in mémère’s flower gardens I ask myself-- What do these flowers have to do with you. Did we ever send you flowers when you lived? Recently, your wife told me you gave her roses this side of the grave. A car drives up it is a cousin of ours I am fearful of plucking a flower or two in full view. I want to take of your memory unjudged. Without being thought of as bad. I want to think you do not mind my taking a flower or two from you. I fear their misunderstanding of my grief how I must feed my final memory. Or someone will say I robbed your grave. What right do I have to ask of you another piece of life? The car circles. he gets out Looks at me. I wave small He turns his back I think he waits for me to leave To mourn, my brother as I do. I hastily draw two carnations one sprig of eucalyptus three shafts of wheat. The Bread of Life I repeat circling. Reading. Brother-In-Law Brother B.P.O.E. Eleventh hour. Robert Cote. Absent. Intonating male deep voices resonate in my mind's ear. Husband. Daddy. Son-In-Law. Another car drives in I worry it is an aunt of his wife. How will I explain my need of a few of his flowers. How can I justify my stealing from the dead. Like the time I neglected to buy two more Catholic masses (Procrastination personified I carried the money in my purse for a year.) five dollars apiece for my mother when my children needed milk. I could not bear the thought of buying masses for my mother. Besides, I barely believe in praying for the dead. Sixty-two masses for one woman already to be said plus two more. I heard my mother Say-- Take the money, Rhea I don't need anymore prayers where I am. Get something for the kids. So I took the money meant for masses given me by my aunt and her children my mother's sister and I bought milk and food for my children. I am cold. The wind blows. The sun so warm while driving here has gone away. The car passes slowly marking my quality of the living among the dead. She may be someone's aunt but not one who will bother me in my private visit. She is a stranger to me. I strike upon the thought my mother and father are nearby. Our parents. I need to tell them he's dead. I will be brief but I need to stand on their lands of dying to feel if it is all right with them. I need to physically tie their being with his again. I need to announce their right as parents who would mourn deeply the death of their son. I need to publically proclaim their personal pain at the loss of their son. From where I stand, to the left I look for my father's lonesome pine. He always said he would be laid out underneath the lonesome pine. My father recognized loneliness. He was akin. brave. true. lonely. oneliness. alone. at his ease in painful loneliness. alone. Frustrated I scan the grounds play grounds of my youth and my youthful companion beneath my feet. I curse the landscape for hiding the tree from me I scan right It is big enough I tell myself I should be able to see it. I spot it and I draw my breath. So close I am shocked. I feel my spirit seeping, leaking into the ground I stand here now with you but I'll be right back I'm going to see maman and dad. From where I stand as I walk closer to the lonesome pine I see a round white spot huge on its trunk. Why is the white spot there, I wonder, curious. I never saw that before. I will speak to my cousin I will walk that way I approach him hello an older man with glazed eyes now confused Do you remember me I saw you at the funeral home Rita? No I'm Rhea. I'm here to see my brother It's hard isn't it he asks I'm here to see my wife he inwardly cries. I have stepped into his private moment the one I did not want broken for me. I'm going to see my mother and father I say Is that your truck you had better take it or you will be walking a mile Aren't you cold with just that sweater on? he asks So Lorette is here-- I read her name Loretta Cote. She would remember me better. He was always a busy man. He gets in his car drives away. Flowers in hand I walk a walk I remember then how we would always walk Bob and I as children among the dead. Everyday we would come here to play as friends with each other and the dead. We walked our cemetery walk dragging sticks as we went along sitting on our (long-dead) pépère's stone telling brags beating our chests climbing trees head stones steering clear of the freshly dead. A hand could reach up to grab you. Or we would communicate by poking long sticks deep in the freshly disturbed earth tapping messages, code or song on coffins hoping to get an answer back. We would play tricks on our friends cemetery men mourners funeral processions We were merciless on the Protestants as all good, french, Catholic children were taught to do we believed. We waged Child warfare on the Protestant dead singing and dancing on their brave dead Civil War hero, Asa Redington We wiggled our butts at their headstones or stuck out our tongues. We would read their names laughing, hooting at the funny sounds. Rhyming nonsense insults shaking our fists at the dead running, jumping, hide 'n seek ghost stories tall tales riding bikes sometimes racing down cemetery roads Jumping the fence to the Catholic/Papal side we would drink water from the faucets on the family plots from the flower dump we would re-rob flowers removed from the graves by the workers wrapping them in ribbons marked "Mother" Plucking petals proclaiming he/she loves me Collecting floral tubes as missiles bullets or long fingernails. We would sit in wrought iron chairs relatives left behind for us, we thought while we visited with their dead and conversed. Couples courted. Thieves hid We spied. On all of them the living and the dead from the special eyes of children After awhile it was difficult to tell who was invisible. I remembered all of this as I walked toward my parents' grave. my maman saying to those who asked "how could we live by a cemetery?" "It's not the dead that bother you, it's the living" I wonder what has happened to the tree. Walking my cemetery walk memory by my side the closer I get the sooner I realize some kind of anger has been here. The tree has lost a limb the "white" I saw was a gash. Violent brokeness. spirit unrest. Private hurricane grief blew and down came a limb. Frozen agony. Recent, too. At my feet are its branches still green, warm scent giving carpeting the ground tears wept deeply. destruction upon itself. blown to bits. Crumbled Cracked. Silent. And gone. Spent anger and grief. My mind reels from shock. Disbelief. I walk to the tree examining its sacrifice I look all around me inwardly weeping its private loss and ugliness bleeding its compassion expressing what my parents cannot say. The tree speaks wisdoms. Anguish at the loss of one so young so kind so deeply wounded so felt. The ground rocks and shakes with the tree's lamentations. I never expected nature to react so. The tree has lost a friend The tree knows how his heart ached and wept. Defying death. Begging time to live to be able to draw one more breath. Crying silent tears on his life mother and dad Cursing the day he was born lying on the ground as a child defining clouds leaving roses as tokens of love. Private audiences or bringing daughters to view the dead. The tree knows all this. the tree rents its anger inability to move to hold in its arms to craddle the boy/son/man taking life from those laid at its feet it screamed its pain a high wind echoed back breaking the limb. The Tree of Life bled. I layed a branch of eucalyptus between them both healing oils/balm for pain I gathered some greens from their grief and carried them to him which I laid close to his heart. The ground shuddered with joy at the joining. Carrying away flowers I took my leave of him marking the trees nearby keep sentinel of him circling again feeling strange for so doing thinking I could somehow raise him from the dead whirling round and round creating a vortex to release him from the ground so we could play as we once did.
All Contents are Copyright©Rhea J. Côté Robbins, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
Child-rearing in the Franco-American Culture
By Lanette Landry Petrie, BradleyIn "The Return of the Cribs," Binette (1993) states that twice in the history of Canada incentives and bonuses were offered and used as encouragements and rewards to produce larger families. In 1670, in an attempt to accelerate and increase the population of New France (Canada) the U.S. Counsel of France made a law giving a yearly pension to families of ten children living under one roof and a bonus of 100 acres of land to families of twelve or more living children. In the province of Quebec in 1890 "The Law of the twelve children" was reenacted again giving land to families with twelve children. By 1906, sixteen years later, 5,143 families had claimed deeds to such land. In 1944 the Canadian federal government passed a new all-encompassing law that gave monetary allowances for all children in Canada under the age of sixteen. In Ethnicity and Family Therapy, Langelier (1982) in his section on "French Canadian Families" tells us the "family and religion are central to the lives of Franco-Americans." The French Catholic Church in Canada encouraged the idea of large families to increase their population as well. "The arrival of children is the most important step in the early marital life cycle. Children are raised to be honest, loyal, and hard working. They tend to value responsibility, self-control and obedience. Franco-American families emphasize conformity, respect for authority and institutions, family, loyalty, religious principals, and self-control." (Langelier) He continues to say that child management was by means of punishment rather than positive reinforcement and is still generally the rule. Children have little or no power, and the boundaries between them and their father are rigid. The mother is the heart of the family, a powerful emotional force and a moral support for the entire family. She provides the warmth in the family. In "The Case of Mildred E," Kathryn Fuller (1996) writes that "French Canadiens, like other Catholic immigrants, held separate standards of behavior for their growing boys and girls. Parents often exerted only loose control over the social activities of their young men. Boys earned their own movie ticket money through odd jobs, and their families often allowed them freedom to roam the town's amusement district." She also states that "Catholic girls were treated differently. Some parents, . . . restricted or forbid movie attendance and other public interactions for their unmarried daughters. Girls were to stay close to home; if they worked outside the home, often it was expected they would turn over their entire paychecks to their parents. Courting was to be done only under the watchful eye of the family." Later Fuller says, "As the eldest daughter Mildred faced many household responsibilities and was confronted with the need to leave school in order to bring in sorely needed income." (p. 1) My interviews have supported these findings. Philomene, soon to be 96, grew up on French Island in Old Town, Maine. Her father left them (mother, five children) when she was nine years old. When she was fifteen she went to work in the mills for a short time. She spent most of her adult life housekeeping for the Priest and families in the neighborhood. She never married and lived and cared for her mother until the mother died. She has been living alone in elderly housing for twenty-two years. Philomene says her mother was too strict. They were not allowed to talk and share at meals. She felt she grew up never knowing her brothers as people. She was never asked to do housework at home but did help with the babies. She was the oldest and older children helped care for the younger ones. Her mother would punish everyone involved in a dispute no matter whose fault it was. She made each sit in a corner or scolded them all. Her brothers went to work at fourteen and gave their money to their mother. The boys were allowed more freedom of movement as they got older but as youngsters no one was allowed outside after supper. Philomene says in those days (1920's - 30's) some of the people around her family didn't know how to raise kids. They were uneducated, poor, with too many children, and just let the boys out in the neighborhood where often they caused trouble. The girls were always kept in the house. Children went to work at fourteen, gave the money to their parents, and were never given anything for themselves. Most fathers never bothered with their children except to punish when required. Janet, a women in her early fifties, raised in Old Town, Maine, tells me that for the oldest child and only girl growing up included helping care for younger brothers, cooking, and cleaning. She says her mother was a perfectionist who went behind her redoing the work she had done. Janet's mother was very strict. She escaped by going to nursing school, her brother escaped to Maine Maritime Academy. Money was never an issue for them. Her parents both worked. The mother used threatening and shaming as forms of punishment. Spanking was used when very young but never physical punishment as they got older. Richard, a man in his early fifties, was raised in Bradley, Maine, in a traditional Franco-American home with two brothers and one sister born late in his mother's life. His mother had several miscarriages as was the experience for lots of women in past generations. His mother stayed at home and his father worked at the paper mill. The punishment used by his parents was in the form of threats of their father's coming home from work, guilt at what were people going to think, and spanking as young children. His mother tried to instill pride in their own behavior. In my own family, of ten siblings, my mother stayed at home and my father worked, most of my life, as a department store salesman. Our life was pretty much controlled by my mother. She was strict but not severe. We all helped, girls on the inside, boys on the outside. There was lots of child care to do. Mama had the housework done when we came home from school. We were expected to behave in ways to make her proud. She spanked us as small children and threatened or isolated us when we were older. For me the shaming was the worst; what did God think, we made baby Jesus cry, what did other people think, how could we hurt our parents like that, etc. I never felt like I could measure up. As I talked with groups of friends and acquaintances, about how they were raised, these things kept coming up: * spanking as young children * scolding, threatening, isolation, yelling, shaming * mother did all the child care and discipline * father had little to do with children * boys and girls were treated differently * if mother in home, there was less responsibility placed on the child than if the mother worked outside * Catholic schools with strict discipline * total respect and obedience to the Church * no reports of extreme physical abuse such as burning or beating * very little praise, sometimes reward * some children were subjected to fear as the result of an alcoholic parent whose behavior was unpredictable One thing that made a difference for many was the presence of a step-mother. In the early to mid 1900's, many women died during childbirth and from disease. Men married again as they had many children to care for. Often times, more children would be born to this union. The entrance of a step-mother often caused difficulties for the children. Life was harsh for everyone but particularly so for blended families. I guess it's not so much different today except the burden of poverty is much less today. Langelier (1082) says "Franco-Americans have been "put down" since birth: first, by parents fearful of raising an arrogant child whose chances of fitting into a life of adversity, and eventually getting into heaven, would be diminished and second, by religious teachers and priests for whom pride is thought to be the ultimate sin." In conclusion, it appears that Franco-American families of past generations found life to be a struggle against poverty, sickness, alcoholism, the dictates of the Church, mills, too many children to care for, and the judgments from each other. Discipline was the rule of the times and particularly of the Catholic Church. It was generally thought that too much of anything, even laughing, could bring about loss of control and trigger wrath on the family. Today's young Franco-Americans realize that they are in charge of their own lives for the most part and are making positive changes. Life for them includes options for education, choice of work, medical advances, a limited number of children, for many, life outside the Catholic Church and outside the family neighborhoods. This has not been without its price but one major difference I see has to do with child-rearing. They have been exposed to alternative ways of changing behavior besides punishment. The duty for child care is being more evenly shared. Women have raised their self-esteem to where they have a voice in the decision making for the family. I think each generation has had its pluses and minuses as will generations to come. One of the advantages to getting older is to be able to step back and observe life as we interact with it. Work Sited Binette, Frank R., Gilford, N.H., "The Return of the Cribs," Le Farog Forum, Mars/Avril/Mai Orono, ME, 1993. Ethnicity and Family Therapy, The Guilford Press, NY. 1982. French Canadian Families, Langelier, Régis, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada Fuller, Kathryn H. "At the Picture Show: Small Towns and the Rise of Movie Fan Culture," Smithsonian Press, Washington DC, 1996. Personal interviews with Franco-American women between the ages of forty and ninety-five who came from several places in New England and had different life experiences.
All Contents are Copyright©Lanette Landry Petrie, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
1. You know you are a Franco femme when you change the subject five times in one
sentence without even thinking about it.
2. You know you are a Franco femme when you are listening to someone speak and they change the subject five times in one sentence and everything they say makes perfect sense to you.
3. You know you are a Franco femme when the walls of your maman's and grandmere's kitchen are experienced as a visit to a private art exhibit.
4. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear the new world french spoken and in your heart you hear a melody that the most remarkable song bird cannot sing.
5. You know you are a Franco femme when the church and it's traditions has an overwhelming power over you--even when you have abandoned the traditional church teachings.
6. You know you are a Franco femme when you have an ability to freely Laugh Out Loud at yourself and your peers and it's okay with your soeurs.
7. You know you are a Franco femme when your closet is full of life-sized statues of the Virgin Mary, First Communion Veils, jetons, holy pictures and Midnight Mass gowns.
8. You know you are a Franco femme when you believe that nuns float two inches above the floor in much the same manner that Jesus walked on water.
9. You know you are a Franco femme when your heart beats in an unique franco rhythm with your franco soeurs hearts as you share your upbringings, your fears, your pain, your joy, and your dreams .
10. You know your are a Franco femme when your heart swells with pride every time your soeur succeeds.
11. You know you are a Franco femme when your heart breaks in pain as the uninformed tell their dumb frenchmen jokes.
12. You know you are a Franco femme when you know you will break the silence that for generations has been imposed upon you and your soeurs.
13. You know you are a Franco femme when in a many situations you clearly understand the meaning of being an hyphenated American (Franco-American).
14. You know you are a Franco femme when everyone expects you to do everything and you just do it naturally and you do it with love.
15. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear the Star Spangled Banner and see the American flag raised and it is almost impossible to contain your joy and pride and at the same time....
16. You know you are a Franco femme when you hear O Canada and watch as the beautiful Maple Leaf flag is raised and your heart and mind flood with memories of your maman, your papa, and all those who gave you your rich heritage.
Indeed, the Franco femme is the genuine natural woman. Vive la Franco femme a la naturelle.
Bonita Parent-Grindle. June 5, 1997. Franco American Women's Institute.
(All portions of the above are copyrighted and by law may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author and the Franco American Women's Institute.
"Woodstock 69" The Nurses Odyssey
By Yvonne M. Ross, Ferndale, New YorkFriday the rain had been torrential and constant. The Liberty Radio- WVOS- had been urging the people of Sullivan County to make entire loaves of bread into sandwiches, gather all spare boots and raincoats, and take them to the Grossinger Airport, to be delivered to the "PEOPLE OF WOODSTOCK". Saturday late in the morning, our phone rang, it was MARY, the O.R., Nurse at Loomis Hospital where I worked, asking me to join her and WENDY (our new English nurse) and go to "WOODSTOCK" to help out. I said O.K. My husband and 8 year old son drove with me to the GROSS:[INGER AIRPORT( only three miles from home). As 1 walked towards the landing strip, a huge Army helicopter took off, leaving many people behind. I sat on the grass, near them, waiting for my team. A few minutes later Mary and Wendy joined me. Wendy of the pink face and luminous blue eyes, re with excit- ement, exclaimed, Look! Look! JANIS JOPLIN! I looked and saw the small figure of a girl, in a colorful pant suit, with long brown hair, staring absentmindedly, alone on the knoll. Wendy again, Oh! my God! THE IRON BUTTERFLIES ! I saw a group of men, dressed outrageously, gesturing and walking together towards us. I really got excited too, when I saw JIMMY HENDRIX, good natured, smiling to himself, shaking his kin]cy curl, keeping rhythm with the tune in his head. I loved his guitar playing, the sounds he got out of it were so unusual and inspired. He really was different. The blue and white Helicopter had arrived. We got up quickly, two people were in already. It was a 4 passengers, they were 3 of us; Now, What ? You go, Mary said and she gave me a friendly push in. What about you two? I asked, We will catch the next one . When you get to WOODSTOCK, go the First Aid trailer - a white one- ask for Dr. Abruzzi, she yelled over the noise of the propeller. OK., see you later, I yelled back. The Heli lifted into the air. I lived in Sullivan County for many years, I knew we had many beautiful lakes such as SWAN LAKE AND WHITE LAKE towards BETHEL, and I was amazed at all the little " water mirrors" reflecting back at us. Then, I noticed the clogged roads, large and small, even some fields packed with some of the cars that were paralyzing traffic all over the County. I also saw crowds of people loosely knit, still making their way along the shoulder of the road and through the fields, in the hot an bright August sunshine, towards WOODSTOCK. They were in for along hike, it was still 6-8 miles to get there. The Pilot announced- we are there! Below, I saw many heads bobbing out of a small pond, adults and children, nude and pink, looking fit and graceful. I heard and felt a "SWOOSH", another Helicopter closed in. STATE POLICE! exclaimed our Pilot, and then saw the Motor- cyclists- about a dozen of them, clad in black]c leather, with heavy metal chains hanging from their bikes???, stirring the red dust on the path below. Whether it was the State Police or the Bikers who scared the bathers, they all ran out of the water " au naturel' and took cover under the low bushed. I was to meet some of them later under different circumstances. The State Police landed, troopers ran out of the Heli, surrounded the Bikers, confiscated their chains and were herding them out. It all happened so fast, I could hardly believe that scene. Now, we landed, jumped first out, heading for the Traffic controllers. had to find the First Aid trailer. Not far, they told me, just beyond the two tents, over to the right. I began walking on the flat above the Concert site, the music mingling with the roar of the approving crowd was deafening. but I could only see the stage poles, and many heads long haired, a few bald, some wearing makeshift newspaper hats, other fancy straw, still others assorted, colorful, corners-tied kerchiefs, and all sorts of baseball caps. To my left was a huge white and yellow striped tent( the drug Hsp.) further back, a smaller grayish tent(erg, Hsp.)just below them was the First Aid white trailer. I passed by a site littered with broken, jagged wine bottles, beer and soda cans, paper and plastic bags, and other assorted trash left out in the open and beginning to smell. Then, I saw and I could not believe it, right there, a pair of brown leather cowboy boots embedded to mid-calf into the drying mud. Appar- ently, their owner had been unable to rescue them from the vacuum sucking mud holding them tight as a girdle. Disgusted, he had walk- ed away, leaving deep, squashy footprints in the mud. What a site! I walked on, passing a group of tents close to the Path. Young people barefoot, girls with long dresses and tresses, young men barechested, long hair flowing, sat peaceful on Granny quilts, trying to keep their butts from the wetness. There was the trailer. I walked 2 steps, knocked and walked in. It was cool inside, the air conditioning was on. About 6-8 people were busy treating a long line of Festival goers, waiting patient- ly at the back door. Dr. Abruzzi had stepped out and one of the Nurses gave 1 whirlwind orientation to the First. id station!. - All the medications re on he large table in the back on the room, in Alpha Order. 2-Here take this and she han-d_-s me an Emergency Pad. ( I had my pen). Write in Last name, First Name, Town, State and Tel.#.( no time for more details). Patient's complaint. 3- Prep. the patient as far as you can. Doctor will do surgery(if needed), write the Treatment. You do the treatment and dispense the Med. 4- We are SHORT OF WATER, if stitches needed, wash only 3-5" around the wound - no more-. 5- Only 1/2 Cup of Water for Med. given here and only 1 extra dose given for later on. Here are some of the cases I treated that day. A boy of 3 - deep cut, rt. foot (broken lass) A teenage girl - deep cut, palm of rt. hand, jagged ( broken glass) A large group with Poison Ivy rash. ( some who had ran out of the Pond earlier) Lots of Sunburns (some serious- mostly children) Insect bites ( many already infected) Heat Prostration ( too many) Dehydration( remember, drinking was scarce) Someone knocked at the door, I opened to a tall, muscular man in khaki short and sandals, who promptly blurted out excitedly, I need a Doctor! A woman is in active labor!( I found out later he was John Roberts - one of the Festival Organizer). NOBODY MOVES. I am shocked. I step forward, I am a L.P.N. with O.B.( obstetrics) experience, but I do want to go alone, we need a Doctor! Reluctantly, a Dr. steps out.(Later, I found out the whole group in the First Aid trailer was from the Middletown Psychiatric Hsp.). The 3 of us ran out with Roberts leading the way. Suddenly, he stops, looks around, turns to us and exclaims I DO NOT SEE THE WOMAN! Thinking that perhaps she is being sheltered by the Young People in the tents, we ask. No, they have not seen her. Roberts by now, reflects both disbelief and concerned worry; where could the woman be? He repeats over and over She was right there with her husband ! Later I was to find out that her husband fearing the birth imminent, had gathered his wife in his arms, and ran with her to the Army Helicopter who flew to the Monticello Hsp. The Dr. and I left and went back to First Aid. I was promptly out on "a break" and I decided to go looking for my team. As I walked, I saw a bluish haze floating over the Crowd in the hollow below, and I smelled the sweet scent of "Marijuana". I changed direction. Further ahead, I saw the other white trailer I had been told about, "The Toilets". As I was thinking we need more of them for that crowd, suddenly I heard A crescendo of bewildered voices OH! and the trailer took a nose dive. People came running from all directions, attached themselves like leeches to the frame of the trailer and pulled down with all their might - NOTHING HAPPENED - , then some men jumped up and unto the edge of the trailer, but they still could not bring it down. So,, other men jumped up too and held the first one around their ankles, and they too pulled; finally the "Human Grapes" won and the trailer came down, everyone out of the way just in time. Now they were all running to their Music. I had never seen anything so funny, I was laughing so hard, my stomach quivered and my knees cave in and I collapsed. I could not stop laughing, I still could not get up. Feeling foolish, I picked myself up and went on looking for " My Team". I found Mary in an ill equipped trailer, dark and hot. She was busy sponging the legs of a young boy, who had doctored his Poison Ivy by applying "wet mud" to its itch. Now, it was a brown, disgusting, crack- ing plaster. He had an infection started somewhere underneath that mess. Mary was upset at the lack of WATER AND SUPPLIES. I offered to switch place with her, but she said No! She told me Wendy was further down , in the same situation. She also said she had a "Courier" a young volunteer, who brought her what ever supplies he could find. I Could not believe it when she told me we were leaving as soon as the relief nurses came in. How? I asked, but she only laughed. As I walked back to First Aid, I saw the YASGUR FARM and other milk tanker bringing in WATER. That day we treated every State in the Union and every Province of Canada in First Aid, how did they hear about WOODSTOCK in our tiny Sullivan County? Meantime, we ran out of TETANUS TOXOID, had to tell the people to come back in the morning. Amazingly, no one got mad about it. Later the News Media were to write " The People at Woodstock did not cause trouble because they were stoned on Drug. This is not true, of the 250.000 to 500.000( they could not agree on the number) a very small percentage was treated for Drugs. personally, I believe it was "THE SPIRIT OF WOODSTOCK"- "Good will to all men" that kept us peaceful these 3 days in August. I saw that Spirit in the First Aid Station where I worked that day, the Woodstock People were concerned and gentle, even if strangers. Nursing at Woodstock was an experience, you never knew what next. Now, my added duty was as "Sole distributor of Sanitary Napkins". That supply too was scarce, rationed to - one per day per person-. How ridiculous can you get? About 2 a.m. the Courier arrived, we were leaving. ] met Wendy at Mary's trailer. We had been quite a team, the nursing version of the "THREE MUSKETEERS", one American of polish heritge, the other an unaltered British (impeccable accent and gorgeous complexion) and I, a French War Bride ( now an American). We had a car, Mary was driving. One of the Nurse coming in to relieve was one of her friend, she had loaned her car, a Volkswagen Buy, she had driven in and said we could drive out. From Bethel to Liberty in the moonlight, we saw many abandoned cars in the fields and we wondered if their owners would be able to remember where they left them. We drove on, using the small, familiar country roads. We got home O.K., but were we tired. Tomorrow would be the closing episode of the WOODSTOCK Festival"
All Contents are Copyright©Yvonne M. Ross, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
Franco-American Women's Iniative: Some of the projects which we have worked on thus far in the Bangor area are:
All Contents are Copyright©FAWI, 1997
- Meeting twice a month at Borders Bookstore and listed in their announcement bulletin to raise community awareness of our presence. We are meeting in the community because some women are intimidated by the university setting as a gathering place.
- Panel at the Maine Women's Studies Conference in the Fall on Women and the Church (ten or more presented)
- Listed in the Maine Women's Fund as a tribute to our Franco-American Femmes
- Annual Banquet at Winterport Inn
- Listed in the Encyclopedia on New England Culture
- Seeking Listing in the Women's Liberation Resource Network/WEB
- Presentation for the Women's History Celebration entitled: "Did She or Didn't She?: Franco-American Women in Parochial Schools (ten presented)
- Presentation to Maison Marcotte about Franco-American women's culture to 50 residents, and also to begin FAWI chapter there
- Listing in the Portland Sunday Telegram about the movement in the special section on Women's History month
- An online daily discussion of Franco-American women which is vital and exciting to issues which we are thinking about or which concern us
- Monthly article on Franco-American women/FAWI appearing in The Feminist Times
- Presentation at Borders on Franco-American folklore by Lucille Gosselin
- Maine Breast and Cervical Program Special Populations Committee
- Presentations on Breast Cancer in relation to culture
- Ongoing class presentations in all areas of education
- The Franco-American Women's Anthology
- One member, Amy Bouchard Morin participated in the UMaine/UAngers (France) exchange researching connections between Franco women's handiwork and the work done by women in western France.
- French Club that meets once a month at the French Island (in Old Town) Community Center. People trying to reclaim their use of the French language by speaking and hearing only French for 2 hours a month.
- Book on the parochial school experience
- Book on Memere stories
- Culturefest in Bangor in May
- Member of Maine Women's Studies Consortium
- Race, Gender and Culture, Panel, YWCA, April 15, 1997
- Eastern Maine Medical Center Family Practice Residency, Presentation, Eastern Maine Medical Center, History and Health are Interconnected, April 17, 1997
- Dragon Farm Symposium, Camden, Maine, April 19, 1997
- WEB Page with several links: http://www.fawi.net
- Accepted to present at the national conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the capstone conference of a series of five, entitled: Inclusive & Interdisciplinary: Building the New Curriculum Conference, two panels of 12 femmes will be presenting
- Liaison with Women's Resource Center as link between community and U/Maine Campus Franco-American Women
- Searching for Our Roots I France: Franco-American Women's Art and Heritage, WIC Lunch Series, April 30, 1997
- Several areas of expertise among our membership on many areas: Franco-American women's literature, gardening, house building, science, education, Quebec/Acadian culture, needlecraft, needlepoint, quilts, activism, writing, dance, the Religious, the Church, French language, communication, folklore, song, sayings, community organizing, art, forestry, the Northeast Franco population, Quebec, and other cultures in relation to Franco-American culture.
- In the works: Granting processes and other funding research.
- Work with elderly to set up teas and special events to honor our wonderful franco femme elders
- April 22, 1997 Maine History Class at University of Maine (Orono) Presentation of the French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" -- Information pertaining to the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s, as well as some of the history and stories taken from the transcripts.)
- May 19, 1997 Quebec May Term class - Slide show presented (in French) titled: "Franco-American Women's Art: Culture and Skills Learned at Maman's Knee"
- June 16, 1997 Orono High School French Class - Slide show presentation to titled "Franco-American Women's Art: Culture and Skills Learned at Maman's Knee." English (some French)
- June 17, 1997 Old Town Museum -- Presentation of "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" - the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s as well as some of the stories taken from the transcripts.)
- July 14, 1997 USIA-sponsored Summer Institute for educational leaders from Africa -- Presentation at the French Island Community Center of fhe French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile - Our Stories of the Island" to the -Information pertaining to the formation of our group (why and how we organized), and process we used to gather the oral history of life on French Island in Old Town, Maine during the early-mid 1900s as well as some of the history and stories taken from the transcripts.) As well as a walking tour of some of the sites discussed in the presentation.
- Sunday Programs at the Old Town Museum (begins at 2:00 pm): June 22, Amy Morin, Old Town, French Island Oral History Project "Nos Histoire de l'Ile; June 29, Lanette Landry Petrie, Bradley, My Mother's Walls--Franco-American Art; August 10, Franco-American Women's Institute, representatives.
- June 26, Lillianne Labbé and Don Hinkley, Summer Delight Concert Series, Pickering Square Downtown Bangor.
Back To Table of Contents
By Rhea J. Côté Robbins
1997 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Competition winner for creative nonfiction!
Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance
12 Pleasant St.
Brunswick, Maine 04011
Send $13.34, tax, postage and handling for your copy today.
If you live outside the state of Maine, pay no tax, send $12.74.
Back To Table of Contents
Old Women's WisdomA wonderful book about the life experiences of women with 80 plus years of living life to the fullest. Their stories of culture: Franco-American, Acadian, Native American, Sweedish, and English language as well as isolation and economics are sure to intrigue and enlighten. The Women of this book are from Aroostook County, Maine and they give a genuine portrayal of the way life used to be for women growing up in "the County".
Read the women from these pages and learn why there has been much support for an important project like this. A book project supported by the Maine Women's Fund and developed by the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, Presque Isle, Maine, USA.
$10.95 per book or audio cassette plus shipping & handling.
Shipping & Handling:
To order (Visa and Mastercard only), please phone (207) 764-3396 or Maine Toll Free 1-800-439-1789 or email@example.com.
- 1 book or audio $ 2.50
- 1-3 books or audios $ 3.25
- 3-6 books or audios $ 6.50
- 6-9 books or audios $ 9.75
- 9-12 books or audios $13.00
By snail mail, please write to:
Aroostook Area Agency on Aging
ATTN: Old Women's Wisdom
33 Davis Street
Presque Isle, ME 04769
All Contents are Copyright©AAAA, 1997
Back To Table of Contents
Nos Histoires de l'Ile livre de cuisine
A Collection of Recipes from French Isalnd in Old Town, MaineThe above collection of approximately 150 recipes from French Island in Old Town, Maine is now available at for $7.50 (hand delivered) or $10.00 (which covers postage and handling). This collection is a compilation of recipes used in the late 1800s and the early-to-mid 1900s.
Many of these recipes have stories that go with them. You can find a recipe to make soap - (that's right, soap to clean), as well as soup to eat. There are recipes for boudin, corton, root beer, mincemeat, white perch chowder and rabbit pie, as well as delicious cakes, cookies, pies, and much more. All this in a spiral bound format on antique white paper with "old" pictures on the cover and section dividers.
The proceeds from this cookbook will go towards the cost of producing another book (in process) with stories taken from oral interviews with people who resided on French Island during this same time frame, at least 200 pictures, maps and U.S. Census, as well as a history of the Island, and more.
Nos Histoires de l'Ile is a non-profit group working to preserve the oral, living-history of these Franco-Americans.
To order or for more information contact Amy Morin at: Tel. 207/581-4220
You can contact Amy at her email address: Amy_Morin@voyager.umeres.maine.edu
154 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04473
La Femme Franco-Américine/The Franco-American Woman
Sous la direction de/Under the direction of Claire Quintal
500 Salisbury Street
P.O. Box 15005
Worcester, Ma 01615-0005
This book contains the stories of individual lives and studies of Franco-American women as a group. You will learn about les filles du roi, who left France in the 17th century to become wives and mothers in the New World of an untamed continent, and about farmers' daughters who left Canada in the 19th century to become workers in the new world of the Industrial Revolution.
Behind each story, there is a face, that of yesteryear and that of today. Each account bears the imprint of courage and perseverance against great odds. Each face bears witness tothe endurance and abnegation which characterized these women, generation after generation.
To order: Send $14.95/US and $3 postage/handling to:
500 Salisbury Street
Worcester, Ma 01615-0005
You can E-MAIL FAWI here: FAWI2000@aol.com
Go to Home Page: The Franco-American Women's Institute
The URL for this page is
All Contents are Copyright©FAWI
All Rights Reserved
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This publication is copyrighted and all rights are reserved by the writers. No part of this publication may be sold, copied, reproduced, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a retrieval system or translated into any language or computer language, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, optical, chemical, manual or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the writers. For back issues or For more information, comments or help, please write For comments or help, webmaster: RJCR@aol.com
Last updated July 16, 1997