Happened in the Franco-American Culture
By Rhea Côté Robbins
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I'm here to talk about the Franco-American Women's Institute and the Franco-American women's contributions.
I am interested in the story of their lives; lives told often in story, or myth or legend, something which becomes part of the fabric of the culture's myths.
Richard Slotkin states in Regeneration Through Violence: "A mythology is a complex of narratives that dramatizes the world vision and historical sense of a people or culture, reducing centuries of experience into a constellation of compelling metaphors."
A bombing happened in the Franco-American culture. A psychological bombing that continues. It is called assimilation.
What are the results of such a bombing?
A scattering of the cultural ways is the result. Pieces of the identity blown about and each person becomes the depository, honorary keeper of that piece or pieces.
Pieces were distributed among the members of the culture, a song here, a story or two with another, recipes kept, folk tale ways, quilt patterns, brightly colored furniture is revealed at a conference, someone dances a gigue, some call it clogging. What are they doing those people? Maman sews long into the night like mémère did. She bakes us tourtière. She goes home to Wallagrass for a funeral and she brings back some buckwheat flour like it was booty from some war campaign. She cooks some ployes; memories in a frying pan...my brother and I wrinkle up our little American, Aunt Jemima noes at the ployes. Bouchard Family Farm markets a mix! I cook ployes in memory of maman. Maman taught my five year old daughter how to quilt and embroider. I have a photo of them, heads together, making a puzzle. Puzzles seem to be a theme of who we are as a culture. My daughter remembers the warmth of her mémère. Pépère teases her he will take her home in a wheel barrow back to Presque Isle. Tools of the trade for him. She is his favorite.
Dad listens on WTVL radio to "Melodies Française" when he comes home from mass on Sunday. Edgar Poulin is the DJ...toutes en français. We giggle at the thought of it...this is the 60s. M. Poulin is at the helm for decades holding down the ship, knowing, just knowing they are out there listening. Maybe even taping their foots.
Each, many have a piece of the puzzle blown to bits...and slowly but surely, the puzzle is being put back together.
The test of the myth or story, is that, so long as it is being used by a culture, than it is in working order.
The study of culture in general
does not always examine the lives of the women of that culture.
How does the culture grow and become
itself in a modern society?
FAWI is at the base of those stories
helping to put the puzzle/quilt back together again.