The Franco-American Women's Institute--A Publication


Volume 2 Number 2/3

Indian Summer/FALL 1998

Devoted to the Study
Franco-American Women's Voices

Also, accepting submissions, please send for guidelines to address below.

List of Contents

Understanding Rose

By Richard L. Belair, Auburn, MA


By Kristin M. Langellier, Ph.D., and Eric E. Peterson, Ph.D., Orono

The Big Farm

By Connie Magnan-Albrizio, Windsor, CT


By Ginny Sands, Bangor


Buck Wheat Pancakes w/kefir

By Ginny Sands, Bangor

The 'History and Mystery' of a Remarkable Frenchwoman


Taken from The Chronicle of Higher Education,June 26, 1998

Edith Starrett Masse's Work Roles: On the Farm and at Home
A Narrative Study of Her Diaries 1942-1945

By Suzette Lalime Davidson, El Cerrito, CA

Regardless of how it seems sometimes, we are white...

By Christine Theberge Rafal, Ph.D., MA

To Be Or Not To Be -- Catholic

By Trudy Chambers Price, Brunswick

Working Hands

By Deborah Ouellette Small, Old Town


By Trudy Chambers Price, Brunswick


By Yvonne Mazerolle, Old Town

Seraphim & Pieta

By Joyce Fairbrother


By Bridget T. Robbins, Guilford


By Amy Bouchard Morin, Old Town

A Franco-American Woman

By Lucille Gosselin, Orrington

What Effect Does Culture Have On Aging?

By Lanette Landry Petrie, Bradley

Grace Metalious' Dirty Dishes

By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer


By Maureen Perry, Boston

Brewer Girl's Daring Feat Is Recalled

By Dick Shaw, Bangor Daily News Staff

Some Jewels of Maine: Jewish Maine Pioneers

A Review By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer

Collaborative Culture Writing

Birth at Twenty?

By Paulette M. Barry, San Francisco, CA

The Edge of My Heart

By Katherine Kennedy

Seneca Falls, 150 Years Later--A Reading

By Rhea Cote Robbins and others, Charleston Correctional Facility, Charleston

Nauset Beach, Daybreak

By Libby Soifer, Bangor

Women's Culture

By Melissa MacCrae, Brewer



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Understanding Rose

By Richard L. Belair, Auburn, MA

Presentation made at Assumption College, Colloque - Institut Français, June 6, 1998

This is the second time Claire Quintal has invited me to address this colloquium on a novel that has not yet been published. About ten years ago, she asked me to talk about The Fathers. That talk preceded publication by almost two years. I think she invited me to that colloquium because wanted a novelist's approach to an episode of Franco-American history called La Sentinelle.

Here I am again with another yet to be published novel. This one also touches on La Sentinelle. And, once again, my approach is one of a novelist, not one of a historian.

The novel is called Understanding Rose. I came up with this title only after I had finished writing the book. In the next fifteen minutes or so, I would like to explain how the evolution of that novel was really a process of understanding several things about La Sentinelle, about mysticism, about a shining example of spirituality, and, as is often the case with novelists, an understanding of a few of my personal, unresolved hangups.

First of all, the novel certainly involves an understanding person. Mary-Rose Ferron, also called Little Rose, was extraordinarily understanding of all she suffered. She was understanding of those persons who made her suffer a great deal in the last years of her life. And she is probably, right now, the most understanding of what has happened to her good name since she died. She died in 1936, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at the age of 33.

She was a stigmatic. Her stigmata were extraordinary in that she had all the marks of the crucifixion. At certain times she bore the marks of flagellation, the crown of thorns, the nail marks in her hands and feet, the pierced side, and even the disfigurement of the Holy Face. At one point in her life, she bore all these marks at one time.

She made every effort to conceal these marks. In fact, one of the few personal gifts she requested for herself with the grace of a beautiful smile that would conceal her great suffering. Theologians found other signs of her mystical characteristics. They detected the phenomenon weight that prevented anyone from moving her while she was in ecstasy. She had the gift of being able to speak different languages. She had the gift of bilocation, and she had the strange ability to give people detailed directions, complete with landmarks, over routes she had never traveled.

As a point of fact, her travels were severely limited because she was bedridden most of her life. She had moved with her family from St. Germain-de-Grantham in Quebec, Canada, to Fall River, Massachusetts. But she was only 3 years old when that happened, and not likely to remember traveling details if she noticed any at all. The family was poor so they traveled little. When she was about 23, the family moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. By then, Rose was totally bedridden and extremely sensitive to noise and any jostling. A friend loaned the family a hearse because they couldn't afford an ambulance necessary to move her from one city to the other. In Woonsocket, the family moved four times, but only from street to street in one neighborhood. In each case, her father literally carried Rose from house to house. So she was never able to see much of the world she still seemed to know in great detail.

Her extraordinary suffering became the charismata that attracted people to her. But what most attracted people was her joyous personality despite all her suffering. They were also drawn by her promise to pray with them. Praying with people rather than for people was something she repeatedly insisted on. She claimed no special powers. In fact her greatest dread was to be regarded as someone special or as a saint. The fear of this caused her a great deal of suffering.

Two published books give the details of Little Rose's life. The first one, entitled She Wears a Crown of Thorns, appeared in 1941. It was written by Father Onesime A. Boyer, who specialized in mystical theology and was one of Rose's spiritual directors. In 1988, Jeanne Savard Bonin published A Stigmatist. Both of these books are available in English and French. The French translation of She Wears a Crown of Thorns, called Coronnée d'Epines, by Father Leonard Puech, has recently been released to Jeanne Bonin for reprinting and distribution.

In addition, there are two volumes compiled by Father Jean-Baptiste Palm, S.J.. One is referred to as "the big red book". It contains about 2,600 pages of testimony from people who knew Little Rose personally or have since experienced favors by asking Rose to intercede for them. There are only a few copies of "the big red book", and they are guarded carefully by people who have been working on Little Rose's cause for sainthood.

Another volume by Father Palm focuses mainly on Rose's mother, Delima Mathieu Ferron.

I was also able to get a look at notes taken by Father Emile Leonard, a theologian from Canada who made several trips to study Rose while she was living.

I wrote Understanding Rose to understand why I would write such a book.

Let me explain. When I wrote The Fathers I did quite a bit of research. I read books by Alphege Daigneault and J. Albert Foisy on the Sentinelle. Read Robert Rumily's history of Franco-Americans. I listened to a drawer full of cassettes tapes on Franco-American life in Rhode Island. And I had heard many odds and ends about the Sentinelle affair as I grew up.

Never, in all that research did I come across any reference to Little Rose Ferron.

In 1993, a good three years after The Fathers was published, I read a talk about Rose, given by Jeanne Savard Bonin at one of these colloquiums. I had missed the talk, but it was published by the French Institute in the book on Franco-Americans and Religion: Impact and Influence. Among the many details about Rose's life, Jeanne Bonin tells of a visit by Bishop Hickey to ask Little Rose to pray for him and for the Sentinelists he had excommunicated. The Bishop was so moved by Rose's readiness to do his wishes that he had to ask her to think it over before she made that commitment.

But she consented and she paid the price. She paid in physical suffering because her stigmata became more pronounced and more frequent. She paid in political suffering because she was � and still is � regarded as a traitor by some for having done anything for that hated bishop.

I didn't know anything about this connection that Rose had to the Sentinelle. The Fathers does not cover what happened to the excommunicated Sentinelists. I ended that novel where I did for dramatic and thematic reasons. I had read that all the excommunicated Sentinelists asked forgiveness and were readmitted to the church. I am told that one of them did not recant. But even if there is one exception, I am still amazed.

I am a Franco-American. I know about that deeply ingrained pride and intractability that often prevents me from admitted I am wrong. To have all those men come and pay the very humiliating price that the Bishop of Providence required of each of them is to me nothing less than a miracle. So when I learned about this Little Rose and her prayers for the bishop and for the excommunicated Franco-Americans, I immediately felt I had come full circle to that miracle. I just had to learn more about this young woman.

Rose presented a problem to me, however. I had avoided this young woman most of my life. And avoiding her wasn't easy to do. She had lived only about fifteen miles north of Central Falls, where I grew up. This Little Rose's name was mentioned at times when I didn't want to hear of saints because they cramped my lifestyle or made me look terrible by comparison.

Once, however, it was I who had mentioned her name, in a class at Assumption Preparatory School. The priest who was my teacher, a formidable man, responded negatively to my reference to her. I don't recall his exact words. But to this impressionable teenager, his response indicated that I should avoid Little Rose Ferron, the little saint from Woonsocket. Which was fine with me.

Perhaps it is due to that priest's reaction that I have difficulty dealing with what I regard as pietistic practices some people develop. I do believe in the intercession of saints. I do believe that to honor them, God grants them special favors to benefit people in this life.

But I have trouble with things like oils dripping from statues or relics of saints, such as their bones or hair or even pieces of their clothing. Sometimes these objects are not things the saints themselves possessed but things that touched the things the saint possessed. To me this echoes Elvis Presley memorabilia. Because some people place much emphasis on carrying or handling these objects, the practice approaches the superstition of carrying a rabbit's foot.

My problem is not with the saint; it's with what people attach to the saint. Sometimes it approaches cult status, very much like a fan club. Some of this sort of thing developed around Rose.

The mindset I had developed as a teenager caused problems about ten years later.

When visiting Marie Coderre, one of my wife's relatives, I saw a small photo of Little Rose hanging on the wall. Marie Coderre caught me looking. She said, "Oh, have you heard of Little Rose?" I responded that I had but with a curtness and rudeness that cut off any further discussion. And Marie Coderre, a very charitable and thoughtful woman, didn't push the subject.

I have since deeply regretted my rudeness to Marie Coderre because she was one of those who helped the Ferrons care for Little Rose, especially in the most dramatic final years of her life. Marie Coderre had passed away by the time, in 1993, that I hungered for more information to write my novel.

My reading about her eventually brought me to one final obstacle that I new absolutely nothing about.

In 1964, almost 30 years after Little Rose had died, the then Bishop of Providence, Bishop Russell J. McVinney, had proclaimed a decree that people should end any efforts to promote Little Rose's cause for sainthood.

Let me explain, as best I can, the background to that decree from Bishop McVinney. After Rose died in 1936, the book, She Wears a Crown of Thorns, by Father Boyer, gave strength to what had already become a cult-like devotion to Rose. People were coming in busloads to a little shrine near where she died. Many people sought her intercession and many gave testimony that their prayers were answered.

Very often when extraordinary phenomena occur and people begin flocking to the site, it is the bishop of that area who is the first to rise in warning and even opposition to what is supposed to be happening. Bishop McVinney's decree explains that investigations were undertaken under his direction. The findings of both investigations (apparently there were two) were predominantly negative. His decree states:

WHEREFORE: with deep regret we conclude that any

further action to promote the cause of Rose Ferron is

not warranted. We urge all who have manifested an

interest in this cause to discontinue their activity and

to pray with us that this pious soul may be permitted

to find her place among the myriad unheralded saints

who enjoy the Beatific Vision in heaven.

I was toying with the idea for a novel.

I had no intention of getting involved in a cause for anyone's sainthood, so I wasn't going to be violating that old decree.

Nevertheless, the bishop's wishes posed an obstacle to me, and I didn't want to add fuel to that fire.

Still, despite the problems I had with the subject, I wanted to find out more about her. I was especially attracted by Rose's relationship with Jesus. It seems to have been sweet, easy, open. Personally, I was particularly touched by the intimate tone of conversations between Rose and what she called "her Jesus".

Father Emile Leonard, a theologian from Montreal, frequently took notes of these conversations while Rose was apparently in ecstasy. He got only one side of the dialogue, but he could fill in what Rose might be referring to. I'd like to read a sampling of these notes, taken from Jeanne Savard Bonin's book (because I had to return the copy that I saw of Father Leonard's actual notes.)

So, Rose the person captivated me very much. Despite all her suffering, she was a very upbeat person. I enjoyed her sense of humor. She loved to tease her younger brother about his dates. And she wanted to know all the details of what he had done while on dates. She could be a matchmaker too. It was she who got Marie Coderre to marry a widower who had come to Rose for help.

As the son of a mill worker and a person very familiar with Franco-American life in the three decker neighborhoods, I felt right at home in her environment.

But I was also drawn by what I considered dramatic moments in her life. As I writer, I need to feel the contact with the character. But I also need to find dramatic moments to make something come alive.

I liked an early dramatic moment when Rose was very young. Her devotion to St. Anthony was apparently excessive, at least of some members of her family. Whenever anyone lost something, Rose would immediately take to praying. One evening, her father complained that he couldn't find his overshoes. Rose immediately prayed to St. Anthony. She left the supper table and went out of the house, across the street and even across some railroad tracks. She returned with the overshoes. Her father had set this up as an attempt to cure her of her St. Anthony routine.

There are many other moments which I considered dramatic. For instance, I could well imagine the high drama of having the bishop of the diocese suddenly come to their humble tenement. This was the family of a poor textile worker at the time. He had been a blacksmith in Canada and Fall River.

There were dramatic conflicts between personalities. Theologians from all over the world descended on this family whenever they came into the vicinity. In their specific area of interest, theologians saw Rose as an interesting case, rather than as a human being. Spiritual directors became attached to her. In human weakness, sometimes they tended to become possessive of this very extraordinary young person.

Throughout all of this, there was Rose's father, Jean-Baptiste Ferron. He never objected to having people wander in and out of his house. I think he was amazingly patient with everyone. But he had his limits. The theologians and spiritual directors especially, tried the goodness of this otherwise very affable man.

A few of them would try to test her authenticity by trying to trick her into vain or prideful comments, for instance. These trials would upset her terribly.

Toward the end of Rose's life, one assistant to the pastor in her parish had been given the responsibility of taking Holy Communion to her daily. This priest, Father Joseph Baril, had his doubts that Rose deserved such special treatment. He seems to have doubted nearly everything about Rose, in fact. He objected to all the visitors Rose was having and tried to get her father to keep the bedroom door closed. Jean-Baptiste Ferron took a issue with that. Father Baril urged Rose to get rid of all the statues she had in her room. Always obedient, she immediately complied and asked her father to move them. He did, until he came to one particularly beloved statue of the Sacred Heart. Then he thundered that he wouldn't move that one.

Father Baril's predecessor, Father Henri Vincent, had on several occasions, attempted to persuade Fr. Baril that Rose was authentic. In a final attempt, Father Vincent set up a series to tests to be done at a hospital in Providence. It is not clear exactly what the tests would cover, but they would probably be psychological and physiological tests to determine whether Rose's ecstasies were simply a case of hysteria or other psychosomatic phenomena. Father Vincent went through considerable trouble to set all this up. One problem, however, was that he never let Rose's father in on all the plans. When Jean-Baptiste Ferron learned of all this, he reacted furiously. He remembered how Rose had been made to suffer years earlier when doctors probed and experimented to determine what she was suffering from at that time. By this time, mystical theologians had cautioned the family against extraordinary medical treatments that might kill Rose.

I found Jean-Baptiste's reaction very understandable.

In fact, the more I read to understand Rose, the more I came like her father, who was also struggling to understand her and what she was about.

He was a man of deep faith. But he was uneducated, and he certainly knew nothing about stigmata, mysticism, or anything else about what seemed to be happening to his daughter.

From the very beginning when Rose began showing mysterious behavior, Jean-Baptiste Ferron quickly found himself caught between the conflicting opinions of experts in their field whom he respected and had to rely on. The doctors naturally thought her illness was physical. But not all doctors agreed on that. Priests thought it might be spiritual. But not all priests agreed on that either.

On the other hand, he was the head of his family, in the good old-fashioned sense. He loved all his children. But, like all parents, he had a particularly tender love for this little one who suffered so much yet never complained.

And he had other parental concerns. For instance, back in the Fall River days, when Rose first began showing signs of a mysterious illness that doctors couldn't quite diagnose, a parish priest, Father Adrien Gauthier cautioned Rose's father to keep this secret. Otherwise he might have trouble marrying off the rest of his daughters.

The more I read about Jean-Baptiste Ferron, the more I could get into the struggle that might have been going on within the man.

Very much like me in all of this, he wasn't rushing to judgment that he had a little saint here, as so many seemed convinced was the case.

On the other hand, he couldn't ignore what he was witnessing, just as I couldn't ignore the more than 2,000 pages of testimony in Father Palm's big red book.

People were coming back to Rose to say they had been cured of illnesses after she had prayed with them. They had found a job. The birth of a child had gone well despite medical concern that things would go badly. He saw these and many other things.

I wrote this novel with Jean-Baptiste Ferron as the main character because I could identify with him. I could connect with him as a man of faith but also a man of a certain skepticism, as a man who respected the clergy but could sometimes have difficulty with their attitude, and as a father who would certainly love his children to be saints but might have problems if they manifested extraordinary or mysterious behavior.

I also suspect�and hope�that others might be intrigued enough to want to read Understanding Rose, a story inspired by the life of a person who really existed.

All Contents are Copyright© Richard Belair, 1998

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By Ginny Sands, Bangor

I recently moved back to Bangor from my hometown of Waterville, and found myself missing my Franco-American connections, I especially miss the almost daily conversations with my mother (maiden name Albert). Even though my father is of German descent (Pimperal/Sand), I was raised in the heart of my Franco-American mother's family and culture. Though I myself do not speak (Canadian French, it is always a comfort for me to hear my mother's voice in English, with her Canadian French accent and inflections.

Recently I picked up a listing of "News & Events" at Borders' Books & Cafe', and saw that a Franco-American Women's Group meets there bimonthly. I therefore showed up at the June 25th meeting. Upon arrival, I was amazed on how quickly I connected with the group. I knew one of the FAWI members from graduate school. I was additionally surprised to discover that another member was born and raised in Waterville like myself and, in fact, wrote a book about the Franco-American culture of Waterville, To say the least, I quickly asked for membership to the Franco-American Women's Institute, It seemed to be filling a void for me; helping to ease my transition from Waterville to Bangor, I also looked forward to networking via les Voix.

I consider Bangor my second home, as I spent eight years here during gradate school and while teaching at Ellsworth High School. I cultivated a supportive family of friends here. Three years ago I was at a cross-roads in my life and felt a need to reconnect with my hometown - Waterville, I had spent plenty of time investigating my German roots but I guess now it was time to explore my Canadian French roots. Going back, I found,wasn't easy. I had changed, after being exposed to and studying about different cultures, religions, countries, and peoples. I found it a challenge to find a niche for myself in my Franco-American hometown. While there, I was inspired to finish and self-publish a children's book, which helps teach children (and adults) about embracing diversity. I also completed and self-published a vegetarian cookbook (The Embrace Life Cookbook) which contains some awesome whole grain pancake receipes and a vegetarian "tourtiere pie" receipe. With a Franco-American mother as a full time homemaker, creative cook, and immaculate housekeeper, it's no wonder that I majored in Home Economics Education (now called Family & Consumer Science) when I decided to be a teacher, However, with all the nutrition education and research I was exposed to, I just had to transform my mother's Wednesday night pancakes to something with more fiber, and her traditional Christmas tourtiere pie to something more "heart-healthy." By now you're probably thinking, "no wonder she couldn't find a niche in Franco-American Waterville," In any case, I dedicated the cookbook to both of my parents.

My father was equally instrumental in my life path with food. Dad became malnourished as a prisoner of World War II for over three years. He survived mostly on fish heads and white rice in a Japanese prison camp, in the Philippine islands. Because of this, Dad taught me to appreciate food with his never-ending mealtime lectures and blessings. He taught me the value of food, both nutritionally and monetarily. Dad also supported mom's efforts to put three hot meals on the table each day.

In spite of everything, I felt serf-defeated and disappointed when I left Waterville this past May; three years to the month of when I returned to my hometown. It never really came to feel comfortable to me, and I never felt that I found a "niche" for myself, It's hard to put into words, I simply felt different, I've come away feeling that I had nothing to contribute, and that there was no way I could ever fit into the fabric of my hometown Franco-American culture, This is disheartening to me, because there are still people I love very much in Waterville, and there are places in the greater Waterville area that hold special meaning and magic for me,

Still, the Canadian French culture is in me and I take it with me wherever I go, For example, my Family & Consumer Science students at Dexter High School often remind me of how expressive I am with my hands and my voice, We Franco-Americans have a tendency to speak with our hands along with our voice, as well as adding all kinds of inflections to our words and sentence structures, I am often reminded daily of my Canadian French upbringing in so many ways,

Perhaps I am coming back to Bangor knowing more of who I am, Nevertheless, it is a comfort to know that there are other Franco-Americans with whom I can connect, along with my family of long-time friends in the Bangor area. THANK YOU, FAWI! In gratitude, I have included a pancake recipe from my Embrace Life Cookbook.

All Contents are Copyright© Ginny Sands, 1998

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Buck Wheat Pancakes w/kefir

By Ginny Sands, Bangor

1 "free range' egg

1 cup soy milk

2 Tablespoons canola or safflower oil

1/2 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Strawberry kifer cultured dairy beverage or strawberry yogurt

Fresh strawberries sliced

Beat egg; then add remaining ingredients, except the kifer and strawberries, and thoroughly blend with a wire whisk until smooth.

Add a bit of canola or safflower oil to a heated griddle or frying pan, and allow to heat.

Pour batter from a ladle or from a small measuring cup, tilting the pan to help make a round, even pancake. Flip pancake over once the top is covered with bubbles, but before the bubbles break. Cook until underside is also golden brown.

Serve pancakes hot, topped with the kefir and strawberry slices. YUM!

All Contents are Copyright© Ginny Sands, 1998

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By Kristin M. Langellier, Ph.D., and Eric E. Peterson, Ph.D., Orono

Presented at the International Communication Colloquium, July 30, 1998, Budapest, Hungary (forthcoming).

Maman Langellier once pointed out that the expression ferme ta bouche is the last remnant of the French language surviving in our Franco-American family. According to family rules about permissible speech, "shut your mouth" in French is less punishable than the English "shut up." Such linguistic minutia is mere family trivia, except that it links two seemingly contradictory details about Franco-American women: that they are voiceless when situated in United States, Maine, ethnic, and even Franco-American histories (Brault 1986, Chodos & Hamovitch 1991); and that they are voiced and vociferous in situations such as the panel arranged for Women's History Month at the University of Maine. There members of the Franco-American Women's Institute (FAWI), a community-based organization in Maine, enacted a discussion à cupbette-the pantry talk of Franco-American women-conducted in English with French "body language," advocating their contributions to culture.

Franco-American women in Maine provide an opportunity to explore the relation of voice and identity, of how cultural groups find their voices and get a hearing in conditions not of their own making. We advance three arguments: that Franco Americans are silenced, but that silence functions simultaneously as a strategy of resistance to assimilation; that Franco-American women have significantly contributed to ethnic survival, including ways that resist male dominance; and finally, that white ethnicity cannot be understood apart from issues around religion, sexism, racism, and classism. The case of Franco-American women in Maine complicates questions of voice and ethnic identity in the U.S. and participates in current dialogues on diversity, assimilation, and whiteness studies.

Ferme ta bouche symbolizes the untold and unheard story of Franco-Americans: an ethnic group distinguished by the longest tenure of any European minority in the New World and by minority status in two countries, Canada and the U.S. The French who colonized New France in eastern Canada beginning in 1604 came under British control in the eighteenth century. La Conquête of the French in 1760 was accompanied by le Grand Dérangementin 1763 which expelled Acadian French from Nova Scotia. For economic reasons-depressions, indebtedness, and the decline of farming, lumbering, and trapping -- French Canadians from Quebec migrated to New England, lured especially by rapid growth in the textile industry. Between 1820 and 1920, one million Quebecois-one half of Quebec's population and 10% of Canada's -- crossed the land bridge into the U.S. The first major non-English-speaking immigrant group to the Northeast and the largest continental migration, today their descendants number seven million and account for one quarter to one third of Maine's population.

Franco Americans are unique among white ethnics in retaining minority status for nearly 400 years -- significantly without the mark of racial stigma. Internally cohesive, they have lacked social mobility, in one study ranking lowest of white ethnics with only blacks below them (Secord & Backman 1964, 570). Although they maintain their own businesses and professions, the majority remain working class. For example, with few exceptions, Franco Americans at the University of Maine are classified employees and students rather than administrators or faculty (Langellier 1996). Their status as unmeltable but invisible ethnics is attributable both to internal resistance to assimilation, and to external hostilities.

French ethnic culture was promoted as la survivance, the valiant effort to maintain French Canadian identity even while becoming Franco American, especially through language retention, ethnic organizations, and strict allegiance to the Catholic Church. When French Canada yielded to British control and the French elite fled to France, the Church inflated to fill the vacuum, wielding secular and sacred power. The Church also migrated to the Northeast to guarantee French identity through its hold on education, the system of 200 parochial schools unifying language, faith, and customs. Bilingual parochial schools and churches anchored les petits Canadas, the neighborhoods with French language newspapers and social clubs-structural bases that successfully resisted assimilation. Proximity to French Canada also advanced and maintained ethnic identity, distinguishing French from other white ethnics more distant from their mother countries. In 1980, Hendrickson described the enduring and "quiet presence" of the French in New England.

This quiet presence was noted by others, however, as external hostilities reinforced the internal cohesion of the French. Early conflict in Canada emerged from contrasting cultural norms: French Canadians spoke French, were Catholics, and belonged to an agrarian economic system; the British spoke English, were Protestants, and developed a progressive industrialized society. This conflict persists today in the political movement for a separate French Quebec, particularly after the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s transferred power from the Church to democratic institutions. Ethnic frictions crossed the border into the Northeast. Franco Americans sustained one hundred years of discrimination, including hostility to spoken French, ethic slurs (Frog, Canuck) and dumb Frenchman jokes-class conflict played out in the form of language and religion (Doty 1995). French Americans were pitted against Irish Americans for jobs, and they also fought bitter battles over control of the Catholic Church, with Irish bishops dominating national parishes. Perhaps most tellingly, French Catholics were the target of cross-burnings and rallies by a flourishing Ku Klux Klan in Maine, numbering 150,141 members in 1925. Franco Americans likewise document a persistent lack of political voice. In Maine, for example, there has never been a Franco-American governor, U.S. Senator, or member of Congress. Only in 1995 did the Maine diocese get its first Franco-American bishop. Contemporary academic scholarship continues to ignore and marginalize French Americans. A quick review of the Maine section of any local bookstore yields a plethora of Yankee texts but not a single title about Franco-American culture.

Thus, the silence of Franco Americans should not be taken as simple absence or voicelessness. Rather, silence marks out the conditions and constraints within which speech can occur. Within a culture which emphasizes individuals apart from any group affiliation, as in New England, those aspects which indicate an ethnicity different from the assumed universality of the dominant culture will be dismissed, ignored, ridiculed, or silenced. At the same time, a likely response for dealing with such discrimination is to adopt a strategic silence as a form of cultural preservation instead of other possibilities such as assimilation (self-eradication of difference) or confrontation (imposition of difference regardless of context). Silence, rather than being uniform, suggests differences that are relational and conditional (Peterson 1994).

If the Franco-American voice is muted, Franco-American women's silence is even more layered and profound. Franco-Americans are invisible within "white" culture because they can pass; Franco-American women are muted within the male dominance of Franco-American culture; and Franco-American women also disappear within the umbrella "women of color." Recently Eloise Brière (1998) suggestively applied the term "pedagogy of silence" to Franco American experience. In the next paragraphs we trace the gendered specificity of ferme ta bouche in three historical moments.

The first moment occurred in Canada after La Conquête when the French responded to the dominance of British rule and demographic numbers with la survivance. The burden of ethnic survival was placed squarely on women: "the guardians of all that made for French Canadian cultural superiority in North American, they held the key to the survival of religion, morality, education, and the family. If they stopped behaving in the prescribed manner, if they ceased to embody all the ideal characteristics not only of French Canadians but of humanity itself, they would bring down the social order in ruins around their heads" (qtd. in Bouliane 1995, 10). As policy, la survivance prescribed two roles for women: nuns, perceived to be asexual, to teach in schools; and fecund mothers to people the province. As the primordial role for women, motherhood and large families-more than ten children was not unusual-were exalted and eulogized. The myth of motherhood was enforced through Catholic Church hegemony and a variety of pronatal policies. A spectacularly successful enterprise, the population doubled every two decades from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century (Chodos & Hamovitch 1991, 14), becoming known after the Conquest as "the revenge of the cradles." At the same time that women were empowered with cultural survival, their role demanded intellectual docility, physical passivity, and self-sacrifice. Many Franco-American women stoically embraced their "heroic fecundity."

This historical moment crystalizes the Franco-American family as patriarchal. The family is the basic socializing unit situated within the parish as religious and civic community. The hierarchy of control and dominance within the parish community ranked the priest highest, the extended family patriarch second, followed by his married sons, and women and children last. Family hierarchy was modeled on the "earthly trinity," "whereby the father, like God, dominates, controls, and protects the family interests, while the mother's role like that of the Virgin Mary, is to be compassionate to the family while remaining subordinate and submissive to the father. Her specific role is to provide moral support for the family. The religious aura encompassing and binding the family together through the use of daily ritual is analogous to the binding effect of the 'Holy Spirit'" (French 1981, 336).

For Franco Americans, family, kinship, and religious community supercede individual interests, especially for women. Family and religion are also more important than civic government, providing a further clue to the voicelessness of Franco Americans in general and Franco-American women in particular. In their study of voice and equality in American democracy, Verba et al. (1995) find that religion has a strong institutional effect on political participation. Catholics are less active and less likely to practice civic skills in their churches than are Protestants. The greater opportunities for skill development among Protestants emerge because their congregations are smaller than Catholic parishes, they allow for greater lay participation in the liturgy, and they are organized with authority invested in the congregation itself rather than in church hierarchy. Given the much more restricted roles of women in the Church, they had even less opportunity and access to developing a political voice.

The second moment of Franco-American women's silence focuses on the important economic role they played after migration to the U.S. Recruiters for mill workers often enlisted the whole French Canadian family. As the basic economic unit, the family migrated with the intent to accumulate money quickly, pay off debts, and return to Canada (Roby 1996). French Canadians were considered ideal workers. "The mill workers desired a readily available, docile, easily controlled, low-salaried work force. . . . The French Canadians met all the ideal prerequisites, while remaining racially invisible." (French 1981, 329). They were skillful, conscientious, and little inclined to strike, the latter because they saw their tenure in U.S. as temporary. Church hegemony also preached obedience to hierarchy, including to employers. Because the family did not hesitate to break the law in their haste to accumulate savings, children twelve years old or younger worked. Due to their large numbers, which in the cotton industry surpassed all other ethnic groups, and to their anti-union sentiments, Franco Americans were characterized as "the Chinese of the Eastern States" (Doty 1995).

A remarkable seventy-eight per cent of Franco-American women worked in the textile mills, including almost all girls over fifteen and many married women, performing the most menial and lower-paying jobs in the textile mills (Roby 1996). Women and girls worked twelve hour days, gave 95% of their earnings to their family, and suffered sexual harassment on the job. But some also found some pleasures in their independence, friendships and solidarity with other women. As Franco Americans increased their tenure in the U.S., they became more militant and participated in union activities. Married workers transgressed the prescriptions of la survivance and defied the clergy's admonitions not to work, not to break their solemn contract as wife, mother, and housekeeper, not to violate the "natural law" of motherhood, except in most extreme need, because "violation of this law would ruin domestic life and ultimately undermine the foundations of society" (quoted in Roby 1996, 562). Women were again held responsible for ethnic survival and the tensions which shook the Franco-American family at the beginning of the century.

Becoming Franco American threatened the French Canadian soul; and la survivance was far from a seamless success. DeRoche (1996, 45) argues that as Franco-American historiographers concentrated on the formal institutions and organizations of la survivance, they missed working-class French Canadians and most especially women. Franco-American women subscribed intellectually to la survivance, but their lives etched a more complex and ambiguous rendering of ethnicity, marked by their gendered experiences and modified by practical demands. DeRoche's oral history of second-generation working class women in Maine suggests the many ways they challenged images of passivity and silence: by working outside the home through most of their adult life, by participating in informal political practices, and by challenging religious rigidity. In contrast to the formal organizations girding la survivance, Franco-American women engaged in informal female social networks based upon relationship rather than memberships. They maintained their ethnic identity as their lifestyles changed.

The third moment of Franco-American women's voice takes us into contemporary lived culture. In his sociological study of ethnic identity in Lewiston, Maine, Parker (1983) suggestively distinguishes two Franco-American cultures. The "ideal" culture was born of their long-suffering history in Canada and strongly influenced by the Catholic Church, emphasizing stoicism, hard work, religion, and the other world. This ideal was compatible with the goals of la survivance in terms of allegiance to the Church, French language preservation, hierarchical structures of authority, and, as we have seen, the prescription of maternal roles and appropriate behavior for women. The "real" Franco-American culture, however, is performed in the rituals and relationships of les petits Canadas and characterized by expressivity and sociality: talking and laughing and gesturing, singing and dancing and card-playing, eating and drinking. This "real" culture captures the French joie de vivre, features oral activities, and suggests the Franco American kinship more closely resembles folk cultures than western societies. The defining ritual of "real" Franco-American culture is the extended family's Sunday-after-Mass visit to mémère, with its storytelling, music, and meal (Dufresne 1996, Robbins et al. 1995).

Parker stresses the convivial, intimate, and egalitarian aspects of "real" Franco-American culture, arguing that the hierarchical element of the cultural "ideal" was largely confined to church organization. His examples of egalitarian participation include age and class divisions but notably not gender. We cannot dismiss the male dominance of the "real" culture. However, the notion of a "real" Franco-American culture invests ethnic identity in everyday cultural texts and performances rather than any single differentiating institution such as French language. Then we can listen for women's voices. For example, in the first anthology of Franco American women's writing, I am Franco-American and proud of it/je suis franco-américaine et fière de l'être (Robbins, et al, 1995), Franco-American women speak for themselves, becoming subjects of their own discourse after long silence. Their voices are embedded in the contexts of their daily lives; embodied in multiple forms such as poems, stories, letters, recipes, personal essays and scholarly articles; and emboldened to write in a public forum. This first anthology stitches them to their history, voices their present tensions and contradictions, and generates new possibilities for their futures (Langellier 1996, forthcoming). Rhea Côté Robbins's memoir Wednesday's Child (1997) vividly depicts the particular intricacies of growing up Franco American and female in Maine, for example:

Where I come from is where I want to be. I used to want to come from somewhere else. I pretend myself in some other context. More white. I am a Franco American girl growing up in a French-Canadian neighborhood. Un p'tit Canada. Rumor has it that we give out sex for free. Like candy. We have a reputation of being uninhibited. We have body language, but what we Franco-American girls are saying isn't what the Colby [College] boys and "les Anglais" are hearing. Things get confused (60).

More recently, Robbins has founded the Franco American Women's Initiative (FAWI), an organization of women who gather together on-line and in community meeting places such as Borders Bookstore in Bangor. Their express purpose is to come together "in a way which encourages them to be voiced while collecting a record of their [own], their daughter's, maman's, and mémère's existence." Their web page and brochure emphasize diversity and inclusivity in terms of race/ethnicity (e.g., Québécois, Acadian, Métis, and Mixed Blood) and lifestyle (e.g., community women, academic women, women of faith, women of skepticism, women of art, women of the seam, women of sensuality, women who farm). They ask, "Where is the net that doesn't let the Franco-American woman's soul fall through?" and respond that "the reason the net is so wide is to make fishers of women who are all different. We are not of museum quality, but of a mind that we are an alive, present and accounted for cultural group of women." Thus, FAWI illustrates a new way in which Franco-American women construct or "voice" ethnic culture: by clearing a temporary place (both virtual and community-based) to gather, index, organize, write and speak what it means to be Franco-American women in changing conditions not of their own making.

The case of Franco-American women in Maine sketches the complex interactions among ethnicity, religion, gender, and class that contribute to understanding the dimensions of voice and identity. But why has a Franco-American woman's voice emerged here and now? Rather than answer this question in the remaining space, we elaborate its concerns within the context of the "new ethnicities" of the 1970s by turning to Waters's (1995) study of white, middle class, suburban Roman Catholic ethnics-especially Italians, Poles, and Irish. (Notably, in this book-length study, the French receive only three textual mentions, none of them substantive.) The new ethnicity is a symbolic identification with ancestry, a more or less leisure time activity enacted situationally, for example, on St. Patrick's Day or in family celebrations. Invoked at the will of the individual, the new ethnicity is not something that influences one's life unless s/he wants it to. Waters concludes that such ethnicity is an option exercised voluntarily for its pleasures. Significantly, the ethnic option carries no social costs, constrains no individual choices. The ethnic option fulfills the specifically American quest for community and desire for individuality. It is family writ large.

The ethnic option is problematic, however. First, it conceptualizes ethnicity individually rather than in group terms, a personal choice in isolation from a social group, its meanings self- rather than other-defined. This individualism assumes a social context in which all ethnicities-and race and ethnicity-are equal and positive. Second, the new ethnicity is flexible and optional for white Americans but not people of color, whether indigenous Native Americans, Africans imported under slavery, or recent Asian and Latino immigrants, where differences are still marked and material. As Waters explains, "if your own ethnicity is a voluntaristic personal matter, it is sometimes difficult to understand that race or ethnicity for others is influenced by social and political components" (164). The new ethnics are sure they were discriminated against, but that was in the past and they survived: we came, we suffered, we conquered (Rubin 1994). Thus, a focus on white ethnicity may both enact racism and prohibit the understanding of race as different from ethnicity. Considering these racist tendencies is of crucial significance in the current debates on diversity in Europe, Australia, and the U.S.

For these reasons we urge caution in making the case for Franco-American women in Maine. The new ethnicity is attractive to the extent that it offers Franco-American women the option to discard the sexism of their traditional ethnic culture that prescribed that they ferme la bouchee. But being a white does not assure dominance, and it is equally important not to conclude that the Franco-American story is the same ethnic story as other white European Americans. That story assumes that all ethnicities are similar and will assimilate and eventually end up successful, that is, socially mobile and middle class. This Franco-American story challenges the new ethnic story in that Franco Americans are strategically unmeltable ethnics embedded in geographically specific, linguistically distinct, historically religious, racially labeled, and highly gendered social relations. Their story especially returns us to class relations-which inflect both race and ethnicity-and which take a variety of forms, including language hostility, religious conflict, ethnic slurs, racial discourse, and sexist practices. If the Franco-American story is not the new ethnic story, or if the new ethnic story is not an accurate model for understanding assimilation, then we are challenged to examine the complexities and complicities of "white" identity in America.



Bouliane, G. R., 1995, Variations on a theme: The image of the mother in traditional French-Canadian history. In: Robbins, et al., pp. 10-12.

Brault, G. J., 1986, The French-Canadian heritage in New England, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Brière, E., 1998, June, An identity of my own: In search of the elusive Franco American. Lecture at the University of Maine, Orono, ME.

Chodos, R., & Hamovitch, E., 1991, Quebec and the American dream. Between the Lines.

DeRoche, C., 1996, "I learned things today that I never knew before:" Oral history at the kitchen table. Oral History Review, 23/2, pp. 45-61.

Doty, S., 1995, How many Frenchmen does it take to . . .? Thought & Action: The NEA Higher Education Journal, 11/2, pp. 85-104.

Dufresne, J., 1996, Telling stories in mémère's kitchen. In Quintal, C. (ed.), Steeples and Smokestacks: A collection of essays on the Franco-American experience in New England. Worchester, MA: Éditions de l'Institut français, pp. 660-669.

Franco-American Women's Institute (

French, L., 1981, The French Canadian American family. In Mindel & Habenstein, pp. 326-349.

Hendrickson, D., 1980, Quiet presence: Dramatic, first-person accounts: The true stories of Franco Americans in New England. Portland, ME: Gannett.

Langellier, K. M., 1996, Responding to ethnicity: Franco-American studies in Maine. In Barthel, H. (ed.), Logon didonai: Gespräch und Verantwortung, Ernst Reinhardt, pp. 93-100.

Langellier, K. M., forthcoming, Franco-American women's voices: Embedded, embodied, and emboldened to write.

Mindel, C. H., & Habenstein, R. W. (eds.), 1981, Ethnic families in America: Patterns and variations, 2nd ed. NY: Elsevier.

Parker, J. H., 1983, Ethnic identity: The case of the French Americans. Univ. Press of America.

Peterson, E. E., 1994, Diversity and Franco-American identity politics. Maine Historical Society Quarterly, 34, pp. 58-67.

Robbins, R. C., 1997, Wednesday's Child. Brunswick: Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

Robbins, R. C., Petrie, L. L., Langellier, K. M., and Slott, K. (eds.), 1995, I am Franco-American and proud of it/Je suis franco-américaine et fière de l'être, unpublished manuscript.

Roby, Y., 1996, A portrait of the female Franco-American worker (1865-1930). In Quintal, C. (ed.), Steeples and Smokestacks. Worchester, MA: Éditions de l'Institut français, pp. 544-563.

Rubin, L. B., 1994, Families on the faultline: America's working class speaks about the family, the economy, race, and ethnicity. New York: HarperCollins.

Secord, P., & Blackman, C., 1964, Social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (eds.), 1995, Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University.

Waters, M. C., 1990, Ethnic options: Choosing identities in America. Berkeley: University of California.

All Contents are Copyright©Kristin M. Langellier and Eric E. Peterson, 1998

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Working Hands

By Deborah Ouellette Small, Old Town

As long as I can remember, I thought my mama old. She didn't smell bad like the pepe who sat in the last pew at church. It was her face that gave it away. Around her blueberry eyes she wore tiny worry lines. Every time mama would come close to me, I would play in her face. It became my secret adventure. Soon she turned into an object, like a worn out road map, both tired and frayed around the edges.

As long as I can remember, my mama's hands would always bleed and crack. Especially when hanging wash effortlessly outside in the dead of winter. For sure, mama's working hands were not like the ones attached to the ladies I used to cut out from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Theirs were soft, delicate, and shapely formed.

As long as I can remember, my mama had no silver boxes with red satin ribbons. Instead, she possed an old rusty ironing board. Behind the bathroom door and under a naked light bulb, she would stand for hours in nonsupportive shoes pressing clothes to perfection. Her playful spirit dampened, like the wet cotton cloth she used to press creases in my brother's church pants.

As long as I can remember, my mama had no time for foolishness. She never wore the exquisite Christmas bathrobe that still hangs in her closet today. It was a gift from papa many decades ago. "My kitchen is a functional kitchen and not a showcase for pretty things." She lamented.

As long as I can remember, mama mastered in the art of family devotion. Like all the saints, she was a true sacrificial giver. As long as I can remember, she gave and gave and gave. As long as I can remember . . . as long as I can remember.

All Contents are Copyright©Deborah Ouellette Small, 1998

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The 'History and Mystery' of a Remarkable Frenchwoman


Taken from The Chronicle of Higher Education,June 26, 1998

A biographer reveals much about an 18th-century midwife, but also acknowledges what isn't known

In the three decades before the French Revolution, Angelique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray crisscrossed France teaching the art of midwifery to some 10,000 rural women.

Her mission was to fight the scourge of infant mortality. Every citizen was needed, if only to die for the glory of the nation in what seemed like never-ending wars. Armed with a commission from King Louis XV, she charged onto the turf of village matrons, who despised her for discouraging such age-old birthing practices as having expectant mothers jump up and down to speed delivery. Even so, she revolutionized the teaching of midwives by having them practice on mechanical midriff-to-thigh mannequins, complete with extractable babies.

She was so confident of the value of her work that she presumed to address the king's 30 regional chiefs -- his "intendants" -- as equals. And she pressed for a monetary sign of royal appreciation, so she could carry on her patriotic work and provide for her old age. Eventually, the king granted her a pension comparable to those of battlefield generals.

Among her students were resentful surgeons, who considered being taught by a woman an affront, even an indecency. But the king had directed them to enroll.

All that, at a time when an autonomous woman, let alone a blustering female traveler who began her moving and shaking at the age of 40, was rare indeed.

When Nina Rattner Gelbart, a professor of history and the history of science at Occidental College, learned about all this, she assumed that du Coudray was the subject of extensive study. Not so. Now, after 10 years of research, Ms. Gelbart's The King's Midwife: A History and Mystery of Madame du Coudray (University of California Press) is the first biography, and the first book-length study, of the remarkable Frenchwoman.

The story behind the book begins during Ms. Gelbart's research for Feminine and Opposition Journalism in Old Regime France: "Le Journal des Dames" (California, 1987). She kept coming upon the heroine midwife, who figured in 18th-century collections of "femmes celebres."

Intrigued, she decided to read more about this woman who, already an experienced midwife, began to travel in pursuit of her ambitious goals. But Ms. Gelbart found little, apart from a few passages here and there, on du Coudray. "I wondered if it hadn't been done because it wasn't doable," she says.

That almost turned out to be so. Du Coudray never revealed details of her origins, childhood, or many other facets of her life. "Clearly this biography could not follow the conventional cradle-to-grave pattern," says Ms. Gelbart. But it was important to try to understand the internal du Coudray, she explains, because gender "is quite simply central to an understanding of any woman, even a woman who does not make an issue of it."

The result of Ms. Gelbart's work, writes Londa Schiebinger in The Women's Review of Books, is "a vivid portrait of how one woman maneuvered her way through the world of extreme privilege, poverty, stench, filth and opulence" that was 18th-century France.

To compile the biography, Ms. Gelbart pored over records at dozens of provincial archives in France and at the Bibliotheque Nationale. Helpful archivists directed her to more holdings at academies, agricultural societies, medical schools, local parishes, and philanthropic organizations. In all, she found hundreds of du Coudray letters to and from local officials, intendants, country matrons, and parish priests who recruited girls for her classes.

Still, the professor faced two obstacles. First, while she could piece together a map of du Coudray's travels, it had many gaps. Second, she could turn up nothing at all about du Coudray's inner life. A reference to a cache of personal papers was tantalizing, but Ms. Gelbart's efforts to locate such a find came to naught.

To capture fully this vibrant life would require the skills of a novelist, one scholar suggested. "Well, I thought, Mme du Coudray needs no novelist," Ms. Gelbart writes. "She needs a historian."

Theorists including Roland Barthes and Hayden White, she notes, have asserted the inseparability of fact and fiction. But Ms. Gelbart was not going to make that accommodation so easily. Rather, she settled on the notion of a biography as "history and mystery." She would present her findings as episodic glimpses into the life and career of du Coudray. She decided -- or consoled herself -- that such an approach would illustrate a central conundrum of history: "What happened in between, the connective tissue of reasons and motives, is often unknowable."

To flesh out the facts, Ms. Gelbart summons up the ancien regime. She made several forays into the French countryside, to experience more than the aromas of foliage and fresh bread. She imagines, and recreates from 18th-century reports, what du Coudray must have endured in her travels: dusty roads, crowded with people in wagons or on foot, beset by brigands, wolves, and pestilence.

In one section, Ms. Gelbart peers through the prose of du Coudray's 1769 textbook, Abrege de l'art des accouchements (Summary of the Art of Delivery), to bring to life the work of a midwife. The scholar describes ointments made from melted pork fat, rose water, calves'-foot marrow, or the caul of a newborn goat. She explains bran enemas, monthly bloodlettings, and purgings with manna, rhubarb, cassia, and senna.

All that before getting to the birth itself.

Ms. Gelbart also examines midwives' difficulties in dealing with male practitioners who did nothing to abate rumors that midwives were infanticidal sorcerers. And she recounts village beliefs surrounding childbirth -- the "rituals and rhythms" going back countless generations. These included such methods of detecting pregnancy as slipping a clove of garlic into the vagina at night -- sweet breath in the morning indicated that a fetus was obstructing diffusion of the odor. During pregnancy, if the right breast was firmer than the left, a boy was the forecast.

And during labor, Ms. Gelbart writes, "a dried Rose of Jericho placed in water near her swells and unfolds as it gets wet -- a sort of vegetable vagina. This will, it is hoped, cause the cervix to dilate."

"Blood, gore, and butchery" left many women, especially in rural areas, impaired by "disabling pain, uterine prolapse, private parts hideously mangled," Ms. Gelbart notes. Babies that presented abnormally often died as they were yanked out; they certainly died if extracted by dismembering tools in an attempt to save the mother. Some babies sustained misshapen heads and survived to become that rural commonplace, the village idiot.

That du Coudray confronted those accepted realities made the scholar all the more intent on figuring out just who this woman had been.

"Her journey violated the conventional domestic enclosure of women [and] created for her a special kind of freedom and excitement," Ms. Gelbart writes. "Her road show had all of France for its stage, and she as a ham, a stunning performer, giving a more sustained and spectacular solo display than almost any other female, save royalty, in early modern Europe."

Du Coudray herself complicated the historian's task by mingling fact and fiction to advance her cause. "She was careful to have posterity know her a certain way," Ms. Gelbart says. For example, she fashioned an identity as "Madame" though she never married.

The great protector of infants remained childless, adopting a "niece," Marguerite Coutanceau, to carry on her work. Ms. Gelbart even contacted 300 modern-day Coutanceaus, "in the wild hope," she writes, "that, eight or nine generations later, some distant descendant might still be a keeper of this family flame."

"I eked out everything I possibly could," she says. "I was sorely tempted to reconstruct conversations I knew must have happened, but I kept reining myself in. I was acutely aware of the boundary between genres."

At Occidental, Ms. Gelbart draws on du Coudray in her courses on the history of science to suggest how medical practices are shaped -- by competing interests, for example, such as those met by du Coudray when male "accoucheurs" tried to corner the birthing business.

The famous midwife even offered valuable lessons in pedagogy.

She understood, for example, the challenge of weaning "rustics" from the lore of their mothers and the village matrons. Her obstetrical mannequins proved to be key. Earlier versions, used by medical theoreticians, were miniature affairs, made of glass, wood, or wax. But du Coudray's were life-size and malleable. She upholstered them with flesh-colored linen and leather to mimic human skin and soft organs. The pelvis was made from real bones or from wicker frames. In deluxe models, sponges exuded colored liquids to imitate blood and amniotic fluid.

To remind students of the life-and-death seriousness of their trade, du Coudray even modeled such things as the flattened umbilical cord of a stillborn baby, and the detached head of a late-aborted fetus.

The mannequins allowed her students to engage in relatively realistic hands-on practice. Such "maneuvers," du Coudray wrote, had to be "vividly impressed on their senses."

Her "machine," as she called it, won plaudits in an age that revered marvels of engineering. Her introduction of the "palpable body" constituted "nothing less than a revolution in pedagogy," Ms. Gelbart writes, because it permitted instructors to demonstrate birthing procedures to large groups of students, and favored repetitive practice over theoretical lectures.

The 1769 textbook itself was a pioneering how-to manual, Ms. Gelbart notes. It included 26 costly anatomical engravings that drew attention not just to mothers, but also to babies and deliverers. Visually compelling, Ms. Gelbart writes, were their "fresh, gentle, watercolor-like tones, almost cartoonlike in their simplicity and accessibility." Book and mannequin together worked by speaking both to the champions of enlightenment and to aspiring practitioners who knew nothing of the intellectual and cultural revolution afoot.

Ms. Gelbart's next book will be a study of Charlotte Corday, another extraordinary 18th-century woman. She murdered Jean Paul Marat, the French revolutionary, as he lay in his bathtub. Again, the biographical record is thin, since Corday was, until her crime -- and her beheading, four days later -- an obscure, 24-year-old provincial from Normandy. This time, Ms. Gelbart plans to borrow from art history, studying the many depictions of her subject as well as what Corday considered her patriotic act to save thousands from Marat, a physician who became a revolutionary fanatic.

Ms. Gelbart promises that her next book will arrive more quickly than The King's Midwife did. Of the time it took her to track down du Coudray, she says, "my friends teased me that I was having a very long gestation."

Copyright (c) 1998 by The Chronicle of Higher Education and PETER MONAGHAN,
Date: 06/26/98, Section: Research & Publishing, Page: A16

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Edith Starrett Masse's Work Roles: On the Farm and at Home
A Narrative Study of Her Diaries 1942-1945

By Suzette Lalime Davidson, El Cerrito, CA


Vassalboro, Maine, at the time of World War II, was a rural farming community located between two larger towns which supported small businesses, paper mills and two small colleges. The area has many bogs and lakes, as well as forested lots and steep hills. Route 32, the road which runs through East Vassalboro, parallel to the mill stream, connects the village to neighboring towns of Windsor to the south, and, by way of the China Lakes region and Route 202, to the state capital of Augusta. To the north is the town of Winslow and then the larger mill and college town of Waterville.

My great-grandmother, Edith Starrett Masse, who lived in Kennebec County, Maine, all of her life, was a teacher in her youth, but, following tradition, she became a full-time housewife after her marriage to mill-owner and carpenter, Louis Z. Masse. Edith kept a diary for many years. The section from January 1942, to December 1945, is a daily record of her activities. In 1942, she was 61 years old and Louis Z. was in semi-retirement. She kept the diary until the death of her husband in 1959. The diary is a chronicle of her tasks and of the variations of her work. It reflects the changes that she, and many other rural New England women, experienced during World War II, most notably, the transformation of the social and economic conditions within her small community.

Edith's position as "housewife" did not prevent her from accomplishing a wide variety of work, which she noted daily. In fact, the main subject of her diary is work: the basis for the home-economy. Although she did not receive wages for her efforts, she made an economic contribution to the family in the same way her female ancestors did; she contributed to the household economy. Edith's role of housewife was far greater than the title would suggest to the contemporary reader. Unlike the woman represented in many portraits of the twentieth-century housewife who remains isolated in her own home, Edith contributed her labor to many households within her family network. She often traveled to her daughters' houses to assist them with their work.

Edith and Louis did not run their own "farm," although they owned a cows and chickens and tended a garden; Louis Z. supported their family as the owner of the town lumber mill and water district. But Edith and Louis Z. assisted their eldest daughter, Malvena Robbins, and her family with their farm and their second daughter, Agnes Plummer, with the renovation of her home.

Edith and Louis Z. usually worked within their traditional set of duties, but often they worked together on specific projects. The family's livelihood depended upon cooperation of all the available relatives, especially during the war years when many of the young men in the family were being drafted or voluntarily leaving the community for duty in the armed services. Running a farm and maintaining a home in rural Maine required sturdiness, thrift and tenacity as well as inventiveness and creativity. Edith retained these characteristics which, combined with her experiences from the Great Depression, prepared her for the many shortages of goods and labor that would come with World War II. She contributed her own labor to the efforts of her daughters in maintaining their farm and homes.

Edith's work-load increased during the war; in addition to assisting her family, she contributed goods and services to voluntary associations. She made clothing for the Red Cross. She donated homemade sewing projects and baked goods to the Friend's Church, to which her daughter Mena belonged. In addition to caring for, and sewing clothes for, Mena's children, Edith's contribution of work and goods to the households of her daughters, Mena and Agnes, allowed them, at times, to embrace less "traditional" roles. When Edith's eldest daughter, Mena Robbins, became more active in the management of the Robbins' farm, Edith stepped in to assist her. Edith assisted with child care and household matters when Mena's husband Maurice worked as a salesman for the Sunshine Biscuit Company, and was away from the farm on a regular basis. Edith also assisted her daughter when Mena's commitments to social organizations took her into the community.

Edith assisted her husband Louis Z. in the renovation their daughter Agnes' home when her husband, John, was drafted. Louis Z. was a carpenter and he supervised the work on the house and did a lot of the work himself, sometimes with Edith's assistance. Agnes traveled throughout the state teaching classes in Home Economics and Nutrition, and Edith's assistance made it possible for Agnes to clean, start a garden, gather and re-finish furniture, and "settle in" to the new home. Edith and Louis Z. were family for Agnes, providing emotional and moral support, as well as practical support, during her husband's absence.

Edith's purpose in keeping the diary was manifold. Often, the entries kept track of her productivity, which fluctuated between the times when she was ill and when she was healthy. She also noted her husband's work as well as any activity in which she was assisted by her relatives. She kept track of the many visits and letters she had from family members and friends, overseas or out of state. Her entries reflected the seasonal changes that occurred, both in her work and in the natural world around her. She recorded relatives' birthdays and anniversaries, and reflected upon the passing years. She noted how old her parents would have been, if they had still been alive at the time of her writing.

It is my intention to explore the variety of Edith's work, the changes which occurred in her work, due to the war, and to examine what she chose to record. My purpose is to reveal the ways in which she actively participated in the creation of her family's home economy, as well as supported her relatives during the transitional years of World War II. Because work was so central in her written account, I would also like to explore what the work meant to her.

All Contents are Copyright©Suzette Lalime Davidson, 1998

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Regardless of how it seems sometimes, we are white...

By Christine Theberge Rafal, Ph.D., MA

When I first met many of the FAWI femmes in person, at the "Did She or Didn't She" panel on March 25, 1997, I spoke briefly about growing up ambivalent about my ethnic heritage. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that the ambivalence is about how others construct the meaning of my ethnic heritage, and even their own if it happens to be similar to mine. Right now I want to challenge those Francos who like to compare Francos to Latino/as and to African Americans. I am afraid most of my time working up to that challenge will be spent trying to explain how I have come to believe certain things.

First of all, I, like many New England Francos of Canadian ancestry, grew up in a town where I did not even see a black person until I was twelve. I am not sure at what age I realized I was white, and it certainly didn't mean then what it meant once I left home and went to college.

There were some Anglo Protestants in my hometown, many Irish Catholics, a few Greeks and many of us who called ourselves Franco-American, completely skipping over the Canadian part, where we had been colonized by the English.

My mother somehow communicated that some people might not like us for being French and Catholic, and she worked hard to make sure we could say "th" instead of just "t". In fact, in many ways I learned to feel that being French and Catholic meant being at the bottom of the heap. A typical stereotype was that we were stupid. Sadly enough my father told his share of "How many Frenchmen does it take to screw a lightbulb in..." I vividly remember a cartoon he brought home from his workplace where a man was leaning his head against the canoe he had just built. One tip of the canoe was pointing up, one was turned down. The thought-bubble over the man's head said, "Moudsie!" Who brought this to my father's workplace? How did it make the other French people there feel?

Eventually it was time to go to college. On the recommendation of my father's boss, I applied to Stanford and that's where I went. Early in my freshman year, my new friends were so excited that _US News & World Report_ had ranked Stanford as number 1 in the country. What was I doing there, I wondered. How had I gotten in? Didn't they know?

But Stanford didn't know about "stupid" Francos, and that was both a good thing and a bewildering thing. It was a good thing, because as it turns out I am not stupid, and neither in fact are most of "us".

It was bewildering though to have grown up with something of an inferiority complex, a feeling of being a linguistic minority, and to join a new culture where I was just white. It is probably no coincidence that I made several friends from recognized racial minority groups. But they saw me as white and therefore privileged and complicit in many injustices.

At the time I did not even have a clear grasp of the notion that race and hierarchy are socially constructed. This is not surprising now that I know about the neo-feudalist structure of 18th and 19th century Quebec society and the theocracy of the Catholic Church. But I couldn't figure out that differing assumptions about the way the world worked were contributing to my misunderstandings; I did feel stupid. I also could not always understand the complaints of institutional racism raised by my Asian or African American friends or how I was implicated.

The assumptions made about one because one is white can be astonishing. A beloved and sophisticated African American professor once insisted that of course my parents had read me bedtime stories, after all, he said, I was white, middle class and had made it to Stanford. Feeling crazy for not remembering this, I asked my parents if they had. No, they hadn't.

Similarly, dorm resident fellows once had suggested reading a book which asserted that all Greek philosophy was stolen from the Egyptians. The woman of the couple made me feel stupid with her rhetorical question about didn't I see what difference it would have made for centuries if people had known this. She indicated that since people believed it was Greek philosophy I, being white, could think it belonged to me. I had only recently learned I was white, but I had known all my life I wasn't Greek. She was right; I didn't get the connection. Not only that, I didn't particularly value Greek philosophy. I thought maybe it was interesting because it preserved good chunks of the ancient Greek language, better than say old shopping lists would. But unlike Aristotle or Plato, I didn't think that certain people were "natural" slaves and would be happiest in that capacity. Could she, an African American believe that? In what she saw as my obtuseness, I became in her eyes "part of the problem."

And the truth was, and to a lesser extent probably remains, that I was ignorant of all kinds of racism, institutional and otherwise, because target people of color had been absent in my life experience until then. And because I was not a member of a white group benefiting particularly much from racism.

HOWEVER, there are two important things I have learned, partly through mainly painful college experiences and partly in trying to make better sense of them and of racism in the time since then.

One is that comparative suffering is futile, disrespectful and trivializes each person's or group's suffering. Friends of color have taught me that this is what one is doing when one uses a white ethnic experience as a means to try to understand the experiences of groups of people of color. Think about new "white" immigrant groups throughout history, the different opportunities they have had because of the color of their skin. For a long time slaves were not allowed to learn to read. If we wanted to learn to read, we could go to oppressive Protestant public schools or we could set up our own parochial schools and learn to read at our parents' and our churches' expense. It's not the same.

If immigrants from certain selected countries were willing to pay the price of losing their languages and forgetting many of their cultural preferences, markers, and rituals, they could have all the benefits of being "white." But those are a heavy price and an empty promise. Those of us who paid the price regret it; why should we allow Rush Limbaugh dittoheads to encourage others that they could just integrate if they wanted to?

From what I know of the circular migration of the Quebecois into New England, it started after the Civil War. French Canadians were desperate and would work cheaply and break the Irish mill workers' strike. Isn't it strange the mill owners looked to foreigners and not to newly freed slaves, who had produced much of the cotton that was being woven? Certain groups of white people were exploited in order to avoid hiring people of color, and hey, they might have told our ancestors they had it pretty good compared to the African Americans, so they would accept their place in paternalistic yet dangerous mill conditions.

But the so-called "benefits" of being white are not good for the vast majority of us, probably not even for the very rich. To have more opportunities than those of other ethnic origins is unjust and without justice there cannot long be peace.

It is good to fight for justice. But we can't do it by comparing ourselves and our ethnic group's situation to people of color and their circumstances. We are used as a buffer between those who benefit the most and those who are hurt the worst. We cannot let this continue, and one step towards ending it is to stop co-opting the issues of other minority groups, be they Puerto Ricans, other Latino/as, or African Americans. Instead we must start working to understand their unique circumstances and how we as white people at or near the bottom of this whiteness ladder can stop stepping on people of color and work with them to lay the ladder down.

I am hoping that this will start a discussion beyond what we have in common with other groups under the status quo and lead to ideas for what we can do to eradicate the racism in which we may be unwitting colluders. Two books that have helped me in thinking about this are Fruits of Sorrow by Elizabeth V. Spelman, which was brought to my attention through the Franco Femme discussion, and Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel. Two other books of interest are Teaching/Learning Anti-Racism by Derman-Sparks and Phillips and Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, edited by Adams, Bell and Griffin.

All Contents are Copyright© Christine Theberge Rafal, Ph.D., 1998

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To Be Or Not To Be -- Catholic

By Trudy Chambers Price, Brunswick

I've just met a cousin I didn't know I had. She's the link to my French-Catholic blood that's simmered on the back of the stove all my life. Now, that blood has begun to boil up with memories of memere Sophia St. Germain, born in northern Wallagrass.

As the story goes, memere left the Catholic church because as a small girl she remembers the priest coming to their house of many children asking for money when there wasn't enough to eat! At around 14 and 15 years of age, "Sophie" and one of her sisters, Eupheme "Phoebe," left their home, family, community and church to work as domestics in the small village of Smyrna Mills in southern Aroostook County. They were known as the "Squirrel Sisters" and received mail addressed as such. In geneological research done by my father, he discovered that since the late 1700s, on more than one occasion, following the name St. Germain, there appeared in parenthesis the word "Cureux," which means squirrel in English. The nickname given, probably because of quickness and agility for over 100 years, followed Sophie and Phoebe to their new jobs. The sisters met and married brothers of English descent, leaving behind even their French name, but not their accent or their silent heritage.

Except when Sophie and Phoebe were together, French wasn't spoken in the home where my father and his four siblings grew up. I was always aware that if memere had stayed in her church and followed the rules, my father would have been brought up Catholic, as would I.

My father's railroad work took us to Caribou where we lived in a mixed, but mostly French-Catholic neighborhood. My friends attended the convent school, taught by nuns. I attended the Catholic church as well as my parents' chosen Methodist church. I was enchanted by the mystique and vastness of the Catholic church��the beautiful statues and stained glass windows, the gestures, music, Latin, the rules. It would be easy to be good if I had to confess my sins to the priest every week, but I couldn't. I envied my friends' catechism classes, their first communions and confirmations (their white, bride-like dresses and veils); their "I HAVE to go to church every week, I CAN'T eat meat on Friday, girls HAVE to wear a hat in church. If I don't, it will be 'such-and-such' a sin." I could never keep them straight the sins��mortal, cardinal...I abided by the rules in ritual but not in legality. Whenever the subject of religion came up, I said, "I should have been raised Catholic."

My parents were open to my attending the Catholic church and didn't encourage me to join with my Prostestant friends when they as fifth-graders became members of the Methodist church. "Wait," my mother had said, "You may want to join a church with the man you marry." And that's what I did. It was Methodist, not Catholic, even though I had dated Catholic boys, sexy with their chain and medal hanging on their chests, even in bed. Then my best friend married a Catholic and converted. When she became devout the Catholic church tugged at me again. Whenever we were together, we attended mass.

I didn't like the changes in the Catholic ritual over the years, and I started to question the rigid doctrine. I missed the Latin, the smoking incense and clanging of chimes. The huge Holy Rosary Church in Caribou burned and the new one lacked the old mistique. I missed the nuns singing from the back balcony.

Then I decided I would "make" my own first communion at the age of fifty instead of six. That was the beginning of the end. I was with my best friend but I didn't tell her of my plan. After I received my first communion that day in the Catholic church it satisfied a deep need. My friend didn't say anything. I sensed her uneasiness.

The next time we went to mass, we stood for communion. The priest said to the parish, "If you are a member of the Catholic church, you are welcome to communion." I was shocked. I abstained, not wanting to break the rules. When I discussed it with my friend, she supported the priest and took the opportunity to expound upon the importance of the Eucharist within the Catholic church and how one must learn that before one participates (children grasp this at age six?). She said I did the right thing by abstaining. It brought my French-Catholic blood to the boiling point. "Think about what the word communion means!" I said. We parted on a sour note. Three weeks later I received an apologetic phone call.

Now that I had been rejected, I began questioning my need to be "Catholic." My friend was so dedicated to the rules of her religion that she put her body through four C-section births when the doctor advised her to stop at two. And didn't she have to get her first Catholic marriage annulled to marry a Prostestant? My Italian-Catholic sister-in-law was excommunicated after her first divorce. When she married my brother and had a baby, she was frantic to have the child christened (in any church, since the Catholic church wouldn't do it) lest the child die and go to purgatory forever. The Methodist church did it willingly.

Recently I attended a women's retreat Vermont. The retreat center is run by the Sisters of Mercy who are the freest of the unfree within the Catholic church. One last time I attended mass with the other women (not all Catholic). There it was in black and white on the back of the Epistle. The black said that no one shall receive Holy Communion unless one is a member of the Catholic church or has special permission (law #..., code #..., canon #...). Once again I abstained, but the Catholic woman beside me broke her wafer and put a piece in my hand. I put it on my tongue and it was coated with guilt.

After church I had a private session with one of the Sisters of Mercy. She asked, "Do you think God asks for your ID when you take communion? Remember that God did not create the church. Man, and I mean, MAN, made the church. Use your conscience and your heart. It is between you and God."

I now believe memere did me a big favor. As my cousin put it, "That Sophie, she DARED to leave!" TRÈS BRAVE! memere Sophie, TRÈS BRAVE!

All Contents are Copyright© Trudy Chambers Price, 1998

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What Effect Does Culture Have On Aging?

By Lanette Landry Petrie, Bradley

Culture is a set of values a group of people hold and the behaviors that stem from those values. Each of us is a composite of a number of cultural factors such as gender, economic situation, religion, rural vs urban, physical capacity, as well as ethnic origin. All of these factors help to shape our image of many things in our lives, including aging. Cultural perceptions of becoming old and being old have much to do with how we think about aging. Sokolonsky tells us in "Images of Aging," that variables such as degree of Family support, gender, or class position might alter the images associated with aging. I want to develop this idea further by focusing on women in general and, in particular, a group of elderly Franco-American nuns I interviewed.

Mythic images of the elderly were used in preindustrial societies to teach about the life cycle of a people. Folktales often included stories of glorified elders with powers for guiding, healing and protection. Old women were sometimes viewed as nurturing matriarchs or feared as evil witches. In many of these societies the role of women changed after their reproductive years and they became the holders of the family stories, held control over daughters-in-law, became peace makers, and were seen assuming greater authority.

In today's societies, "elderly women tend to have life circumstances quite differently from elderly men." (Taeuber, 56) The nation's oldest and fastest growing population today is unmarried women with increased impairment, living alone with economics problems. (Barer, 59) Barer continues to tells us that men have an advantage physically and economically while women have more extensive social networks.

In Cambodia old people are considered very important to their culture. The elderly continue to learn the practice of Buddhism and young people depend on the elders to teach the philosophies to them. (Lao, 52) In Nigeria aged people are not only respected, but well cared for either by their families or by the community as a whole. The elderly are seen as a blessing both to the family and the village and the young make a yearly contribution to their care. (Ugbaja, 63)

Family is the center of life for the Vietnamese. They believe that the old deserve the highest place in the family. Mary Meigs tells us her experience of aging as a lesbian has shown her that old age can free women to live new lives detached from patriarchy. These are only a few of the stories which tell us about the effect of family, gender and class position on the cultural image of aging.

Because of the importance of the Catholic Church in the lives of Franco-Americans, young women were given two choices for their lives - wife/mother or religious nun. Through my interviews with ten Franco-American elderly nuns, I came to believe that choosing the life of a religious provided women with opportunities which were not possible for wives/mothers and may have affected their aging.

Coming from families with as many as fifteen children with six being the fewest, these ten women chose the life of the convent as an alternative, in some cases, to the raising of more babies - their own. For some it was the only chance for an education. Most Franco-American families were not pro-education, particularly for girls. As farmers and mill workers there was little money for anything but the essentials. With their strong faith in God and the Catholic Church, life in the convent offered girls a respected way out. Nine of the sisters I interviewed were over eighty with one in her seventies. Included among them were six teachers, one pharmacist, one librarian, one in social work and one in business affairs. All are presently living in their Motherhouse where they are provided with nursing care, if and when they need it, and productive activities such as helping in the gift shop, playing the organ for Mass, helping in the mailroom, visiting the sick, making crafts to sell in the gift shop, and praying.

One of the general aspects of aging is the loss of meaning in life. These women have aged well in that regard. Some of the reasons may be their philosophy of life which includes the belief in the sanctity of all life. They have always had a purpose for their life. Even the value of prayer and suffering contribute to their acceptance of their position in the life cycle. Their lives have included planned vacations and time for reflection.

Another aspect of aging is the change in socio/economic position. The nuns financial needs have never been a worry. Although they often had little, it was not their worry as for a place to sleep or food to eat. The socio/economic condition for these nuns has never changed.

Loss of physical and mental ability is also seen as an aspect of aging. The sisters loss of physical ability has only changed their duties to incorporate what they were capable of. Health care and dental care have always been available to them. There is a sense of worldly innocence which has provided a level of stresslessness which may contribute to their good mental health.

In looking at the Franco-American culture of aging, four significant aspects arise. For the nuns they are as follows: 1) the loss of home language, French, 2) lack of decision making in the convent contrasted with major decision making in their professions, 3) frequent moving, and 4) loss of family.

1) Entering English language only religious communities meant losing their language for these French speaking women. Some were told not to speak French in their convents because it was perceived that they might be talking about someone behind their backs. In spite of that, several of these sisters still speak French today. Some were missioned to French speaking communities and so continued to speak French with parishioners. For some, their families continued to speak French with them when they visited.

2) As nuns, they took vows of obedience which meant that they would accept whatever they were told to do. Some of these sisters held positions with a lot of authority and made important decisions, but as private women were expected to be submissive, which they were. There are pros and cons to this behavior. Along with decision making often comes responsibility for other peoples lives which can create a lot of stress. One sister was Assistant Director of Mercy Hospital when mandatory retirement at sixty-five went into practice. So at sixty-five she felt compelled to comply with that rule and retired. This meant for her, opening a pharmacy in northern Maine and operating it for another eleven or twelve years. She retired again to parish work for another eight or nine years when it then became necessary for her to have a mastectomy, then by-pass surgery and is now helping in the Motherhouse gift shop and mailroom. Stress as we know can cause many physical illnesses.

3) Sisters were often transferred from one place to another to fill vacant positions in schools and to keep them from becoming too rooted in one place. They were asked to leave their family and friends over and over again. It was necessary for them to continue to make new friends and acquaintances. Some living arrangements were less than friendly. Sometime the local priest gave the sisters a hard time or there were personality clashes within the house. Each sister had little control over her living arrangements.

4) When these sisters left home to enter the convent they literally left home. The convent became their family. The rules were very strict about family involvement, or the lack of , in their lives. Many sisters were not allowed to attend family weddings or funerals or even be alone at home with their parents or siblings. For Franco-Americans this is a major loss. The family is central to the life of the Franco-American people. Not to be able to celebrate and grieve together was extremely difficult. Although they need not worry for their own financial needs, they were often torn by not being able to help their families financially as they saw them struggling. For one sister the decision became critical when her mother died leaving small children to be raised by a sister who was younger than she. Her father operated a bakery and she felt she was needed at home. Through prayer and discernment she remained in the convent but not without a great deal of soul searching.

In looking at the four cultural characteristics for Franco-American women who became wives and mothers, life was hard in its own way. Education was out of the question for them. They went to school until they were probably fourteen then helped at home or got married. Women married early, often to ease the burden at home, to men who needed someone to have their children and to take care of them. There was the need to have large families in order for the children to help work and support the family along with the Catholic Church's strong stand against birth control. There were few convenience and little money. The only medical help was from a town doctor and mid-wives. Many women lost babies at birth or through miscarriages. There were twenty-four losses of children in the families of the ten nuns I interviewed. Medical care was very rare and dental care practically non-existent for most. The economic conditions varied but for the most part, Franco-Americans in Maine were the working poor. They were farmers and mill workers with little education and large families to care for. There was seldom enough to meet present needs let alone plan for retirement. Old age was left to God, along with the whole of life. Life offered many hardships such as accidents and complications from childbirth.. The stress of life took its toll on their health. High blood pressure, diabetes, and heart ailments were typical.

1) French was spoken in early Franco-American homes and continues to this day in some. It provided a real sense of belonging. Most Maine communities had a French church were people could worship in French.

2) Franco-American women had little authority in their lives and had decision making ability only in as far as it concerned the children. In most families the father was the firm head of the household and controlled everything in it making all the "important" decisions. In the area of finance, women had little say over what little money there was. The men earned the living and the women took care of the house and children. Franco-American women were excellent managers with very little material goods. They found ways to feed multitudes of people with nothing and still provided harmony in the home.

3) Franco-American families often moved to find work. The usual pattern was for the man to go ahead and set up housekeeping, often with relatives, and then sent for the family. For

the most part, they stayed in place with their extended families.

4) Franco-American women were surrounded by their extended families which proved to be their greatest help. For these women life revolved around the Church. Most celebrations, deaths, social occasions, even dating took place at the local church.

As Franco-American women aged, they became respected for their ability to survive and were looked up to for their wisdom and faith. Their children, for the most part, took care of them in their old age. Today many live in elderly housing made available by state assistance. They worry about what will happen to them when they are no longer able to care for themselves. Nursing home care is very expensive and becoming more restrictive. Their children work outside the home and aren't able to care for them at home. They have very limited funds to provide for emergency situations. Their lives still depend on their faith in God. For many, they feel their life of usefulness is over and they wait to die. For others who have been able to benefit from a higher standard of living, they have found a freedom from hard work and are enjoying their last years watching their grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up.

In looking at the data, we can see similarities in these two groups of Franco-American women. The French language was very important to both groups of Franco-American women. Neither group of women had decision making abilities where their lives were concerned. Both have a history of moving with a sense of rootedness - the Motherhouse for the sisters and family of origin for the wives/mothers. Both groups of women had a loss of identity as the nuns took saints names and the women who married took their husbands name. Their philosophy of life was and remains the same, "God will provide."

The differences show up mainly in the socio/economic structure. The nuns were held in high esteem, educated, with work positions of prestige. Financially the nuns were provided for with complete access to medical and dental care, all of which was beyond the reach for the wives/mothers.

Each group can learn something from the other. For religious communities to survive with fewer women entering convents, outreach to families will be critical. More involvement and communication with the outside world would bring in needed financial resources. The sisters physical and spiritual needs are met very well but psychological needs remain behind closed doors. More meaningful stimulation could be looked at as this group of aging women have lives of experience to share.

For the community women, "Women's ability to sustain community living in advanced old age would be enhanced by the greater availability of quality home care help." (Barer, 64) A return to the old family values of respect and care of the elderly by young parents would do a lot to assure their own care in old age. Promoting images of productive, useful elderly people would help to bring the generations closer together, to work, play, and pray. Including older people on church boards and civic committees; inviting them into the classroom to share life experiences; as volunteers in hospitals and ecology projects; as coaches for young mothers; etc.

For the most part, many of the needs of the elderly are more social than medical. The elderly generally experience lingering disability rather than disease but the system still treats care of the elderly through traditional means - doctors and hospitals. The three major sectors of social protection are Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and private insurance. There are possible problems facing each system of reimbursement which could be helped by working together.

In conclusion, I believe that culture plays a major role in aging. The lives we were given have much to do with the choices we have. To be born a Franco-American, Catholic, working class, straight woman offered me the same two options as most Franco-American girls - marriage or convent. I considered a life in the convent very seriously, but could not leave my family to do so. I know today that I made the right decision to marry but accepted many of the same limitations as my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before me. The major change has come in my aging. As a middle-aged woman I have found the freedom to be me. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have work situations where we moved up in the economic scale and are better able to provide for our retirement, but as with the other women, I lost my language, took my husband's name, and still place my faith in God for the future.


Ten Franco-American elderly nuns (Community asked for anonymity)

Barer, Barbara M., Men and Women Aging Differently. . Annual Editions, Aging, Eleventh Edition, Harold Cox. Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Guilford, CT. 1997

Lao, Ponloeu, Aging in My Culture. Fierce with Reality, Margaret Cruikshank. North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., St. Cloud, MN. 1995

Leonard, Fran, and Loeb, Laura. The Future of Older Women in America. Annual Editions, Aging, Eleventh Edition, Harold Cox. Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Guilford, CT. 1997

Meigs, Mary. Memory Is As Uncertain as Grace. North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., St. Cloud, MN. 1995

Meyer, Jack. Can We Afford Old Age. . . Annual Editions, Aging, Eleventh Edition, Harold Cox. Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Guilford, CT. 1997

Sokolovsky, Jay. Images of Aging: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Generations Spring/Summer 1993

Taeuber, Cynthia M. Women in Our Aging Society. . . Annual Editions, Aging, Eleventh Edition, Harold Cox. Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown & Benchmark Publishers, Guilford, CT. 1997

Ugbaja, Franklin. Aging in Two Cultures. Fierce with Reality. Margaret Cruikshank. North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., St. Cloud, MN. 1995

All Contents are Copyright©Lanette Landry Petrie, 1998

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Daring Feat Is Recalled

By Dick Shaw, Bangor Daily News Staff

Brewer Girl's Daring Feat Is Recalled

Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine--circa 1970s

The petite 17-year-old blond from South Brewer didn't look the daredevil type, but one day in 1900 she astounded a crowd at the Eastern Fine Paper corp. in what the Bangor Daily News called a "daring feat of Brewer beauty."

She was Annie Polyot [Pouliotte], a French girl from Pennsylvania, and she surprised just about everyone in August 1900 by taking a dare. A five-dollar bill was offered to anyone who could muster up the bravoure to scale a 126-foot-high iron smokestack at Eastern's plant in South Brewer. Only on man, and no woman or girl, had ever done that.

"On Friday afternoon," the NEWS reported, "in company with some girl friends, she went to the mill and practiced a little at climbing the ladder. It seemed easy to her, and she declared that in the evening, when there would be fewer men around, she would to the top."

News go around, however, and when Annie later came tripping down between the wood piles, dressed in a short bicycle skirt, she was surprised to see a crowd of 100 men and a few women and girls clustered around the chimney.

"Without any ceremony or timidity," the NEWS stated, "she grasped the slander ladder and started for the top of the lofty stack, while the crowd stared in wonder and admiration."

"Without looking back she gained the top, seated herself on the cap of the chimney and swung her legs to and from as tough she were sitting in a hammock. The crowd gaped and wondered if she would fall, and the men cheered loudly.

"As she landed lightly on terra firma, she smiled saucily and held out her hand for the five dollars." Edward Blackman Jr. of Bangor, a son of Annie Polyot, recalled that his mother married shortly after the incident. "She used to go around as a midwife with doctors," Blackman said. He also remembered that Annie could play 20 to 25 bingo cards at a time, while he had his hands full with only five. Annie [Polyot] Blackman died in 1945 and the iron smokestack in South Brewer was demolished many years ago. All Contents are Copyright©Dick Shaw, 1998

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By Bridget T. Robbins, Guilford

¡Bienvendios! Al instituto de mujeres franco-americanas. ¿Porqué el español? Porque el intercambio de las culturas se hace el movimiento contemporaneo del feminismo más fuerte. Necesitamos establicir un entendimiento entre las culturas; la religion, el idioma extranjero y la tradición de los franco-americanos tiene muchas semejanzas a la cultura hispánica. Lo que nos reunimos, el catolicismo, quizá pueda servir como un puente entre las mujeres latinas y franco-americanas. ¿Hay otra manera mejor para celebrar tu propia cultura que explorar y descubrir otra?

All Contents are Copyright©Bridget T. Robbins, 1998

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By Amy Bouchard Morin, Old Town

It's not just the teaching that wears a person out when you teach kindergarten .... especially on the day of the first snowstorm of the year! Maman always dreaded that first snow of the year because she knew what to expect. First thing in the morning in come 25 little boys and girl with 25 pairs of boots all the same size and all one of two colors. (back in the days when maman taught the boys wore black boots and the girls wore red). And, most of them did not have a name marked inside. Then came the hats and mittens, which were also more often than not sans identification. If the children went out for recess, there was the process of bundling them up .. find the boots, hats and mittens that belonged to each child and help them into them. Maman says that no matter how carefully she had them hang their coats and line up the boots, etc under them that there were always several mixups. The children may not be sure which "red" boots were theirs, but they certainly knew which ones were not theirs. Then in from recess they came and the "unbundling" proceeded. Maman would follow her lesson plans until it was time to go home. Then came "bundling up" time again. The morning group went home, Maman tried to choke down her lunch and get a couple minutes rest and at the same time prepare her room for the afternoon group. "Here we go again," she would say as the bell rang and her second group of 25 little ones lined up outside her door. The morning process repeated itself, with Maman telling the children how to hang up their coats and line up their boots (checking as she went to see if the boots had names inside), etc. Again came the recess rush and then the final bundling up to go home.

One year, Maman had her physical scheduled, and that particular day ended up being the first snow day of the year. Maman went in for her appointment and collapsed in the chair in the examining room. Her doctor came in, took one look at her and said, "Agatha, what the h... is the matter with you? You only taught school today, what could possibly have worn you out so?" Let me tell you, my Maman found the energy to tell him exactly what her day of "teaching school" had been like. The good doctor apologized and said that he had never given a thought about what the first day of snow could bring to a kindergarten teacher. All Contents are Copyright© Amy Bouchard Morin, 1998

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Some Jewels of Maine: Jewish Maine Pioneers

A Review By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer

Some Jewels of Maine: Jewish Maine Pioneers, by Celia C. Risen, Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., 643 Smithfield St., Pittsburgh, PA., 15222, Telephone: 800-788-7654, ISBN#0-8059-4206-8, 178 pp., $14.00/$3.50 S/H.

Some Jewels of Maine: Jewish Maine Pioneers is Celia Risen's second book. Her first book, published in 1988, is entitled Yankee Fiddler: A Man Called Suss. Both books are about the Jewish families who came to settle in Maine. With her recent book, Some Jewels of Maine, Risen focuses in depth on the entire state of Maine and several of the immigrants and their families who came to settle here during the late 1800s, early 1900s and carries the story to modern times. The immigrants came from Russia and Eastern Europe to escape the pogroms, persecution and conscription into the Czar's army.
Risen, now retired from teaching, began her inquiry into the Jewish pioneers who came to Maine after conducting interviews with them and their descendants for the English as a Second Language (ESL) courses she was teaching. The stories sparked her interest so she decided to pursue the families' histories.
Some Jewels of Maine captures the lives of the Jewish pioneers and their struggles of living through the hardship of language, culture, religious barriers in a new, foreign land. What they left behind in the old country were even greater hardships. What they became in the new land was a distinct and unique people who prospered, for the most part, despite the barriers, and because of the barriers. The push to succeed and the hard working diligence of the Jewish people who came to settle in the state are a part of many Maine communities local legend and lore. From the beginning of their arrival, even without knowledge of English or without much capital, these Russian and Eastern European immigrants touched the lives of the people in the state.
"I wanted to show the ESL students what others were able to accomplish even though they came with no money, no skills and no knowledge of English," Risen states. What began as a way to illustrate to her ESL students the influence that these immigrants played, despite the barriers of language, etc., in the formation of the communities they settled in, Risen's book speaks to many of us about the valuable contribution these immigrants made to their culture and the economy of the state.
Interestingly, for me, the interweaving of other cultures with the Jewish immigrants is adeptly illustrated. I can add my own personal testimony, coming from the French Canadian [Franco-American] culture, about the interactions with many of these Jewish immigrants, or their descendants, which was a part of my upbringing. I was told, and it was held up as an example, of the way in which the Jewish people often aided their own to succeed in the world of commerce. The local paper would advertise the "Founder's Day Sale" of the local Jewish clothier. A peddler's wagon was featured in the ad because that was how the business had started. My mother worked for two such clothiers, hired because of her bilingual skills, as many others were also hired to work in the stores because of their bilingual abilities, which represents a prominent feature of the way these Jewish pioneers would learn to do business-in the language of their customers. Later on, as a family, we raised chickens for another Jewish business enterprise. My aunt would tell me stories of the Jewish peddler in No. Maine and what his interaction with the French community there was like. In reading Risen's book, my own life's history was revealed to me through the stories of the many Jewish families that effected the communities to which they came to work and live.
The Jewish pioneers came to Maine because the climate and landscape resembled the ones they had left behind. Immigrant followed immigrant as well. The economy in Maine was one which allowed for immigrants to learn a trade, peddle, apprentice, or become an independent worker. Many who started out as peddlers, prospered to become merchants, factory owners, chicken plant processors, distributors of goods and services as well as community leaders. Risen writes a catalog of accomplishments and achievements for the women and men whose families immigrated to Maine. Because education was a goal for all, both women and men, through the hard working efforts of others before them, were able to attain college education in the second and third generations to become doctors, lawyers, professors and entered other professions as well.
Religion played an important role in their lives. Maintaining kosher homes and Jewish religious observances were a part of their integration in the community. Synagogues were begun when there were enough Jewish families in that town to support it. When faced with anti-Semitism, they responded by creating fraternities, support networks, lending agencies and other organizations to counteract the prejudice they faced. Some communities were more accepting than others. Risen often points out that the Jews and the French often faced the same core of prejudice-that which was directed toward cultures other than "Yankee."
Risen writes in a style of "the pot of living" which is open ended and stirs in details through a cultural language that reflects Jewishness. She expounds on proverb, humor, philosophies of Jewish tradition, candidness of intercultural animosities, shochets, schonorrers, economics defined by histories, poverty, struggles in upward mobility, successes and failures of the families which read as a who's who of many Maine communities. Many will recognize family names such as Sterns, Bernstein, Povich, Berliawsky, Lown, Wolman, Lipman, Goldsmith, Cohen, Cutler, Etscovitz, Levine and many more whose enterprise touched the lives of thousands through the years. Each chapter interviews one family which leads to the next chapter like a string of pearls of influence. Each chapter also focuses on an issue or cause or concern close to the individuals featured. The language and ritual of Jewish living is explained historically for the dislocated immigrants who took up the hard work of recreating the support networks necessary to define a distinct people. In modern terms, taking into consideration the renewed interest in global economics, this book reveals the multicultural and international landscape which has is a legacy of the state. The historic proof of the tradition and ability to do business in the language of one's customers as well as a multicultural focus informing the communities in which these immigrants settled, is a strength to be drawn from in today's market place.
Risen began her connection to Maine in 1955 when she and her husband sent their children to the camps developed in the state for Jewish children, and later they began summering here on a tree farm in central Maine every year from June till September. Her intimate knowledge of the Jewish communities captures the flavors of each and reflects it back to the reader in detail and accuracy. Her book, Some Jewels of Maine: Jewish Maine Pioneers is an important book to add to the libraries, classrooms, curriculums and pleasure reading lists because of the inevitability of how these pioneers have touched our lives. As a reading public, we need to know their stories. As a multicultural, international historic community, we are enriched by our collective history told in this book.

Rhea J. Côté lives in Brewer with her family and is the author of Wednesday's Child, which won the 1997 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award.

All Contents are Copyright©Rhea J. Côté, 1998

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By Trudy Chambers Price, Brunswick

The new bride's first child, a boy, is stillborn. Another comes soon - small, quiet and blue-eyed, Be careful, watch out, the mother warns, you might get hurt. No bicycle, no scooter, you might get run over. He buries himself in comic books. Later comes a cheerful, brown-eyed girl. Her dark hair reveals her father's French family. Don't play with "him," the mother warns, he's from down on the French flat. Don't play with "her," she's loud, No bicycle, no horse (but she rides one every chance she gets). She cleans the house to please her father, then moves away and becomes a Catholic. Years later in mid-life, a blonde, artist child is born. Stay in the yard, the mother warns, so I can see where you are. Don't mow the lawn, it's too hard work. Picking potatoes is too dusty, No bicycle, no lipstick, She paints silently and cleans the vomit and bottles from her brother's car, so the mother won't know, Near the end of her life, a nurse asks the mother how many children she has had. One, she says, but I lost him, 11-26-94

All Contents are Copyright©Trudy Chambers Price, 1998

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By Yvonne Mazerolle, Old Town


I am pieces dissected 
By the gazer...
I am breasts-
Too Small
Too large 
Too perky 
Too Saggy
Just right.
Who says?

I am legs-
Too short
Too long
Too skinny
Too chunky
Just right.
Who says?

I am ass-
Too wide 
Too flat
Too jiggly
Too bony
Just right.
Who says?

I am round
I am thin
I am short
I am tall
I am buff 
I am soft
I am thought 
I am emotion
I am soul
I am all
I am mine!

All Contents are Copyright© Yvonne Mazerolle, 1998

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Poems By Joyce Fairbrother


The schizophrenic man at the bus stop 
wipes his nose on his red bandanna,
then ties it around his head,
greasy hair framing his face like a halo.
He will not take my silence for no answer.
He sidles slightly closer
and I withdraw as much as I can
without moving.
I am trying to finish the tress poem
but my eyes are pulled away
from my notebook,
pen stilled, loss immanent.
He chants a relentless litany
of mumbled interrogatives and jibes:

Hail Mary full of grace?

He makes it a question.
For a second, I wonder
how he knew my name was Mary.
When I look up
 to meet his jumbled gaze,
he blows cigarette smoke
into my already aching eyes.
Smiling his beatitude,
he calls me "Mother Mary,"
signing the cross 
with self-mortifying jabs.

There's no sanctuary on the bus.
My cross to bear,
the schizophrenic man sits behind me,
leaning forward to whisper
Hail Marys into my averted ear.
He smells of sweat and Old Spice aftershave.
At the corner of Third and Union,
he tells me he is an archangel
sent by God and traveling incognito
to call me to sit in sorrow
at my crucified son's feet.

Pulling the cord, I rise
to meet him genuflecting.
As I get off the bus,
he begins to tell the bus driver's head
today's installment
of the madonna visions.

July 15, 1998


Cantor enchants, sings old angel midnight cherry blossomed wings ricochet off tangent walls to slats, off the slant shift silk of wings that whisper down vaulted hallways, down blind alleys underneath; find salvation in a lisp, a slip of comfort into transubstantiated things, penny taken nearer their gospel than thee. Altar visions alter vistas spun beyond the stark woven thread, brush arcade mysteries, arcane touch nave to navel and bending, rediscover sacraments, her covenanted scent, wings folded serenely over his feet.

All Contents are Copyright©Joyce Fairbrother, 1998

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A Franco-American Woman

By Lucille Gosselin, Orrington

As a teenager, I strongly admired my great-grandmother, Elise Landry Bosse, for the true pioneer she was. 'Grandmaman' was born at St. Andre de Kamouraska, Que., on April 30, 1867. On September 19, 1886, she married Louis Bosse from St. Arsene de Temiscouata, Que. They arrived in Lewiston, Me. about two years later and were the first to develop 'le petit Canada'. Louis built several large apartment buildings on River and Oxford streets in order to generate income and eventually help lodge his large family; as they married and established families of their own. There were 14 children, 11 that survived infancy. Six sons and five daughters, most of whom married and had large families also. The exception was my own 'Memere' Amanda, who was widowed very young and was left with three children, which included my Mother. But, that's another story.

It was so intriguing to watch 'Grandmaman's' routine. Sometime, I would visit after school, and find her on her hands and knees, with a big brush and pail of water, scrubbing her kitchen floor. She made the lye soap with grease leftovers, lye and ammonia. Everything was immaculate in her house, a typical French Canadian characteristic. Daughters were taught at an early age to maintain a home by following their mother and helping her with the daily routine. Pride in personal appearance was also very important and each night of her life, 'Grandmaman' curled her hair by rolling it on pieces of toilet paper. The next morning, part of her grooming routine included brushing those tight curls into a stylish hairdo. Her day started at dawn and lasted into the evening hours, with never a lost minute; for inactivity was the 'le temps du diable'.

Meals were substantial and nourishing, with fresh produce in season; canned and preserved foods in the Winter. She did her own gardening, canning and preserves, as well as baking daily the breads, pies, cakes, cookies that we all enjoyed whenever we visited.

The washing of clothes was a day's rigorous affair. First a tub had to be filled with hot water, soap and bleach; in which the clothes were scrubbed on the washboard. Once they were wrung out, clothes went into another tub filled with bluing water. Once these were wrung out, many had to go to a third tub for starching. Finally all were hung to dry on the large porch, in all kinds of weather. Whenever the clothes froze before drying, they would be taken down and draped over any available surface, to finish drying. It was the washing of the curtains that fascinated me the most. After the starching process, she would stretch them on frames placed around the huge kitchen, in order for them to dry and hang properly. Is it any wonder that she was so enthusiastic when she got her first wringer washing machine?

Next came the day for ironing and mending. Ironing before electricity was a difficult, slow process. The iron consisted of two parts; a handle that could hook onto the flat part which was left on a hot stove to heat up. When hot, it was hooked to the handle part and then used to iron. It cooled quickly however, so the process had to be repeated with several iron flats on the stovetop. Lucky the woman who had many iron flats, but it was a process that still required lots of time and patience. Each starched item of clothing had been sprinkled and rolled in a towel and stuck in the icebox in order to keep damp. Everything got ironed , from underwear to sheets, pillowcases, towels and all the clothes the large family wore. Mending of clothes was a given. 'Waste not, want not' was not only a was a practice. 'A stitch in time saves nine' was also religiously adhered to.

There was always plenty of baking in the large ovens of the woodstove. I saw her bake six to eight breads first thing in the morning, as if it was the easiest thing to do. I guess when it is a daily routine, it does become effortless. Pies were not only for desserts, but also meals: Chicken, turkey,. salmon, and 'Tourtiere's' were staples. Cookies and cakes were also always available as well as fruit pies, cobblers, etc. Fresh eggs, milk, and produce were delivered to the door by farmers, and during the Summer months, many would walk the streets with their carts shouting their specials. Housewives would come out to buy everything from fresh produce to rags and secondhand wares, as well as to take time to socialize. Feeding three substantial meals daily to the family took many hours of labor. In these days of 'take out meals' I'm sure I must be an oddity because I still pre- pare some of her favorite recipes, handed down in my family. 'Tourtieres', 'crepes', 'cretons', 'tarte au salmon' 'amarinages' etc. Many of her recipes were folk medicines we still use today, because they work. For instance, blow smoke into the ear for an earache, or into the eye to break a sty. Mix water, vinegar and honey as a gargle for sore throat. Mix baking soda, and salt for toothpaste. One recipe for salted herbs is not only terrific to add to soups, stews and casseroles, but also is a medicine that heals a bad sprain quickly. To stop a coughing spell; swallow a tablespoons of molasses mixed with lots of pepper.

Of course a few of her methods I've voluntarily chosen to discard...although they sure worked. But no way will I wear a clove of garlic around my neck to avoid getting a cold, or take castor oil and cod liver oil for a monthly tonic.

Another chore for the housewife was that of knitting the family's mittens, scarves, sweaters and even stockings which were knit with 5 needles. For this, 'Grandmaman' had to dye and spool the yarn. She made the thread on her 'rouet', a small spinning wheel set in the corner of her workroom. Also placed in that room was a large weaving loom, on which she weaved 'catalognes', rugs and many useful items of clothing.

Cleaning the house was also a woman's duty. Weekly the house was swept, dusted and scrubbed. Fall and Spring cleaning were a must in a well run Franco-American household. Ceilings, walls and floors were scrubbed. Windows were washed inside- out, as well as the screens. Closets and drawers were re-organized. Furniture was polished; curtains washed and starched; rugs beaten and upholstered furniture was swept clean of dust. Each year, one or two rooms were designated for new paint and curtains.

Interspersed among all this work and activity, was 'Grandmaman's' involvement as an active member of her church, 'l'Eglise Ste. Marie'. She belonged to the ' Dames de Ste.Anne; Dames de Charite; Dames de l'Union St. Joseph et de l 'Union St. Jean Baptiste de l'Amerique'. Sundays were days set aside for God family and rest. Mass was followed by visiting other families, or enjoying company for a meal. Participating in a 'soiree' where lots of music and singing, and/or card playing such as Whist, was the norm. Special holidays had very significant rituals. Christmas always started with midnight mass, followed by a 'reveillons', which is a buffet served at the patriarch's home, after which the gifts are given, songs are sung and laughter abounds after each story told. The stockings with a very precious, at that time, orange was placed in the toe, and were given to the excited children. New Year's celebration started also with attendance at mass, after which a large meal was serveas Whist, was the norm. Special holidays had very significant rituals. Christmas always started with midnight mass, followed by a 'reveillons', which is a buffet served at the patriarch's home, after which the gifts are given, songs are sung and laughter abounds after each story told. The stockings with a very precious, at that time, orange was placed in the toe, and were given to the excited children. New Year's celebration started also with attendance at mass, after which a large meal was served and everyone wished each other health, happiness and good fortune for the year. Then 'Granpapa' Bosse, as the patriarch of the family, would bless each one. Easter mass was followed by a large ham dinner and an egg hunt, with a chocolate egg for each child. Independence Day celebrations consisted of parades and picnics. My favorite was the Labor Day ritual. Because we had no vehicle of transportation, it was so exciting to travel in Uncle Pierre's horse and wagon, singing our French songs all the way to Auburn "En avant la Cantiniere," "Au clair de la lune," "Au Canada," "Les boutons d'cullotte," "Comme qu'il y a des saintes au Canada" and more. To me the following cookout of fresh corn and garden produce was anti-climatic.

The Bosse's celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1936. 'Grandmaman' was a widow at 76 as well as blind, when I arrived on the scene. Se remained very active and independent, living in her own apartment with two grown sons. At 88, a Dr. Tchao arrived in Lewiston, advocating a new surgery for cataracts. 'Grandmaman' was his first patient. Because of her courage and fait in God, to submit to this revolutionary surgery and defying the rumors that this doctor was "an oriental quack," she regained her sight. I remember her fascination with Television, once she could see again. She thanked God daily for the miracles she was experiencing, especially the "moving pictures that talked." She lived through so many changes: the first car, the icebox, electricity and all the appliance and conveniences that brought. The radio, telephone, telegraph, airplanes, TV and even witnessed Sputnik. She learned some English by watching TV, and always was interested in everything. Her mind remained sharp until her death.

When I was 21, as an engagement gift, 'Grandmaman' presented me with a 'catalogne' from her loom, which I still use today. She did this for every grandchild until she was into her 80s.

She was typical of the great demands placed on a Franco-American woman in the 20th and 21st centuries. Their lives were dedicated in the service to the family, the home and the church. They provided stability, love and happiness that developed a good foundation for the children, who learned from their example to be hard-working, honest, loving, caring and God-centered individuals. It was understood that the woman was the "heart of the family" and the man was the "head of the family." No matter how much we deny and disagree with this formula, we must admit it did give the nation solid law abiding citizens with an independent work ethic that built this nation to greatness. It certainly is too extreme for today's woman and society, but I believe with modifications, and women's as well as men's willingness to focus themselves on the well being of their family, we could create wonders in our modern world. To much emphasis on the 'me' can destroy the 'we' of family.

'Grandmaman' Bosse died at 91 years of age. She left eight children four sisters and a brother, 35 grandchildren and 60 great-grandchildren. The legacy she left was one of love, self-denial, service, hard work, cleanliness and pride in one's personal appearance and surrounding, no matter what age you are. her progeny, through her example, have learned her lessons very well. "Merci chere Grandmaman."

All Contents are Copyright©Lucille Gosselin, 1998

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Grace Metalious' Dirty Dishes

By Rhea J. Côté Robbins, Brewer

I am graced by a single moment. A clean block of happening, an expression of the ordinary around me. A clear moment or thought. A clean kitchen, pots on to boil; a sense of purpose, the clarity of a moment. Instead, by the action of others I am caught in the middle, used badly or abused in the crush. I have only to drink a cup of wine and amuse myself with relishing the pressure points of conflict. It is all that is left to the transaction. On the side I remember, and it plays in my mind over and over how the author was known for her dirty dishes. It makes me want to break every dish in the clean kitchen which is usually a virtual, pride inducing, pigpen floors, dishes, counters, everywhere.

All Contents are Copyright©Rhea J. Côté Robbins, 1998

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The Big Farm

By Connie Magnan-Albrizio,CT


Charley Marteau had his eye on Ranclo, a seventeen-year-old with the mind of a three-year-old every time the hulking youth came to the general store with his adopted parents.

Seeking permission to let this boy live with the Marteaus on their new farm for the winter, Charley promised the old folks, "I'll cut and stack enough wood and kindling for the entire season, and I'll fill your pantry and cold cellar with enough smoked meats and jarred fruit and vegetables to last longer than that. l918 can be the best of all years for you. Let him come."

The care-worn old man and woman agreed even though they had loved and nurtured Ranclo since the day he was left on their doorstep in a basket.

The Marteaus moved from the village to a 150-acre farm in Hereford, bordering the New Hampshire and Vermont lines. Once settled in, Ranclo was to keep the barn and stables shoveled and re-covered with every-day fresh hay. He rushed gleefully from one distraction to another. The quick and sudden moves of animals made him quiver though, and Armand sensed animals didn't like him either. Cow tails swished faster, horses neighed and stepped around nervously within their stalls even when Ranclo filled the feeders and water troughs. With unusual strength, he carried in double loads of wood for the stoves in one trip, and handled heavy milk cans as easily as he did pails.

Ranclo followed thirteen-year-old Gizelle everywhere and helped her better than he did anyone else, holding out his hand for a piece of candy whenever she said he was a good boy and did a fine job. Marie-Anne was good with him too. They found him sweet natured and not given to anger. The way he followed and helped one or the other of the sisters freed Armand. It was bad enough keeping up with his own work without having Ranclo dogging his steps, stopping him every minute.

Ranclo slept on the cot near the stove in the summer kitchen and he sat with the rest of the family for meals. The girls tried to teach him to play Parcheesi, but he kept snatching the buttons and hiding them and so they played find the buttons until bedtime.

Momma washed and mended his clothes, but she didn't talk to him. She didn't talk to her own children much anymore either. She moved from chore to chore to chore crying, not out loud, just tears puddling her eyes and falling drop by drop on her sallow cheeks all day long. Marie-Anne told Armand, "Momma is sick, not get-in-bed sick, she's spirit-sick."

Charley bought heavy logging horses and harnesses. He bid on and won a cutting and logging contract up on Pittsburg Mountain for that winter. With a big black kitchen stove in the chowhouse and with enough food for two weeks, Charley and a crew of fifty men moved up to the logging camp early November. Lumberjacks cut logs. Teamsters hauled these to the mill at the chair factory in Beecher Falls, Vermont seven miles away. Ma tante Aurore, Charley's hunchedback sister who lived with them, and his daughter, Marie-Anne, were ordered along to work as cooks.

On Saturdays, Armand hitched the farm team to a sleigh and drove to Paquetville for bags of flour, sugar, salt, potatoes and tea, then to the mill for a wagon load of grain for the one-ton horses.

Armand had to leave camp for home by three before the second runs took off down the steep slopes to the sawmill with a load of logs. Poppa wanted him out of the way. There could be no accidents, Armand's weekly deliveries were crucial to the running of the camp.

By sundown, supper was ready for the lumberjacks. Another supper awaited the teamsters at seven. Charley was relieved when this second group returned to camp. He supervised the care each man gave these special horses: from the method of unhitching, to the currying, to the close scrutiny of legs, hooves and shoulders. All tender spots, bruises, cuts or sores were to be rubbed with a special ointment before they were fed, watered and stabled. Only after this was done could the teamsters wash and ready themselves for supper and, because this second run was the most dangerous of the day, they were rewarded at the supper table with a couple of good belts of Charley's homemade whiskey. He distilled his own "bagosse" in the chowhouse. There was always a barrel fermenting behind the black stove. This was camouflaged with a quilt covering, heaped on with stacks of spare dish towels. Aurore was warned that if the lumberjacks discovered this barrel, they'd help themselves whenever they could and there would be plenty of trouble. The drinks were ladled out and waiting when the men came in to eat.

The workers slept in the bunkhouse. Ma tante Aurore and Marie-Anne slept on cots in the chowhouse with quilts strung between them and the cooking-eating area.


On the farm, the woodshed had been packedby the lumberjacks before following Charley to camp. By mid-winter, every scrap was gone. They had also cut about twenty extra cords as an emergency supply, which was left at the edge of the woods over a mile away from the house.

Armand tied the farm mare, Dolly, to a flat-bottomed drag and plowed her slowly, laboriously through four feet of snow blanketing the field. Half way to the wood's edge, Dolly's heart gave out and she dropped belly-down, dead. Stunned, incapable of thinking, the boy stood rooted to the drag, reins in hand, looking at her for the longest time, tears freezing on his skin.

Pulling out of his stupor, Armand wiped his face and nose on the edge of the sweater sleeve he tugged out from inside his coat. "Poppa set us up bad this time," he finally said out loud to poor dead Dolly. "This place is too big for us alone. I hope we last the winter -- ."

Struggling back to the farm along the flattened path Dolly had made pulling the drag, he groused out loud. "Gotta stop crying and puzzling over what can't be changed."

From the stable, he rode bareback to the dead horse. It took all morning just to take the harness, horse collar, hanes and traces off poor old Dolly; it took a good chunk of the afternoon to put all of this on the second horse, Jigger, then loop a logging chain around poor old Dolly's neck to pull her away so that he could hitch Jigger to the flat-bottomed snow drag; and it took until dusk to get the wood he had started out for in the first place. It was long past bedtime when he finished stacking it in the open shed attached to the house.

He left for supplies before dawn the next morning. Grain "Millhands" loaded the sleigh and by late afternoon Armand headed back home. His team worked hard, pulling the load up steep hills and he stopped many times to let them get their wind and to give them water. At the crest of one of the hills, the horses were so steamed Armand decided to rest longer. Unable to cover them by reaching over their massive backs from the ground, he jumped from the dasher to the centerpole and the sudden weight made the horse's snort and dance throwing him off balance. By grabbing the mane to steady himself, Armand pulled a quilt from his shoulders and slid it across the back of one, then he did the same with the other. Turning as carefully as possible he walked knees bent, hands sliding across each horse to support himself.

Ice on the river had to be chopped until water was reached and by the time he made his way back through the thickly wooded land to the horses parked in the road, half the pail was frozen. It took several trips to satisfy their thirst and one of the tired horses decided to lie down, rolling on his side, breaking the centerpole.

"Cheez! Every trip something happens," Armand yelled and smacked the horse's flank. "If a wheel doesn't pull free, a harness breaks, but this, you dumb mount, you did this on purpose. Get up! Get up!" he screamed, smacking him again. Ice formed on the tear-soaked scarf pulled high over Armand's nose and mouth as he smacked the horse flesh, yanked hard on the harness and finally got the horse to his feet.

Kicking his way back into the woods a few yards he found and cut a small maple tree the size of the pole to replace it. They finally got started and Armand hung on to the sleigh, running alongside for a good while to stimulate circulation.

Downhill with a ton of grain was always hard but worse with hard packed snow underfoot. Armand stopped, buckled on three-inch brake chains under each runner, and they were still pushed, slipping and sliding, at high speed to the bottom.


It was only mid-day but Armand was too exhausted to continue. His heart pounded so hard when he spotted a farmhouse a half-mile away, he had to press his mittened hand to his chest to ease the pain. Two boys rushed from the farmhouse to greet Armand as he pulled into their yard.

"We don't get company much," one of them said.

"Pappa saw you sliding down the slope. Mamman's fixing you a place at the table, she wants to know if you'll stay the night?"

"Yes, thank you."

The younger of the two, with missing front teeth, ran into the house and right back out again before the horses were unhitched. They both talked at Armand at the same time until nobody knew who was saying what to who and all three exploded laughing once they realized this. Armand followed as the boys led his horses to the stable.

"Sit on that barrel and rest while we rub them down. When they relax a little we'll feed and water them too."

Armand felt funny letting somebody else do his work, but the toothless one kept laughing and pushing him back down on the barrel every time he lifted to lend a hand. This done, the boys headed toward the house. Stomping off as much snow as possible outside before entering, they pushed inside quickly. Overcoats, toques and mittens were placed on a rack near the stove and the heavy boots were left beneath the coat hooks on a rag rug runner in the hallway. Each picked out a clean pair of heavy woolen socks from a grain barrel, seemingly left there for this purpose, handed Armand a pair, and once each boy was re-stockinged, they took a running slide on the clean floor toward the supper table.

The farmer's funny looking face drew Armand's glances. The poor man must have felt this because every now and again he'd look up and his easy grin triggered a spontaneous responsive smile from his guest. This was the kind of grin a three-month-old baby's sweet nature brings to every face that looks at it. His mouth, with upturned corners had a big, but ordinary, nose over it. Those eyes didn't seem to belong to his face. Armand remembered hearing a story about funny eyes like this, but his brain wasn't connecting remembrances very well.

The farmer had tired looking gray eyes crowded in with heavy flaps of blotchy skin pulled tight so that they opened only half way. Deep lines, stretched from each corner to the temple. Armand looked down at the happy mouth and swallowed the lump hardening in his throat while blinking back tears. To be safe and happy with family all around made him so lonesome for his own, he could hardly stand it.

The next morning one of the boys fed and hitched the horses to the sleigh. Armand hated, as much as he sensed the horses did, going out again in that cold to fight the slippery hills and the snow. The first two miles were flat and smooth. As they hit the inclines, traveling got harder and slower. For hours, the horses moved laboriously, pushing against the awful wind and blinding squalls. By the time they reached the next mountain ridge, there were ten to twelve foot snow drifts blocking the road. Armand steered the horses through a field and across a river to get back to the Hereford mountain road past the drifts.

High timber reduced the wind and snow, making it possible to see the way at last. When the summit was reached, both horses were sweating and heaving, the sun was lowering and Armand was tired and scared to go any further in the dark. He remembered having once seen an old abandoned logging camp a couple hundred feet in the woods. Covering the horses as he did every time they stopped, he unhitched them now, took grain, the lunch packed for him by that wonderful family, ax, pail, and kerosene lantern and set out, almost forgetting his covers on the seat. He grabbed the black bear fur throw he sat on to wrap over and around his legs and the quilt he used to cover his head and shoulders. They plowed between spruce tree stumps measuring five feet wide, underbrush and saplings to the old camp clearing. Everything had been pulled apart and hauled away when the loggers had finished working the area. There was no shelter. Snow swirled and Armand had to change position lots of times before he could start a fire. He found a bunch of dead bottom branches to keep it going strong for a long time, then melted snow for the horses and himself. He put his two pairs of soaked mittens around the edges of the empty pail and set it next to the fire to dry while he toasted the sandwiches.

This was the worst run he had ever made. But he had to get home, no matter what. Momma couldn't last the winter without him. He edged closer to the fire and his brain must have begun thawing and getting mushy like a frost-bitten apple because little by little he saw Momma's face in the dancing flames. Poor, quiet Momma, with her cracked, red hands and her big round, empty eyes. Poppa didn't care at all that he shamed her, and the rest of the family with his dirty black-of-night whiskey runs. Nobody admired the family anymore. They wanted his bootleg liquor all right, but even though nothing was ever said in front of the family, or to them, they knew that no one wanted the Marteaus living near them too long. Poppa, who was always gypsying around from one deal to another, leaving Momma and the rest to shift for themselves, never once asked about their troubles. He expected things done, no matter what.

Armand's eyes followed two black chunks falling from the burning log and his rememberings switched to the farmer with slits for eyes and his story came to him. every time the family made soap, he remembered clearly now, Momma warned each child who stirred to be very careful not to let the bubbles hit them or the same thing would happen as it did to this particular boy she had heard about long ago. The bubbling mixture had splashed onto his face and his eyelids had burned so badly they thought he'd be blind.

Laying there watching the dancing flames Armand thought how funny things turn out. Who'd ever guess that sweet old gent had suffered so much? And with hardly enough for his own, treating him, a stranger, with such kindness, never asking or expecting a thing in return. The more his thoughts took him over, the hotter the rage burned against his own father whose deals brought him lots of money that never seemed to help the rest of the family. He wondered if his father ever cared for them at all. Even though he, Armand, had heard all of his life that he walked, talked and was quick-thinking like his father, Armand vowed to the ever-present God that he would never let himself be like his father.

Suddenly his rememberings turned to Marie-Anne up the mountain, deep in the woods, working herself to death with ma tante Aurore. Last trip when he had brought the supplies to camp, she had begged and begged him to take her home. He couldn't do it. Poppa would have skinned him alive if he had taken her. Ma tante was too old to do all that work alone.

"What's the matter with you?" he remembered asking her.

"I can't stay here,' she said, grabbing his arm tightly. "I'm not staying and nobody can make me. Take me back with you, Armand. Take me back or I'll walk."

"You nuts? You'd die before you made it out of the woods."

"I don't care. I'm not staying."

"Are the lumberjacks hurting you?"

"Poppa'd kill them if they did."

"Then what the heck's the matter with you?"

"It's Poppa. I'm afraid when he's drunk. You don't know what he's like."

"Are you kidding? Who knows better'n me? You forgetting?"

"It's not the same with you. I'm afraid to stay here. It's just not the same," she had said tears gushing and cheeks red as a cock's comb.

He couldn't take her. Poppa'd get Momma bad if they did this.

"I just couldn't take her," he whispered into the fire. "Marie-Anne has to take care of herself, the same as the rest of us."

He was suddenly aware that the skin on his face burned. He thought maybe he was too close to the fire but it was down to embers. Tears freezing on his skin made it burn. He wiped dry with the edge of the quilt and threw more branches on the fire to get it going strong again.Scrunching back down on the fur throw with the quilt pulled over his head, Armand cried and cried until he had to yank it off and roll to the snow to avoid throwing up on the fur.

At daybreak, the horses ready, the brake chains in place, the load secured with binder straps, they were off again. It wasn't bad at first, but they kept gathering speed. At some stretches the weight of the load pushed down on the horses so hard, they lifted right off the ground just like on the logging run. He held on for his life and they finally made it to the bottom. The horses walked the next three miles along pastures, fields and the Connecticut river until coming in sight of the Marteau barn.

Momma rushed out to greet him and he figured from the worn look on her face, that she must have been worried about him since the moment he left. She hugged him so long and tightly that Armand could hardly breathe, but it felt good. Together they unhitched the horses, put them in the stable, rubbed them down and then gave them grain and water. She looked different. Her eyes were red and swollen and her face was gray, but she looked a little bit like she used to before becoming spirit-sick. He removed his heavy clothes and sat covered with a warm quilt in the rocking chair, next to the stove.

The next morning, Saturday, he awakened with a giddy feeling.

"Hurry," Momma said. You don't want to make Poppa mad by being late."

She looked better than she had for a long time and for some funny reason it didn't much matter to Armand if he was late.

"What are you doing here?" he gasped when Marie-Anne entered.

"I'll tell you outside," she whispered.

She waited until they were in the stable before saying, "I told you I wasn't staying at camp."

"But how did you work it?"

"I threw the tea you had brought in the swill as soon as you left. Ma tante was madder than heck that you forgot it. I told her I wouldn't mind hitching a ride with a late-day teamster to get some. We both knew her supply wouldn't last three days."

"No fooling? She didn't catch on?"

"You know how she is. I told the teamster to let me off near the village and I'd make my way back to camp on horseback."

"Come on, he'd see through that."

"Armand! They don't care. They just do their work, that's all."

"O.K. So what happened?"

"I went to Monsieur-le-Curé and told him I couldn't stay."

"Poppa's gonna kill me sure -- ."

"No he won't. Our priest told me to go home and he'd fix it with Poppa, and besides you didn't have anything to do with my coming home."

"I had better get going, or the teamsters will think I'm not coming and start down."

Armand reined in at the chowhouse and ma tante knocked him cold with her icy stare as he came through the door. He knew she wouldn't shame herself by yelling in front of the two widow ladies from church. Armand smiled, nodded to them and said, "It'll make Momma feel better to know Marie-Anne can stay with us now that Monsieur-le-Cure sent you up here to help."

Ma tante cleared her throat.

"I gotta get the rest of the stuff off the wagon," he said, opening the door letting a big gush blow in a pile of snow. "You want everything in here?" he asked, trying to kick snow out with his foot.

"Of course I do. Don't you know that yet?" Aurore picked up the broom and headed toward him.

The ladies looked at each other and kept peeling and cutting potatoes. Armand ran to the wagon with ma tante's glare boring through his back while she swept the snow out. Three trips brought the chowhouse supplies in. He then went to the shed attached to the stable to unload the heaviest part of his load, a week's supply of grain for the horses.

"Your old man took off after the priest came with the ladies," a teamster said. "He's on a drunk, Armand. With or without him, we know our jobs. Don't you worry none about the work."

A week went by and nothing happened so Armand wasn't afraid of making his next Saturday run to camp. He no sooner pulled in that Poppa cornered him near the lean-to log stable.

"What's going on at home?"


"What's wrong with Momma?"

"She's not feeling good," the boy answered, crossing his fingers behind his back to unfix any lie he'd have to tell.

"She never feels good."

"She's tired that's all." Armand broke from his father's hard-fixed look by pretending to search for the curry brush.

"Did you bring everything this time?"

"I always bring everything..."


"I made sure about the tea. Yes I did. I brought tea."

"I'm going back with you to check things out."

Poppa tied the reins to the back of the wagon to let his horse trail behind and after Armand unloaded they took right off. The teamsters gave the pair a twenty minute headstart because there was no stopping, or holding back, once they started down with crushing loads.

Poppa drove. Armand jumped off the sleigh and ran toward the house as soon as they hit the yard, hollering, "Poppa's home! Poppa's home!"

"Get back here and take care of these horses."

"Sorry, I forgot."

"You forget lots of things lately."

Marie-Anne was milking when she heard her brother. "Ranclo! Come here!," she called and fished into her apron pocket for a maple sugar lump. "Poppa's home. Let's go say hello."

They entered the kitchen and it wasn't hard to see that Poppa was getting nothing from Momma. She kept kneading the bread dough, eyes down, with her mouth pinched tight. Scooping up a fistful of flour she scattered it across the board as though she was throwing seeds to chickens, all the while he barked questions at her.

She looked up when Marie-Anne and Ranclo stamped the snow off. That big open stare was back and all her color was drained.

Marie-Anne hung her coat on the hook and rushed over to her. "Please go lay down, Momma, you're not feeling good enough for this. I'll make the bread. Armand, show Poppa your pelts drying in the woodshed," she said, leading Momma toward the bedroom. "Ranclo, be sure to check the pile of wood near the stove like a good boy."

When he lumbered close to the bedroom door to get to the summer kitchen and the box of wood, she hissed, "Come here, NOW!" She grabbed his hand and shoved a hunk of hard sugar into it that she'd taken from her apron pocket. He giggled and stuck it into his mouth as Marie-Anne yanked him into the bedroom with her and Momma. She closed the door between them and her father. Charley stood fixed, staring at the bolted bedroom door for a long hard minute, then yanked his coat off the hook and took off. He didn't come back.

Armand went to the barn the next morning before the sun came up. Marie-Anne and Ranclo had beat him to it. She had a lantern glowing next to her milking stool. She had already pitched hay into the troughs and had placed a chain over the back of one of the kickers to keep her from toppling the milk pail or from kicking. Ranclo was shoveling droppings from the stalls.

"Hurry up or we'll be late for holy Mass. Get the turnips!"

Marie-Anne called out to her brother.

"Can't we skip just one day?"

"Don't get lazy, just hurry up!"

"What about the milking?"

"Get the turnips and hurry up!"

"How come Gizelle's not helping?"

"She doesn't feel good."

"She never feels good when there's dirty work to do."

"Will you hurry up!"

"I'm going. I'm going. I don't know how she gets away with it? She's strong enough when I'm on the runs, how come she's sick as soon as I get back?"

"Get going!"

Charley had tacked a shed onto the barn to store turnips. A whole field had been planted. He didn't waste money on grain for cows in the winter, they were not as valuable to him and his prized horses. Every morning, wheelbarrows full were thrown into the cranking trasher, which chewed the frozen turnips up to slop. Then, the troughs were filled and eating this helped the cows produce more milk.

Armand was running back with a full barrow when Marie-Anne screamed, "No, Poppa, No." Her terror-filled, "RANCLO! RANCLO!" made him chuck the barrow, jump over the dog, slip on a frozen spot and land on the mongrels paw, which sent the hound yelping, scattering squawking chickens. He slipped again and stumbled. Scrambling for solid ground, Armand picked up speed and tore into the barn.

Ranclo had thrown Poppa to the floor and was sitting on top of him, grinning to Marie-Anne with his hand stuck out for sugar. Marie-Anne's coat hung off her shoulder, buttons yanked and the top of her dress and petticoat ripped to her waist. Her face was gray except for the red, now turning blue, welt on her cheek. Ranclo kept his hand out for maple sugar but Marie-Anne did nothing about it, she hunkered in the shadows. Ranclo struggled to his feet, his hand still held out to Marie-Anne for the expected reward.

"GO TO THE HOUSE!" Armand yelled, plopping onto his father, pinning both arms with his knees.

Marie-Anne took off. Confused, Ranclo lumbered behind, empty hand still stretched.

"Let me up, you sonofabitch," Poppa slurred, retched, then vomited all over himself and Armand.

Barn smells never bothered the boy before but mixed with this sour puke and the whiskey he must have spilled on himself it invaded the boy like a gas that ripped his nostrils and attacked his stomach. Never loosening his fix on the father, he reached for, and in a nervous flurry, grabbed the pitchfork. Pressing it to the filthy body beneath him, Armand lifted to his feet, still straddling his father who now tried to roll to his side. Armand pushed hard and hurt the father's chest with the pitchfork.


Pushing the fork down harder, tearing the shirt and cutting flesh until his father bled, Armand kept the pressure tight and didn't let up. Swinging, Charley tried to topple his son. With the fork held fast, Armand pinned his father's arms, this time with his feet. Blood soaking the shirt scared the boy into letting up on pressure without removing the fork from the flesh.

"What's the matter with you?" Poppa slurred, shook his head and tried to get up. Armand held him fast and Poppa threw up again and on Armand as before.

Armand's thoughts were racing, "Lucky he's this stinking drunk or I never would have gotten the best of him...and...I wanted so badly to be like him."

Charley gave one good lunge and Armand nearly fell over. Balancing himself quickly, and pressing the fork harder, the boy warned, "You better listen up and listen up good, you sonofabitch. Leave Momma and Marie-Anne alone or I'm gonna kill you. I swear to God, Poppa, I'll kill you sure." Armand said and kicked a mean blow to the side. Charley's knees sprung up and he moaned.

"I mean it, Poppa. Leave them alone or I'll kill you sure as anything," he yelled through sobs, kicked his father again and ran out, pitching the fork into the hay.

Charley never came to the house. The family cleaned up fast and went to Mass. When they returned home, Marie--Anne followed the others into the house and Armand took Ranclo with him to check the barn, the stable, the shed; they looked everywhere, but Poppa was gone. Armand felt lots easier about this because he didn't know what he was going to do if he had to face his sobered father.

By night he still hadn't come back and after a long time tossing and cramping in bed, trying to close out the rotten day, Armand finally dropped off. Feeling himself drifting into a dark room thick with smoke and gagging stinks, he peered with watering eyes until he spotted Poppa. As usual his father was roaring his great laugh, with a whiskey bottle held high in one hand, but this time with a handful of Marie-Anne's long silky hair held high in the other. Nothing indicated it was Marie-Anne's, Armand just knew it was. Everything twisted and spun every which way into a blur. Just as fast, in a blink, everything settled...differently...Poppa's open laughing mouth foamed rabid and just as quick, the black shiny hair turned dry, brittle and brown as old straw...spin, spin, spin again into a funnel...sudden stop...everything shattered, scattered...except for Poppa who fell over backwards laughing, clutching the bottle and the fistful of dry, brittle hair. Shadows drifted thick and black, blocking everything out. All of a sudden, Momma poked through the darkness full of light. Armand felt himself blink then focus on her young, smiling, beautiful face. People had always said that she was the prettiest girl for counties around and Armand could see that now. He reached for her but she looked past. She didn't see him at all. Just as suddenly she got swallowed up again by the shadow and a dark thing took her place. He couldn't make out what it was. The blackness shifted. Dense gray fog rolled in pushing the blackness further away. Something formed. No it was somebody. Ma tante? No. Marie-Anne? Armand tried to rush towards whoever it was but his feet raced without getting him an inch closer. "I'M TRYING. I'M TRYING," he hollered to whoever it was straining with both arms stretched towards him for help. He saw himself racing and he heard himself screaming but he was being swallowed up by the blackness pushing against the fog...

"Wake up! Wake up!" Momma's face bopped in and out of the murky blur until he was eyeball to eyeball with his mother.

"You've had a bad dream. You scared me out of my own sleep." She leaned closer, "I bet you're didn't touch supper...Today's your birthday, cheri. How does it feel to be a man of eleven?"

"No different," Armand said and lifted heavily out of bed to join her at the kitchen table. While buttering two heavy slices of warm bread and crumbling maple sugar on top, he looked up as Gizelle entered the kitchen sleepy-eyed.

"Happy birthday."

"Thanks," he said then blew on the steaming tea before putting the cup to his lips. I wonder when she gets to fifteen like Marie-Anne if Poppa will rip her dress too?

"What's the matter? Is there something on my face?"

Armand shook his head.

"Then stop staring at me."

All Contents are Copyright©Connie Magnan Albrizio, 1998

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By Maureen Perry, Boston



When doubts and fears Make rhyme and reason hard to find, Your muse appears With words to fill your mind. See the angel in her eyes. Hear her voice as she sings. Beyond the clouds the angel flies. Do not try to clip her wings. When blinding cares Leave you in the darkness to grope, Your herald shares Her light of coming hope. See the angel in her eyes. Hear her voice as she sings. Beyond the clouds the angel flies. Do not try to clip her wings. When you have failed To protect your sense of peace and pride, Your friend prevails And stands here by your side. See the angel in her eyes. Hear her voice as she sings. Beyond the cloud the angel flies. Do not try to clip her wings. --Maureen Perry, 1988

a pastiche/tribute:

"Again--his voice is at the door -- I feel the old Degree-- I hear him ask the servant For such an one--as me-- I take a flower--as I go-- My face to justify-- He never saw me--in this life-- I might surprise his eye! I cross the Hall with mingled steps-- I--silent--pass the door-- I look on all this world contains-- Just his face--nothing more!. . . " --Emily Dickinson, c1862****

With Apologies to Emily Dickinson

Again--his voice is on the phone-- "I feel the old Degree--" He left his name and number On my little machine! I take the message--as I go-- With plans to call him back-- But I know that he's--just like me-- His schedule is packed! We'll play our phone tag for the while-- I--sometimes--still implore-- I look to see him in the flesh-- Face to face--nothing more! --Maureen Perry, 1994 ****from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. by Thomas H. Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., c1960


(A Maman) Vos doigts flottent sur le piano à une mélodie de Chopin, Les ailes d'un esprit papillon: Un esprit coloré de l'arc-en-ciel et grisonné par la sagesse; Un esprit qui a enseigné cette chenille à voler. --Maureen Perry, 1998
All Contents are Copyright© Maureen Perry, 1998

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Collaborative Culture Writing

Birth at Twenty?

By Paulette M. Barry, San Francisco, CA

What can I promise now?

What can I fix or break apart for you,

Not now, now that you're going.

When you said the two of you were leaving in two weeks - just three states
away, Mom-

I saw all the years - each of the twenty years go by me

My first thought was, oh, Paula, it wasn't really that hard

It wasn't really that heavy a load after all

I didn't mean it

You can stay, please, give
Me a chance to do another twenty years 
I am ever so much lighter now.

Your leaving makes me realize that it was all OK, all of it, lighter that I
had imagined.

I saw all of this from a side view while I heard you say

Two weeks, Mom, he got the job and we need to go.

And, Mom, you must promise to start

Your life now, move, get a place in North Beach like you always said

Or go to Boston.

Such preparation she gave this, notebook in hand, points to cover, how to

Such a good job she was doing, that was the other me along side the one with
the year's

Flashing by.  

Then the me hearing the news took a good and grace filled look and she was

More beautiful that I had remembered seeing her - ever - glowing with the

Life was going to start and in the same flash I saw her ready


Completely up to task and anxious for it to start.

The room, prepared with candles, they were sailing ship candles - I'll

Like when she was in the womb

It was candle-lit-darkness, back inside just the two of us

And she,

Ready again to begin to start to leave to begin to end.

And in that space, that small space of time

When all changed forever, I could think that I had to gift her with the
she had given 

Me and I said,

Oh, baby,

I am so happy for you.  I am so delighted for you.

And to me I said, maybe, my God, just maybe you didn't do such a bad job

Here is someone who has chosen wisely someone to love, someone who is ready

forth again and the push through

The canal is now, with the candle-lit boat, just one more push?

And with any luck at all, and if it all goes right, 

There will be no need of me at all.

All Contents are Copyright©Paulette M. Barry, 1998

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The Edge of My Heart

By Katherine Kennedy

Last night, in that state that is neither sleeping nor waking, I felt the truth fluttering against the edge of my heart. The clarity of my vision didn't startle me awake but rather forced a reluctant consciousness.

Standing before me were the images of my grandmother and my mother. Both were standing, each separated from the other. They were aligned but my grandmother stood taller and to the back of the picture slightly left, my mother in the foreground on the right. Surrounding them was a sea of unidentifiable shapes, everything colored dark green and black.

The women were illuminated in white and softly pulsating pink. Their arms were held straight down at their sides, fists clenched. I couldn't see their feet. Bodies tipped slightly, eyes and mouths closed, jaws clenched, they were bound shoulders, hips and thighs like mummies.

Their anger shimmered through the darkness. Held in place, they glowed in silent fury. Their lips moved but they did not speak, shout, or ask for help. Why not, I wondered?

Oh, I don't want the answer. How long have I known it? They can't be helpless. Not my unvanquished, vibrant grandmother nor my charming, optimistic mother ever displayed helplessness.

I don't want this legacy. Haven't I done everything to avoid it? Yet here it is before me in blinding revelation. From the depths of my dreams the tears of oppression sweep away my denial.

How long have I been held in place by an illusion? I beg the silent figures for an answer. They mutely struggle against their ties and strain to free their feet. They have shown me the truth in the only way they know. They can do no more. They have run out of time.

Is there still time enough for me? For so long I have invisibly bound myself like a willing player, allowing others to control the scenes. Convinced that I was an actor because only others were capable of writing the play while I could not.

I want to write my own story. How did I come to believe that another could be better qualified? Where did I learn that? I conjure the specters of my rigid, silent night visitors. I see the red light of sunrise and I know that they will be my muses.

All Contents are Copyright©Katherine Kennedy, 1998

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Seneca Falls, 150 Years Later--A Reading

By Rhea Cote Robbins and others, Charleston Correctional Facility, Charleston, Maine

In July 1998, the nation will celebrate the 150th anniversary of an event which changed the world--the first Women's Rights Convention was held at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. At that time, women were not allowed the freedoms assigned to men in the eyes of the law, the church or the government. Women could not vote, hold office, attend college or earn a living. If married, they could not make legal contracts, divorce an abusive husband, or gain custody of their children.

Then, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a Seneca Falls housewife and mother of three sons, sat down with a small group of Quaker and abolitionist women, and decided that these wrongs should be made into rights. They called for a Convention, open to the public, to be held in Seneca Falls at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, July 19th and 20th, 1848. There they presented a Declaration of Sentiments, based on the language and content of the Declaration of Independence. Stating that all men and women are created equal, they demanded equal rights for women, including--a radical idea--the right to vote. Over 300 people attended the Convention; the document was ratified and was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Seventy-two years later the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. Women had the vote and other rights granted to them.

On April 15th, 1998, at Charleston Correctional Facility seven women reenacted the Seneca Falls Convention commemorating the 150th anniversary observation of this momentous event in the history of the United States. The event was attended by inmates and staff. The women read, "Seneca Falls 1848: All Man and Women Are Created Equal," a dramatization by Elizabeth C. Shultis. As part of the Seneca Falls Maine celebration, the women at Charleston Correctional Facility are taking part in the yearlong statewide observance of the 150th anniversary through the readings of the dramatization.

Readings will be taking place in several other educational institutions throughout the state of Maine, and there will be a gathering of those who have taken part in the readings sometime in the summer of 1998. The women who read took the parts of historic figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry Stanton, Jane Hunt, Mary Ann McClintock, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Frederick Douglass and many others. Brochures of the Women's Rights National Historical Park in New York were distributed as well as other materials pertaining to the event. Cake was served and a discussion followed the reading on the rights of women, the history that had never been taught, now learned, as well as many other points that the reading made evident. As a follow-up activity, and as a way to participate in the Seneca Falls Maine event, the women wrote about their experience, their impressions and their own views on women's rights which follow below, and will be sent to be read at the Seneca Falls Maine summer gathering. For more information on the Seneca Falls Maine events, or for copies of the dramatization, contact Margaret Muir at Freeport High School.

Also planned for the end of May is a reading of the 'Somebody Else Was Us,' the story of the beginning of Spruce Run as an organization and shelter for battered women written by Celeste Deroche and the Feminist Oral History Project out of the Women in the Curriculum department at the University of Maine.

* Mary: As 1998 is the year to celebrate and acknowledge 150 years of the Women's Right's Movement, I would like to share my feelings with your readers regarding a wondrous experience I had "reading" a reenactment of Seneca Falls--Women's Suffrage Movement of 1848. I have always felt strongly about the disparity of being a woman living in a "man's world" in the 20th century. I have always been drawn to history, and have known about the inequality between the sexes, and in my small sphere of influence have done what I could to bridge the inequity to our mothers, daughters, aunts, and to all females in our society.

Taking part in the reading of Seneca Falls Movement reminded me that in the grind of daily living, I have taken women's issues for granted. Perhaps I could have done more as a member in a woman's political group--one more voice for the cause. But nothing and no one can take away my fierce desire to see fairness, justice, and decency dominate this world at last. I do not believe that I will see dramatic changes in my generations collective conscienceness, but I have hopes for my childern's era. I have attempted to raise my three sons to understand and appreciate the unique differences of females as well as the profound sameness we all share as part of the human race.

With my husband's help, I have tried to instil in my son's minds and hearts the ideals of fairness, equality, honesty and justice for all. I have made it clear that there is no such thing as "womans job,"nor "womans place," and by doing many jobs in the home as well as outside the home, that they associate with their father's, "manly thing." I am heartened to say that my husband tries very hard not to discriminate in any way against the sexes, especially in front of our children. At the same time, he is not ashamed or shy about washing dishes, cooking our meals, doing laundry, ironing clothes and he vaccums beautifully. With my husband and I as role models, and if all families could teach their sons and daughters that they are equals, is there any question that the 21st century would be a better world to live in. --Mary as Elizabeth Cady Stanton

*Bridget: I must confess that I was not fully aware of the depth and breadth of the history of the women's rights movement. One always thinks of particular women associated with the suffrage fight, however, it is easy to overlook the fact that such a large part of their lives was dedicated to the struggle for equality. I am impressed anew at the vision, awareness, tenacity, and passion with which they fought.

Reading the dramatization of the Seneca Falls Convention gave me a feeling of support, of not being alone, of shared feelings reaching across the years. I am grateful for the courage shown there.

What would the men and women of Seneca Falls say to us today? I think they would feel as we do. They would feel awed by the fire that has grown from their spark. They would feel pride for those who continue to fight for an end to oppression everywhere. They would see that the road ahead is very long and very wide. They would see that there is room for all to travel forward, side-by-side. --Bridget Mailey

*Gail: As a reader of the Seneca Falls Convention I found myself in the midst of a very oppressed group of women who were strong minded and strong willed. Therefore, the women's movement was formed. As this was read, my feelings and emotions ran high, from anger to compassion, dread, fear, hope, then elation. The women of this movement far exceeded the boundaries of their day.

In looking at my situation today, and reflecting on those who started the movement--Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Jane Hunt, their oppression they felt is not unlike mine, whereas, I am incarcerated in a state that is far behind the times, and in a prison that has only dealt with men. Therefore, my needs as a woman are often unmet and unwarranted. When I see men still having the options that I am denied, I still feel much frustration because of my situation, although I take it as a learning experience and this reading has brought to light many memories of my own childhood and the difference in my family between the boys and girls. My mother, coming from "the old country of Italy," thought it was her "duty" to serve her husband and her sons, which she did. At the same time, instilling in us girls that "men" needed to be cared for. Not a bad thing for the men in my life. I now have two sons of my own. However, my husband and I share the household duties. The plus of being strong minded myself.

The women that founded this movement were forced to live in a society that men made and ruled. With no regard to their welfare or feelings.

It is so fantastic to see the progress we've made as women with so much more we have to look forward to because a handful of women 150 years ago had enough courage to pursue the matter. I am proud to be a woman and will always strive for the continuation for rights and a proper place in society.

Even in my situation at the moment I find solace and a connection with the women of Seneca Falls. We most definitely "Have Come A Long Ways." --Gail Craft-Moore

*D: March being Women's History Month, we began celebrating women. The play "Seneca Falls" was suggested to us. A few female inmates here at Charleston Correctional Facility read it, and were overwhelmed to learn how oppressed women were in 1848. Studying this further, I had a rude awakening to learn that even in 1969 in some countries women still couldn't vote. I found that to be incredible!

I am a thirty-six year old woman and have taken my voting rights for granted until now. They mean so much more to me now, and so does being a woman. I found myself full of emotion, a little of which was anger. My anger subsided to the pride I felt for what we women have accomplished getting to where we are today, and for what women have done throughout our history.

Reflecting on my lie, I am fortunate to have been taught, raised and to have experience equality in most aspects. However, I do see in my mother's generation that it was pretty much a man's world. She patiently and lovingly cared for her mother after a stroke had left her mom paralyzed. When her mother passed away, she went on to marry and raise four children. Being a mother and a wife was a full time job; without any government benefits or support for all her efforts. She is now receiving on hundred and thirty-four dollars a month at the golden age of seventy for a lifetime of dedicated and hard work. It is still a man's world, but we women are and can make a difference. --D

*Doris: As part of the audience of the Seneca Falls reading at C.C.F., I found it to be educational as well as fantastic.

As a 53 year old woman, I guess I took it all for granted about Women's Rights. After listening to the reading, I was appalled at what the women and young girls had to go through before the movement.

After listening to the reading, I wonder if men still think they are still the "number one" gender. I believe they do. a lot of men still think they have to dominate. if they don't get their own way they pout, and make a big scene to get what they want. The male gender is still favored. For instance, here at C.C.F., the men have 3 hours of recreation; the women have 2 hours. The men eat firs; the women eat last. The men can be on the Fire Department, whereas, the women cannot. The men have three places to go for Work Release with 14 months left of their sentence. The women have one place to go for Work Release with 8 months of their sentence left. These are just a few examples of how the men are favored.

Growing up on a dairy farm with three sisters, it was taken for granted we all pulled our weight. As a result, we were all treated the same. Supper time we all discussed the events of the day, and if there was a big decision to make, it was done as a family. Not by just the men. We all had a voice in it. My husband and I have brought up our children the same way. The "man of the house" does not make the decision by himself. We are all equal--as it should be!

If these women did not stand up for what they believed in back in 1848, who knows what life would be like today for us women. Now we have the right to vote, work in places where only men were allowed before, join the armed forces, go to college. I can still remember the days the men had to pay a pole tax. When some of these rights for women came about, it didn't take long for that law to be done with!

To the Ladies of Seneca Falls, I applaud you! --Doris Reed

All Contents are Copyright©Authors, 1998

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Women's Culture

By Melissa MacCrae, Brewer

Culture represents a certain group's shared values, customs and norms. American- Franco - American-Native American-Australian-German-Polish- Russian... and on and on... No matter. Women's culture rests on communication.World women know the same secrets. Women's moon cycle guides our destiny. Women's words may be silenced, hurled against us, but together we can succeed: the cycle of the moon guides our intuition. Women are everywhere, but despite our defining strengths, we are still silent.

The dominant white male hierarchy that established this country's culture intentionally omitted women as citizens worthy of the list of inalienable rights they reserved for themselves. Enter Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, Carrie Chapman Catt, Jane Hunt and others, who uttered their outrage against the status of women in a country that was ostensibly one of liberty and justice for all. These first feminists -- supported by some men, who also railed against these inequities -- rewrote the established women's culture of subservience and obedience, yet they continued to bear and care for others. Susan B. Anthony, herself, cared for Elizabeth Cady Stanton's children, while Elizabeth spread the suffrage message. The suffrage movement lasted for more than 70 years, gathering strength along the way. Though their efforts revolutionized American society, none of the founding feminists lived to mark her first ballot.

The time it took American women to gain the rights that men have historically taken for granted is virtually identical to the time that has passed since then. Despite that stunning victoriy nonviolently won in the political arena, the percentage of women's representation still pales against our majority status. Almost a century and a half later, women have set but a fleeting footprint on our future. Men make the rules, because we women do not speak our minds, even if it means losing control of our bodies. Feminist Gloria Steinem once wrote in part, "... the characteristics of the powerful...are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless .. and logic has nothing to do with it." We women have yet to realize the power we possess. No other group in the world can claim such a bloodless and lasting victory. But we remain silent. Even Margaret Chase Smith, whose stellar political career spanned three decades of service in both the U.S. Congress and Senate, bemoaned the dearth of feminine support at the polls.

Some women have nevertheless harnessed a collective feminine creativity hoping to share it among us to strengthen us all. Cloaked in the legacy left by the early suffragists, they spread the word: "We will teach you to run for office and win. Just come." We did not come when the League of Women Voters called Maine women this spring. This country continues to be run mostly by men elected by men -- and by women, who have yet to invoke the power of our 51 percent majority to challenge the status quo. We have allowed the minority to rule us, to circumscribe us. To secure their power, they must limit ours. Control our bodies. Keep us in our place. Shame us for our biology. Our native zest has been civilized, homogenized, so we don't recognize ourselves. We sacrifice autonomy for acceptance and support.

The culture we inherited from our mothers holds that women must defer to men. That women are the weaker sex. That women have no sense. Some older women still take comfort in the quilt of life that claimed them; they keep the peace. See no evil--hear no evil-- speak no evil. Some not-so-older women cover their ears so they won't hear how they could think differently -- the way they dreamed their lives could be. No wonder they can't sleep!

Women's sense is women's wisdom. S/he should speak. Our moon culture defines us from birth. Women embody the seasons. We own the means of production. Cycles guide our path.We give birth to soldiers whom men send to die.We have no fear, but that which man has manufactured. We must refashion the laws, vigilantly protect ourselves, lest we fall prey to further misogynistic words and deeds. We must invoke our cyclical culture to guide us through the uncertain darkness into the light of consciousness of the stark inequities we face.

Women's culture is not for women only. Men who recognize and respect women's social, political and economic equality may be called feminist, but they are outnumbered by those who would perpetuate our subservience. New moon, quarter moon, harvest moon. Once we thrived through those elemental cycles of symbolic death and rebirth. Evidence of women's cycle has been used against us, has led us to be locked away for fear of our unbridled power -- their loss of control. No wonder they call us "lunatics" after our mother moon!

We have been coopted by night walkers who stalk and rape. Silent night...deadly night...into the darkness, and yet... women have survived millions of moon cycles. We hear inconsistent messages. We speak using others' words. We are confused. Our culture is fragmented. Like our feminist sisters from before, we must speak up -- speak out. We need no permission. How much longer do we wait? Our adversaries hide in layers of double-speak. Some women are convinced that we can't resist. Yet, some men share women's wish for an equal partner. Passion is our guiding light. We must communicate our message to girls and boys, women and men. Educate them to recognize, take for granted that women's time has come. We won the right to vote by a slender thread from which we must weave the fabric of our future.

Melissa MacCrae is a freelance writer who lives in Brewer. She founded Goddess Publications, a feminist press.

All Contents are Copyright© Melissa MacCrae, 1998

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Nauset Beach, Daybreak

By Libby Soifer, Bangor


Lone snail wends its way,
Summer sun slowly rising,
On wet exposed sand.

All Contents are Copyright© Libby Soifer, 1998

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The Princess

Joke submitted by Jane Bouchard Crawford, Hampden

Once upon a time, a beautiful, independent, self assured princess happened upon a frog in a pond. The frog said to the princess, "I was once a handsome prince until an evil witch put a spell on me. One kiss from you and I will turn back into a prince and then we can marry, move into the castle with my mom, and you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children and forever feel happy doing so."
Later that night, while the princess dined on frogs legs, she laughed to herself and thought "I don't *(&^% think so."

Dear FAWI,
Please find enclosed my $10 for membership to the Franco-American Women's Institute. I'm excited about being part of such a prestigious group and look forward to receiving any information about this group that you might forward to me.
Most sincerely,
Marie Thérèse Martin, Rumford

I've just created a new webring called Spirit of New England and thought your site would be a nice addition. I want the webring to join together New Englanders as a way to build an on-line community. Being in the webring can also increase traffic to your site. Please stop by and take a look to see if you'd be interested. Any questions feel free to email me.

Dear Ms. Côté Robbins,
Very well done presentation at the French Institute at Assumption College, Saturday, June 6th.
I am enclosing a $10 bill for a subscription in the name of Camille H (Corriveau) Aubuchon.
Please mail me ten (10) copies of your short brochure you distributed after your presentation.
William E. Aubuchon

My congratulations for your site. It is always a joy to see how Francophones in North America survived, especially in the States.
I was really impressed by the site, the professionalism and the variety of topics. Particularly appreciated the list of members' works and the archives (photos in L'Histoire).
Keep up the good work!
Annie Bourret
French language linguist/Linguiste spécialisée en français Burnaby, BC, Canada

Dear Rhea,

It gave me great amount of pleasure to receive the membership card you sent me today. Thank you very much. And I will give the support I can, and I will do the best.
If there is something that I can do to help, I would be very glad to do so. Free of charge, except if there is charges for postage or phone calls, expense things like that.
Maybe if you are interested for me to help you, you can come and we will talk about it.
I want to give you my best and whoever that will be involved in FAWI. We the people are working for the people...RIGHT!
Ida Roy, Van Buren

hi, rhea what a terrific presence on the web!
too tired just now to write anything for publication in your guestbook, just want you t� know I found you and am deeply moved by the quality of your website. and to tell you about ours, a plain jane in comparison. i'm not technologically savvy but hope to enliven it as we go along. mainly, i want you to know about us as a possible place of interest for any of your members who write what we're calling POETRIES because we're working in support of a whole range of creative writings embracing poetic elements. when you find a minute, i hope you'll stop by to see our beginnings. I am going there myself now to add a link to yours.
for now, pat ranzoni
...will write a better answer when i can, but meanwhile, here's that URL:
...i have just returned from completing the link to your site-- i had such a fascinating time following links at your place, i might never have returned but for aol bumping me off!!
for now, pat

Hi Rhea,
What a nice page! How interesting. Woman may want to contribute FA knit patterns to the knit list.. How cool.. Lili Pintea-Reed

I'm so glad I found your Web Page.
I enjoy reading the experiences of others from the same cultural background.
As a young girl growing up in Augusta, Maine, I absorbed a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) message that the French were stupid. I resisted learning to speak French in an attempt to be "American". Now, I regret what I've lost. As an adult I recognize that my French-Canadian heritage IS something to be proud of and preserved.
I look forward to receiving a copy of your newsletter.
Leanne Morin-Plourde, Tallahassee, FL


Nouvelle liste et nouveau répertoire féministes

Je participe à la liste PAR-L depuis quelques années maintenant, et c'est avec un grand espoir que j'écris aux parleuses pour vous faire part de deux initiatives du projet NetFemmes.

LA LISTE NETFEMMES La première, c'est la liste d'envoi NetFemmes, c'est une liste destinée aux chercheuses et militantes féministes francophones, un espace où, comme sur PAR-L, nous pourrons partager nos expériences, nos connaissances, refléchir et collaborer ensemble.

Cette liste a été créée dans le cadre du projet Internet au féminin, projet qui vise à constituer un véritable réseau d'échanges et de communications virtuelles entre les chercheuses et les groupes de femmes francophones. Nous avons commencé le projet en offrant des formations aux groupes de femmes dans différentes villes et régions du Québec. Suite à la première tournée de formations, nous avons créé cette liste afin que les 75 nouvelles internautes puissent continuer leurs échanges. Nous invitons maintenant les internautes chevronnées que vous êtes à vous joindre à nous.

Pour davantage d'informations, consultez la page Pour vous abonner, écrivez à le message SUBSCRIBE NETFEMMES.

LES RÉPERTOIRES FÉMINISTES Notre équipe travaille actuellement sur le site du projet. Le site sera lancé à la mi-octobre 1998 et diffusera des informations diverses, à l'image du mouvement des femmes. Le site sera un lieu central permettant aux chercheuses et aux groupes de femmes de diffuser facilement informations, documents, communiqués et d'échanger plus facilement grâce aux répertoires féministes. Ceux-ci sont au nombre de trois: le répertoire des groupes de femmes, le répertoire des chercheuses et le répertoire des regroupements, groupes et projets de recherche féministes. L'usager ou usagère du site pourra consulter des listes de personnes et d'organismes classés par domaine et par région. En cliquant sur le nom d'un organisme ou d'une chercheuse, l'usagère arrivera sur une page individuelle consacrée à cette dernière.

Si vous faites partie d'un groupe de base ou un groupe de recherche féministe, si vous êtes chercheuse ou militante féministe, envoyez-nous des informations afin que nous puissions créer des répertoires centralisés de ressources féministes francophones sur Internet. Les informations devraient être adressées à IAF@CAM.ORG.

Pour un groupe : Nom du groupe Coordonnées (adresse ou C.P., téléphone, télécopieur) Courriel Page ou site Domaines d'activité Brève description du groupe Pour une chercheuse : Nom Organisme ou institution, le cas échéant Coordonnées (adresse, téléphone, télécopieur) Courriel Page ou site, le cas échéant Domaine de recherche Groupes, regroupements ou projets de recherche féministes auxquels vous participez (nous ferons des liens vers les pages de ces groupes sur le Web) Publications pertinentes

Pour un regroupement ou groupe de recherche : Nom du regroupement ou groupe de recherche Coordonnées (adresse ou C.P., téléphone, télécopieur) Courriel Page ou site Domaines d'activité Brève description du groupe Noms des chercheur-e-s associé-e-s au regroupement ou au projet (nous ferons un lien vers les pages individuelles de ces personnes)

Si vous connaissez d'autres chercheuses ou groupes, je vous prie de leur transmettre cette requête.

Si vous désirez inclure un logo ou une photo pour votre page dans le répertoire, vous pouvez l'envoyer en fichier annexé (si vous l'avez sous forme de fichier informatisé (GIF ou JPEG) ou bien l'envoyer par la poste à

Sharon Hackett CDEACF 110 Ste-Thérèse, bureau 101 Montréal (Québec) H2Y 1E6

Sharon Hackett Coordonnatrice du projet Internet au féminin CDEACF tél: (514) 844-4178 téléc: (514) 844-1598

Franco-American Database Project

Dear Friends:

I'm writing this letter (one or two of you may have already heard from me) to ask you to visit our new website at and to link it to your own. In the coming weeks we will be preparing our new questionnaire for the DB, and it will be available on line to any interested parties. At the time I will be contacting you again to ask for your help to get the URL out to anyone who you know who might be willing to participate.

One of the features of our new site, besides a general link page which all of you are already on, is a webring dedicated to Franco-American sites. I would encourage you all to consider participating in that as well since it is my hope that the Franco-American Webring will become a nexus for people looking for the unique kinds of information which our sites contain. The URL for the webring is

Our pages are still going through some developmental stages right now, so please be patient with any typos or blunders. If you catch any glaring ones and have a minute, drop me a line and let me know what they are.

Sincerely, Robert J. Jones Senior Research Analyst, FAD

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Advertisements/Petites Annonces


Wednesday's Child

By Rhea J. Côté Robbins

1997 Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award winner for creative nonfiction!
Available from:

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.
For more information on Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance:

Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance

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My Grandmothers' Face

By Marie Thérèse Martin

Marie Thérèse Martin, Rumford, author of My Grandmothers' Face offers a glimpse into Acadian history from the point of view of her Acadian maternal ancestors. The Acadian woman was the spiritual anchor that held her family together during a very difficult historical time. Her role in Acadian history is the centrum about which the book My Grandmothers' Facerevolves.

To order a copy:
Marie Thérèse Martin
159 East Andover Road
Rumford, Maine 04276

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Edith Starrett Masse's Work Roles: On the Farm and at Home

A Narrative Study of Her Diaries 1942-1945

By Suzette Lalime Davidson, P.O. Box 2596, El Cerrito, CA 94530

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Old Women's Wisdom

A 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

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, 1998

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Nos Histoires de l'Ile livre de cuisine

A Collection of Recipes from French Isalnd in Old Town, Maine

The 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:

mailing address:
Canadian-American Center
154 College Avenue
Orono, ME 04473

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La Femme Franco-Américine/The Franco-American Woman

Sous la direction de/Under the direction of Claire Quintal
Institut Français
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:
Institut Français
500 Salisbury Street
P.O.Box 15005
Worcester, Ma 01615-0005

Tatting--Maine's Perservation of an Old Art

By Janice Sargent, Paper Treasures, Presque Isle

...known as frivolite to the French is often described as needlework, lacemaking, or "air surrounded by thread in a pleasing manner." According to many, it seems to have originated in Europe in the eighteenth century; however, there are numerous stories about tatting's origins and techniques.

After the First World War, Victorian lacemaking was classified as "stuffy." As a result, many of hte fine needlework arts were abandoned. Since then, tatting has surfaced on occasion--edgings for doilies and snowflakes for Christmas ornaments are but a few delicate pieces.

The tatting on the greeting cards are done with a small antique shuttle by my eighty-four year old mother from Aroostook County who can remember learning to tat at age twelve. She has recently taught me to tat since her grandmother and great-grandmother also tatted. This is an art we wish to preserve in the "County" for many generations to come.

Janice's beautiful greeting cards with tatting can be bought by contacting her at:

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'Women of Aroostook' honored for their achievements

By Kristine A Harger, Star Herald, Presque Isle, Maine

Presque Isle-Twelve Aroostook County women will grace the pages of the 1999 Celebrating Women of Aroostook calendar. These women were chosen based on their contributions to family and community.
The calendar, sponsored by Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community, was unveiled Saturday at a ceremony at NMTC as part of a celebration of National Women's History Month.
This the calendar project's third year. The women chosen for the calendar are nominated by their peers and chosen by a selection committee. The Women of Aroostook are: Agnes Porter, Darylen Cote, Edna Hartley, Ruth Anderson, Natalia Bragg, Susan Lougee, Frances Banks, Ida Roy, Marcella Belanger Violette, Leoria St. Peter, and Geraldine Chasse. Calendars may be purchased at various locations in northern Maine at through Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community.

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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: