Madeleine Giguere--1997 Maryann Hartman Award Recipient




Maryann Hartman Awards

By Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News


The Standpipe -- Outstanding Maine women to be feted at UM--Madeleine Giguere Among the women

Three outstanding Maine women will be honored during the 12th annual Maryann Hartman Awards ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1996 at the Wells Conference Center on the University of Maine campus in Orono.

"It is a very celebratory event, and the nicest part of the event is that you come away feeling wonderful because of the women in your life," said Mazie Hough, a staff associate for the sponsoring Women In Curriculum and Women's Studies program at the university.

"Every year we honor three Maine women of achievement. This year, all three seem to be particuarly noteworthy in the fact they've opened up opportunties for women in different areas of their lives."

The 1997 honorees are Constance Hunting of Orono, Lewiston native Madeleine Giguere and Dale McCormick of Hallowell.

A reception with music and food follows the ceremony, Hough said. "It is really a delightful event." The public is invited, and there is no admission charge, but reservations are requested for planning purposes.

The awards are given in memory of the late University of Maine assistant professor recognized as a distinguished educator, feminist, scholar and humanist. The Hartman awards honor Maine women who inspire others through their work and community service.

Hunting, a University of Maine English professor, is a poet, essayist, and publisher who founded Puckerbrush Press, known for publications by Maine authors.

Hough said Hunting, as "editor of Puckerbrush Publishing and the Puckerbrush Review, has encouraged women throughout the country, but especially in Maine, to publish their writing, and just to write."

"The information we received from people recommending her talked again and again about how important she is in the classroom, and how she has worked tirelessly to encourage women to write."

One of Hunting's poems has been has been set to music by Beth Wiemann, an assistant professor at the university. "Nancy Ogle is going to sing it and Ginger Hwalek will play the piano," Hough said. "What is so wonderful about that is we have three women combining their talents to honor Constance with their own work."

Giguere is retired from the University of Southern Maine sociology department. She is best known for her demographic study of Franco-Americans and as a proponent of advancing Franco-American relations, particularly in Maine.

She served on the Commission to Study Development of Maine's Franco-Americans, the Governor's Council on the Status of Women, the Maine State Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and has helped develop the Franco-American Heritage Reading Room at the Lewiston-Auburn College of the University of Maine System.

"Madeleine was responsible for identifying the large percentage of people of Maine who are Franco-Americans," Hough said. "She gave them recognition that they could, and should, and have a voice in representing Maine."

McCormick, a carpenter and former state legislator, is the first woman to serve as Maine's state treasurer, a post she now holds.

"Dale has been involved, for a long time in programs that encourage women to go into traditionally male-dominated careers where, once the women go into them, the pay is generally higher," Hough said.

Hough said McCormick "opened avenues for women - in their minds as well as in actuality - by writing books, by being a presence, and letting them know they are capable of things they were not thinking they were capable of before." McCormick is also active in the gay and lesbian rights movement.

The ceremony was moved to Wells Commons last year to accommodate the growing number of people who gather to honor these outstanding women of Maine.

State, Regional and Local News from the pages of The Bangor Daily News for Thursday, October 30, 1997 Copyright © 1997, Bangor Daily News Inc.


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Introduction of Madeleine Giguere at the Maryann Hartman Awards Ceremony:

Things have a way of coming full circle. I'm convinced of it. For me the beginning of my awareness of Madeleine Giguere's work started in September of 1986 when I was newly hired as editor-in-chief for Le FORUM. I was introduced to the work which Madeleine Giguere had been doing since the early 70s with the U.S. census and effecting change for the Franco-Americans of the state of Maine. Madeleine determined her course of work in tracking the French through the U.S. census because she believed that numbers do open avenues for other kinds of change to take place. The Maryann Hartman Award is, among many things, presented to pioneers and pathfinders. Madeleine is a pioneer and a pathfinder.

As a Franco-American woman, on my journey of re-discovering my culture, I have been influenced by Madeleine's work as well as her presence and support of my work. Mostly, because she took me seriously in my efforts. That can daunting. For the times I have been asked to present to her classes or to serve on a panel of Franco-American women at USM with her, I have found myself listening, or watching her and her example. Madeleine causes us to think in ways which begins at the beginning. Her attention to detail is how it all begins.

Her belief in her work with the U.S. census has carried her through three decades of persistence and advocacy. She believes in the power of numbers.

She believes that it makes a difference in how we are treated and how we feel about ourselves to know our collective ancestry. In 1986, Madeleine was calling others to action to sensitize the members of Congress to the importance of including in the 1990s census the question of: What is your ancestry? With the inclusion of such a question, along with the language question, in the U.S. census, the government and other institutions could be made more aware of the Franco-American's needs and strengths. Without the inclusion of the ancestry question, cultural groups such as the Franco-Americans could be seen as a much smaller group if the census taking would be limited only to the language question.

As a organizing tool, having an visible and viable presence on the national level, increases and enhances the possibilities for Franco-Americans to be seen as a political body. This continues to be true, both for the private and public sectors as attested in a front page, 1993, USA Today, story featuring the Census Report on language which identifies French speakers as the second largest language group in the U.S.

In addition to her census work, Madeleine was a driving force in the state's institutions as a published voice, advocate, organizer, and participant as well as an avid supporter of many other's efforts in the work done on behalf of the Franco-Americans of the state of Maine.

Among her early writings, was a letter she wrote in the early 70s to the Chancellor on the disadvantagement of Franco-Americans in the University of Maine System. Many of her scholarly published works provide a baseline upon which other publications were made possible. Madeleine's contribution to the Franco-Americans, and others, is immeasurable in terms of ensuring the future of this cultural group's impact on the state and elsewhere.

Madeleine is a native of Lewiston, Maine. She earned her B.A. in Social Studies at the College of New Rochelle, her M.A. in Economics at Fordham University and her M. Philosophy in Sociology at Columbia University. She holds an Honorary Doctorate in Franco-American Studies from Rhode Island College. After she retired six years ago, she was a Professor Emerita in the USM Sociology Department. She, along with her colleagues, was instrumental in organizing the women of USM in the adoption of affirmative action guidelines in the UMaine System in the 1970s. Because of this work, then Gov. Kenneth Curtis, appointed her to the Governor's Advisory Council on Women. In addition, she was also appointed to the Maine State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights which she also chaired for a time. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the Lewiston Public Library, the Lewiston Historical Commission, and the Board of Directors of St. Mary's Regional Medical Center.

Following her retirement, she founded, directed and was curator of the Franco-American Heritage Collection at the Lewiston/Auburn College re-organizing the Centre d'Hˇritage Franco-American Collection. Currently she serves on the State Commission to Study the Development of Maine's Franco-American Resources.

I now present to you, Madeleine Giguere, known in Franco-American circles as la marraine, the godmother, caretaker and guide to the work of Franco-Americans.

Nominated for and introduced by Rhea Côté Robbins


Lewiston woman highly regarded by Franco-Americans

By Dawn Gagnon, Of the Bangor Daily News Staff

Lewiston-- In Maine's Franco-American circles, Madeleine Giguere is known as "la marraine," the godmother, a title indicative of the high regard in which Giguere, her work and her efforts on behalf of others are held.

A Lewiston native, Giguere is one of last year's recipients of a Maryann Hartman Award. The awards, sponsored by UMaine's Women In the Curriculum and Women's Studies programs, are presented each year to three Maine women who have inspired others through their work and community service.

While Giguere's work as an educator and researcher has earned her respect throughout the United States and Canada, many believe her effort to collect and report data on the state's Franco-American population is her most significant contribution. Tracking statistics about Mainers of French descent remains an area of study that few - if any - other Maine researchers have tackled.

"Nobody else has done it. It's really tedious work," Giguere acknowledged in a recent interview at her home on Germaine Street, not far from the home at the corner of Webster Avenue and Orange Street where she grew up the only child of a Lewiston doctor and a public school teacher.

Nevertheless, Giguere is responsible for identifying the large percentage of Maine people who are Franco-American, an estimated one out of three, and has extracted from otherwise lifeless U.S. Census figures meaningful information about the state's French heritage.

Her groundbreaking work with Maine's Franco demographics began in the early 1970s, a heady and exciting period of ethnic revival many say was sparked by the Vietnam War. With the nation's social structure turned on its ear, people of French, Irish, African, American Indian and virtally every other cultural extraction began reclaiming and re-examining their heritage and beliefs.

Giguere's findings helped shed light on the social and economic characteristics of Mainers of French descent.

"She believed in the power of numbers," said author Rhea Cote Robbins of Brewer, who nominated Giguere for the award. "Madeleine determined her course of work in tracking the French through the U.S. Census because she believed that numbers do open avenues for other kinds of change to take place.

"Having a visible and viable presence on the national level increases and enhances the possibilities for Franco-Americans to be seen as a political body."

In 1986, Robbins said, Giguere led an effort to include a question on ancestry in the 1990 U.S. Census to help determine the size of cultural groups. Without the ability to indicate ancestry, as well as language, Franco-Americans would have continued to be perceived as a much smaller portion of Maine's total population than they are now.

Though Giguere officially retired from her post as head of the University of Southern Maine's sociology department in 1990, her extensive knowledge of Franco-American demographics remains in great demand.

"She's a walking library," says Sen. Judy Paradis, D-Frenchville. "She's a wealth of information. I've been a fan of hers for years. She's one of our gurus."

Giguere's most recent effort involves her work as a member of the Commission to Study Development of Maine's Franco-American Resource, created by legislation presented by Paradis.

"She's a legend in the field," said Connie LaPointe-Brennan, commission chairman. "We've learned a good deal from her."

Among Giguere contributions to the study, which looks at the potential of the Franco-American community regarding economic development opportunities, are demographic profiles, information on education levels and breakdowns on where people who speak French can be found.

A report to the Legislature on the findings of the study is in draft form. The final version is expected to be completed in about a month.

Giguere said keeping on top of changing Franco demographics has become more difficult since budget cuts closed the state's data center. As she was interviewed for this story in her home in a quiet Lewiston neighborhood, Giguere listened for the fax machine in her home office to deliver data from MISER, the Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Massachetts, the closest source she was able to find for census information about Maine.

Though Giguere's academic career has taken her as far away as Jamaica, her heart has never strayed far from Lewiston's brick mills and canals.

"It's my home. I wouldn't want to move anyplace else," she said with characteristic frankness.

Giguere has surrounded herself with things most important to her, many illustrating the interconnected and recurring themes that have fueled her life's work: her French ancestry, the importance of family, the Roman Catholic Church and the mills of Lewiston.

The shelves in the living room are filled with photographs that span generations, including pictures of her paternal Giguere and maternal Callier forebears, who, like many other French Canadians, migrated to New England in search of a better life.

"They came here for a job, and they believed in hard work," she said. "They pursued happiness through family, community and service."

On one wall of Giguere's bedroom hangs a painting by Marc Poirier, depicting a view of Lewiston from the Auburn side of the Androscoggin River, which once powered the textile mills for which Lewiston was known. The scene takes in, among other things, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. Founded in 1870, it was the first parish in Maine established to serve the French-speaking Canadians who came to work in the mills. Eight years later, the parish started the state's first bilingual parochial school.

On another wall is a copy of a 1709 map of the Cote de Beaupre-Ile d'Orleans region in Quebec. The map shows where, on the northern bank of the St. Lawrence River, Giguere's forebears lived centuries ago.

On a table is a reliquary, yet another variation of the intertwining themes. The small shrine, which once belonged to her father, holds minute bone fragments of St. Gabriel Lalemant, St. Jean de Brebeuf and Charles Garnier, three of a group known as the North American Martyrs, six French Jesuits and two assistants killed by the Iroquois between 1642 and 1649, a period of fierce rivalry between Iroquois and Hurons who were allied with English and French colonists.

Though her educational pursuits kept her away from Lewiston for extended periods, she found herself settled in 1965.

"I started being a faculty activist in 1970-71 because the women were underpaid at the university, in spite of having the same credentials as their male counterparts," she said.

In her presentation at the Hartman Awards reception, Robbins noted Giguere and some of her colleagues organized USM women to push for the adoption of affirmative action guidelines in the University of Maine System. Because of this work, then Gov. Ken Curtis appointed Giguere to the Governor's Advisory Council on Women, one of several leadership posts she held in the equal rights arena.

Giguere, however, does not see herself as political, a characteristic she believes holds true for Franco-Americans as a group.

"One of the characteristics of Franco-Americans is that they don't rock the boat," she said. "They are family oriented, kin oriented. They are interested in making a living, but not in being the richest or most successful."

But she points out that becoming involved in local politics enabled many French-Canadians in Lewiston to make the move from mill jobs to more desirable occupations. Such was the case with her own grandfathers. One became chief of police and the other landed a coveted post office job.

Since retiring from USM in 1990, Giguere has served as volunteer director of the Franco-American Heritage Collection at the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn campus, a post she held until a year ago. In that capacity, she screened some 2,000 books and entered them into the university library's URSUS computer data base, developing carpal tunnel syndrome in the process. She copied all the Franco-American papers onto acid-free papers and stored them in acid-free compartments to preserve them for future generations. She helped research a recently published history of St. Peter's and St. Paul's Parish in Lewiston.

Among her current projects is to research the life of Lewiston newspaperwoman Charlotte Michaud.

"That's this box right here," Giguere said, pointing to a cardboard box filled with documents about Michaud, who she admits intrigues her.

"She was a contemporary of my mother's and I saw her any number of times," Giguere said. "It's a bit of detective work. She did write a lot. She wrote Dorothy Parkerlike verse. She fancied herself a dance critic."

Born in the late 1800s, Michaud was the daughter of a printer for Le Messager, a French-language newspaper published in Lewiston from 1880 through 1966. Giguere describes Michaud as a "young, perky woman" when she embarked on her writing career at the Lewiston paper, but she lost her job when a new boss arrived and became a free-lance writer for such publications as La Presse of Montreal and the Portland Press Herald.

Among the trends that Giguere has tracked over the decades is the continuing decline of the use of French in Maine. But how to reverse that trend - or even if it should be - is something that Giguere admits escapes her.

"I've never been an activist in that sense ... I never went out proselytizing," she said. "I've never felt responsible for doing something about [saving the language]. If there's a French event, I go to it. I'm part of the audience ... My feeling is that it's very difficult to maintain [French] in an English-speaking atmosphere.

"I can remember going to my aunt's as a child and they were listening to a French station from Montreal," she said. That Lewiston continues to have access to French television and radio stations might be a key to the use of the language in the future.

"We need to be fluent in all aspects of the language - not only the literature, but the recipes and sports and soap operas," Giguere said. "The context has to change. If you do have to speak French to your grandmother as I did, you continue to speak French."

State, Regional and Local News from the pages of The Bangor Daily News for Thursday, January 22, 1998

Copyright © 1998, Bangor Daily News Inc.


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Other info Madeleine Gigu¸re (1925-2004)


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Rhea J. Côté Robbins is Director of The Franco-American Women's Institute.