The Migration and Settlement of Franco-Americans in New England: “Survivance” of the Crash


Lisa D. Helstrom


[In a message dated 10/31/05 9:23:08 PM, writes:  


Dear Ms. Cote, Hello my name is Lisa Helstrom and I a junior at Colby this year.  I have read Wednesday's Child twice now in different courses, and have chosen to use it as a basis for a research paper for my sociology of race and ethnicity class this semester.  The theme of our papers is "Crash."  I'm not sure if you've seen the film, but metaphorically we are discussing different ethnicities crashing in their histories.  I was wondering if in the next few weeks we could be in email contact as I pursue my research so that I may ask you some direct questions and use direct quotations from you in my paper.  I heard you speak in Peter Harris's freshman English class and I was very intrigued.  Congratulations on a wonderful book and I hope we will be in touch again soon.  Thank you for your time and considerations. Sincerely, Lisa Helstrom]


Foundation of the People: Sterling and Virile


            With a devout dedication to faith, family, and ancestral tradition, the French-Canadians can be considered a loyal group.  For their hardiness and willful labor, they can be credited largely for the conversion of the North America from a land of wilderness into cities and farms (Kalijarvi, pg. 132).  While their people inhabited land stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the settlement of French-Canadians in New England is primarily a social movement that has gone unrecognized and disregarded despite its great influence on American culture.  Public acknowledgement of French-Canadians stems mostly from their voting rights, but feelings of dislike toward this group have largely contributed to the unhappiness and ethnic crashing that started with emigration, but has lasting impacts even today.  Through their struggles in the U.S. political economy, the French-Canadians were determined to keep their three most cherished possessions: religion, language, and customs (Rollins, pg. 76).  This preservation attitude became known as “survivance” and cohesively kept the roots of the group in tact when crashing ultimately could have destroyed their ways. 


Historical Background

            The French-Canadians, more presently referred to with the politically correct term “Franco-Americans,” came to what is now the province of Quebec in the early part of the seventeenth century.  They are often confused with the Acadians and the French-Americans, both very different immigrant groups.  The Acadians traveled from France to what is now Nova Scotia and then from there were sent by the English to the Louisiana area in 1755.  The French-Americans, on the other hand, directly migrated from France to the United States (Rollins, pg. 75).  A large number of French-Canadian families remained in Quebec and their descendant families continue to be a large force in Quebec today.  A great migration, however, occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that brought French-Canadians south from Quebec into New England.  Demographically, the French made up the fourth largest minority group in the United States in the latter part of the twentieth century (Jacobson, pg. 641).  

            During the nineteenth century, Quebec’s agriculture began to see tremendous strains due to population growth and lack of available fertile farming land. 

Between 1784 and 1844, Quebec’s population increased by about 400%, while its total area of agricultural acreage rose only by 275%, creating an important deficit of available farmland…Since Quebec was largely a rural society in the 19th century, agricultural problems were truly national problems (Bélanger, pg. 2)

Since Quebec’s most fertile farmland has been systematically occupied, a large number of French-Canadians were forced into colonizing peripheral and less-fertile lands.  Along with problems directly associated with the land, these French-Canadian farmers also faced difficulty in gaining access to markets and the trouble of having a very short growing season.  Farming became very unprofitable in peripheral regions and many French-Canadians needed to work in the timber trade during the winters in order to have enough funds to survive.  While this system of part-time work did provide the funds these farmers needed for their farms, a system of dependency resulted (Bélanger, pg. 3).  Timber barons, being major employees, were able to create a monopoly that struggling farmers had little choice but to enter. 

A more direct source of indebtedness of Quebec farmers came from low productivity and the fact that overwhelmingly Anglophone banking networks were primarily located in the cities and tended to lend money to the elite rather than local farmers (Bélanger, pg. 3).  Now, infertile land and insufficient funding caused the agricultural crisis to become devastatingly pronounced. 

Since the crisis for the French-Canadians essentially started after the defeat of Montcalm by Wolfe and the British in 1759, by the time severe indebtedness occurred the French population in North America had been on downward for quite some time (Rollins, pg. 76).  They were forced since 1759 to be subservient to a Protestant and English-speaking monarch that put them on the defensive and challenged their ability to comply with “survivance.”  The industrial calling from the United States seemed to be just the kind of change the French-Canadians needed.


The Migration phase

While the largest phase of French-Canadian migration took place in the thirty years that followed the civil war, it is important to recognize the duties the French-Canadians provided to the United States during wartime.  The emigration of the French-Canadians to the Untied States actually began before the American Revolution.  A minor migration occurred due to the service of French-Canadians during the war.  Notably, a substantial amount of French Canadians fought for the colonies and for this service Congress gave the French volunteers a tract of land in upper New York State which was referred to as the “Refugee’s Tract” (Rollins, pg. 76).  The remaining phase of the minor migration occurred after the insurrection of 1837 in Quebec.  A portion of defeated citizens sought refuge in Vermont, forming the first small French-Canadian settlement in New England (Rollins, pg. 76).  After the civil war, however, the largest movement of French-Canadians took place.  It wasn’t until September 10, 1930 that the border was closed to French migration (Kalijarvi, pg. 133). 

            The major migration phase of the French-Canadians was massive, yet only lasted about sixty years.  It is suggested that as many as half may have returned home, but the individuals that stayed in the northeast remained devoted to their heritage.  With a strong religious calling, a major source of internal crash for the French-Canadians was simply the migration into a new culture where they needed to have clear sight of their goal to resist total assimilation. 

In the nineteenth century, nationalistic ideologues in Quebec developed the concept that French Canadians were duty bound to preserve their cultural identity.  For many, this notion became indistinguishable from the view that French-Canadians were called upon to fulfill a sacred mission, names to preserve Catholicism in America, and that this mission could best be accomplished by maintaining their mother tongue and customs, and by staying on the land (Brault, pg. 7). 

However, it was after the Civil War that people in the United States migrated westward and people from Canada began more successfully migrating to New England.  The major cause of this population shift and the explosion of French-Canadian immigration can be significantly attributed to the to the twelve Boston merchants who in 1813 started the famous Boston Manufacturing Company.  This group of major economic force hit upon the idea of starting a large integrated cotton mill for the mass production of cloth (Brault, pg. 54). 

When greater demands were placed on mill operatives, American born employees—primarily unmarried girls—began to abandon the textile mill kind of work.  While the jobs were filled for a short time by Irish immigrants, the positions were soon deserted again and factory managers drew heavily on the human resources of Quebec.  Due to the close proximity of Quebec to the mills, and the availability of cheap, rapid transportation by railroad, the labor growth was massive.  Among the attractions was the fact that factories had higher wages than jobs in the homeland.  Frequently there were no formal skills or education required, and factories often employed women and children.  Interestingly, the French-Canadians have the distinction of being the only major ethnic group to have successfully immigrated a sizeable number of individuals to the United States by train (Brault, pg. 54).  Physically, the immigration was very successful, but emotionally and spiritually settlement was an incredible challenge. 


Settlement: Little Canadas 

The French-Canadians carry a great sense of pride in their identity as it connects to religion and heritage.  Of the importance of this preservation, Gerard Brault writes:

Imbued with a strict brand of Catholicism and convinced that preserving their cultural heritage involved a fight against long odds, a considerable number became absorbed in the group’s inner life and stood on the defensive in their relations with others throughout most of their history (Brault, pg. 1).

Not only does a strong feeling of heritage make physical movement difficult, but also the emotional turmoil that French-Canadians faced when crossing territorial and cultural lines was immense.  The great migration took place at these great cultural, economic, and emotional costs. 

            A genuine characteristic of the early French-Canadian settlers was tendency of a town or parish to stay together.  Migration generally involved the entire family unit, and if one family left for the New England states, it was likely that the next family to leave would also head for the same community (Hendrickson, pg. 35).  The elite of Quebec did not support the settlement of French-Canadians in New England and condemned the dangers of urban life.  The French-Canadians compromised their settlement by entering the American social structure through the labor market, but also transmitting a French flavor to the communities they called “Little Canadas.”  These communities were predominantly French and Catholic and centered life around the church and school, creating an environment that appeared much like life in Quebec (Bélanger, pg. 8).  It is claimed frequently that the greatest force operating for group cohesion was the unique Canadian French tongue (Kalijarvi, pg. 134). 

Essentially, the French-Canadians migrated as families to New England only to attempt to resettle their lives as if they remained in Quebec.  As an ethnic group they were able to most resist Americanization as compared to all other ethnic groups that settled in the New England area:

They have retreated into narrow ghettoes confining themselves to ingroup activities to avoid the major unpleasantness of community life and to shun open competition on unfair terms with those who discriminated against them economically, politically, educationally, and socially (Foley 1960: 11; Rollins, pg. 81)

Next in line to the family, the molding of the French-Canadian ethnicity is largely from the church and parish.  A study of Franco-American “survivance” and reconstruction would be severely lacking without an account of the historical development of parishes and the role that church played in the French Canadian experience.  Most “Little Canadas” would come to have a church inside their boundaries as the institution was held at the highest level of precedence (Hendrickson, pg. 37).  The massive push for ethnic-religious independence was a source of ethnic crash and rivalry primarily with the Irish Catholics who began immigrating to New England around 1845 following the potato famine (Rollins, pg. 78).  The difference between English and French sermons was a source of alienation for the French-Canadians and another reason to actually work toward segregation. 

Conflicts with the Irish-Americans and the development of Parishes

            Firstly, the Irish Americans began fearing the new competition associated with the French-Canadian migration movement.  Economically, the new group was a threat because they would work longer for less pay.  Almost forcibly, then, the French Canadians occupied the lowest social class allowing the Irish to move up in stratification.  The Irish blatantly looked down on the French-Canadians; these temperamental incompatibilities led to frequent clashes.  Rhea Coté Robbins, A Franco-American citizen of Waterville, Maine describes how her father in his youth in the 1930’s era used to go down to Augusta for the purpose of rumbling and engaging in street fighting with the Irish; the source of this fighting, Coté describes was a direct relation to the competition between the French and Irish over mill jobs (Personal email, Coté, 11/2/2005).  Even while the two groups were both Catholic, increased tension resulted from the demand of the French-Canadians for separate French-Speaking parishes (Rollins, pg. 78). 

The conflict which developed in many other sections of the nation as new immigrants insisted on their own ethnic churches led to the Cahenslyism movement.  Father Peter Cahensly and others demanded of Rome, that dioceses in the United States be set up along nationality rather than territorial lines.  The newcomers from Europe would then be served by pastor of the same background, and they would confess their sins and listen to sermons of their native tongue (Rollins, pg. 79). 

Without this movement, the French Canadian status may have hindered the formation of ethnic churches. 

If the Irish curate were to request French-Canadian missionaries or curates then he would run the risk of displeasing the majority of his congregation—notably, a congregation that already felt hostility toward the French-Canadian immigrants for causing the rareness of jobs and the drop in labor wages (Roby, pg. 26).  American bishops assessed the number of applicants desiring a parish led by a French-Canadian and then proposed costs of erecting a church, a rectory and a school, and maintaining a parish priest.  Frequently these requests were affirmed:

The statistics speak for themselves: the bishops granted 14 such authorizations from 1861 to 1870; 28 from 1871 to 1880; 23 from 1881 to 1890; and 19 during the last decade of the century (Roby, pg. 26). 

These parishes represented an extended family for the French Canadians and contributed to their extensive French-speaking existence.

Philippe Lemay, a Franco American (the more modern and politically correct form of “French Canadian”) of Machester, New Hampshire describes:

In 1871, our first parish was established and our new church, St. Augustin’s, was opened in 1873.  A few years later, we had two parishes, so we really could practice our religious as easily as we did in old Quebec.  We said our morning prayer separately, but after supper, before the dishes were washed, we recited the beads and evening prayer en famille, father or mother alternating with the children and the boarders (Doty, pg. 27). 


This religious freedom was not felt without unsettlement:

In 1889 the Catholic Council of Baltimore stressed that ‘It must always be remembered that the Catholic church recognizes neither north nor south, nor east nor west; nor race nor color.’  That Congress held that ‘national societies, as such, have no place in the Church of this country; after the manner of this Congress, they should be Catholic and American’” (Wade 1950: 185, Rollins, pg. 79). 


This view was violently opposed for many years by French-Canadian leaders, but compromises eventually evolved allowing the French parish to remain the strengthening factor of the French Canadian resistance to cultural depletion in the church.  It was feared that “survivance” would die due to Irish opposition; however, even today there are many French language parishes throughout New England.  It is even suggested that French-Canadians have enriched the area religiously and may be considered typical of New Englanders (Wade 1950: 191, Rollins, g. 80). 


Parochial Schools

            Below the church, schools rank next in importance.  The “survivance” attitude of French-Canadians quickly clashed with the unilingual schools in New England.  Rather than forcing their children to a learn a tongue different from that of his home and culture and entrusting the education of their children to “strangers,” the French Canadians established parochial schools to meet elementary and secondary school demands (Kalijarvi, pg. 135).  Here, the language of instruction was generally French.  Parochial schools not only taught standard subjects, but also strove to implant an ideology of how to live according to well defined rules—sparked by the Catholic faith (Brault, pg. 74).  These schools were often criticized for their simplistic view of life and tense discipline, but arguably were beneficial for immigrants aiming for “survivance” of their faith, language, and culture, all of which were at the very heart of their educational institutions. 

The system, however, which integrated language, religion, and education, lasted only until around 1960 when economic factors and the assimilation or moving of Franco-Americans to suburbia caused the French parishes and parochial schools to close one by one (Jacobson, pg. 643).  While present day language barriers are sparser, the initial transition period into the public educational system created cultural and linguistic hardship for Franco students that were not accommodated for.  Being bilingual was a disadvantage and the students were labeled as intellectually inferior (Jacobson, pg. 644). 


Decline of the “Little Canadas” and the increase of Americanization

The substantial preservation of culture did not fully mean that life in the United States was desirable for Franco-Americans.  The living conditions and the socio-economic status of the inhabitants of “Little Canadas” are described as being very poor.  French-Canadians rarely owned property and often lived in tenements that lacked amenities and were usually overcrowded.  “Little Canadas” had among the highest population densities in the United States (Bélanger, pg. 9). 

A study conducted on the French Canadian population of Lowell, in 1875, indicates that about 52% were in very difficult economic circumstances.  Another study of wages paid in the cotton mills in 1908 shows that French-Canadian mill workers earned $10.09 a week on average.  This amount was between 5-25% lower than the wage earned by Irish, English, or Scottish mill workers (Bélanger, pg. 9). 


Until the 1940’s it was possible to live and work in French in several small towns dotting New England, but by the middle of the 20th century, assimilation had become a reality (Bélanger, pg. 10).

            Among the reasons for the decline of Franco America is firstly the decline of French-Canadian emigration.  New arrivals often compensated for the losses of Franco Americans to assimilation, allowing Franco America to perpetuate itself.  When the American government put a stop to immigration in 1930 during the beginning phases of the depression (Bélanger, pg. 10), structurally Franco America was not able to continually reproduce its presence both physically and in terms of values.  A second major reason for the decline of Franco-America was the decline of the textile industry in New England.  From the beginning of the 20th century until the mid-1930’s the cotton industry began to relocate to southern U.S. states where labor costs were lower.  Subsequently, Franco-Americans were forced to leave their low paying jobs and tenements and enter a new labor force, ascending the social ladder.  As Franco-Americans left “Little Canadas” and sough out suburban life, the isolation of Franco American communities was broken and assimilation became a much quicker process (Bélanger, pg. 10). 


Politics and the War

            During the Civil War, an estimated 4000 Franco Americans fought for the Union and tens of thousands served the United States during World War One and Two.  It is suggested that Franco-Americans can be seen as both pushers for “survivance” and also as patriotic and native-like to the United States as more Franco-Americans fought for the U.S. in World War One than French Canadians did in the Canadian army (Bélanger, pg. 10). 

As far as loyalty and support of the war effort are concerned, the Canadian French take the view that the United States has been attacked…In industry and in the professions they are contributing their share for an American victory (Kalijarvi, pg. 137). 


            Naturalizing campaigns prompted a great number of French-Canadian immigrants to become United States citizens beginning in the late 1870’s (Brault, pg. 66).  Franco-American votes were often regarded as pivotal and over time the group has held every position of major political importance in the United States with the exception of the presidency and justiceship on the Supreme Court bench (Kalijarvi, pg. 136).  It is often questioned due to the strong ties that Franco-Americans have with their culture and each other why their political views were not unified.  The group did not exclusively band together for political influence—even so, there power in politics was and is substantial. 


A Micro Example of Franco-American Hardship: The Hathaway Shirt Company in Waterville, Maine 

Waterville’s own Hathaway shirt plant was the nation’s last major textile mill to close before moving production overseas.  Of this closure, Waterville citizen Rhea Coté describes the economic hardship that became increasingly problematic for Franco-American mill workers:

The Retirement check of this woman after giving a lifetime to the sewing mill is 137 dollars a month, and after six months of retirement she no longer qualifies for health insurance.  She is forced to buy her own health insurance plan independently.  The shirts sell for $50 to upwards of $70 apiece in the men’s shops which sell quality clothing.  I was destined for the men’s shirt factory mill.  As so many of my neighbor women are destined (Coté, pg. 26). 


Hathaway employee, Vicki Gilbert, described to me in a personal interview in 2003 that she remained in the plant until she was literally pushed out the door.  After the closing, Gilbert experienced a sense of ethnic crash due to her lack of education which she says was a stigma of Franco-American mill workers.  Without a high school degree, Gilbert could hardly enter the labor market and was forced to go back to school after decades of being a mill worker.  Gilbert was happy in the mill and felt protected in a sense being among other Waterville citizens that frequently shared the Franco-American heritage.  The mill workers and Franco-Americans in general were described by Gilbert as a family, by blood or experience.  While the closing of the mill may have caused more assimilation of Franco-Americans in Waterville and perhaps less segregation, there seems to be a continuing struggle as to how the Franco-American culture will be preserved.



Experiences of a Franco-American Waterville Citizen: Rhea Coté Robbins

Rhea Coté Robbins, author of Wednesday’s Child, describes through a memoir the life of a Franco-American family in the community of Waterville, Maine.  The city of Waterville both historically and in present day is a major site of ethnic crash.  Historically speaking of this great migration, Cote recognizes the idea of ethnic crash and contends:

“The migration of these sturdy French Canadian immigrants, often known as ‘Canucks’ was very puzzling and sometimes annoying to some native citizens.  Each year their number increased and the line of Yankees retreated…In the early days there was bitter feeling between the young men of the “Plains’ and the young men of the town…the struggle…stemmed from personal animosity and hatred…by the end of the 19th century, they had reached a point where their presence merited consideration” (Coté, pg. 48)

Coté further describes how the French culture did not prepare someone to “compete in the world of high finance…So Colby is safely tucked away from the onslaught of the French who took up residence in Waterville to work in the mills” (Coté, pg. 50).  Obviously, generations later, Coté’s family cannot change the fact that Colby College (which moved from downtown to Mayflower Hill) is permanently settled atop the hill and the French-Canadians have traditionally inhabited the lower area by the river.  This division, however, causes a great ethnic divide both physically and figuratively. 

            The unsettling relations in Waterville between Franco-Americans and “townsfolk” are described by Coté as actually focusing somewhat on French culture.  As a child, interactions with the higher class were actually issues that caused Coté to want to completely forget and/or change her ethnicity.  We see how ethnicity pushed Coté to act Whiter, crunched her into a part of town away from the elite on the hill, and broke her sense of pride[1]:

All I want to do is run away from there and get myself another identity.  I want to be a white girl.  A girl from Mayflower Hill.  A girl with an English name.  An English identity.  An English sexuality.  An English sensibility.  An English everything.  Instead, I have French as French could be (Coté, pg. 62). 

These actions represent a micro example of ethnic crash, but also provide a template for the types of cultural differences that may have created ethnic crash for French-Canadians throughout New England during their migration and settlement phases. 

In personal discourse with Coté, she vehemently described that language for the oppressor/oppressing culture is a source of power for creating a barrier.  However, theoretically, it is the entire French culture and Franco-American ethnicity that is being attacked.  In Franco-American terms, having another language besides English came to be seen as a problem rather than an asset.  Oftentimes our society would consider being “other-languaged” besides English an asset, therefore, Coté describes that when we look at the Franco-American example from this perspective it is really being conveyed that being French is the problem (personal email, Coté 11/2/2005).  This is a direct ethnic resistance because in dealing with the oppressive group and their limited point of view toward the Franco-Americans, the instance of crash is in actuality a result of culture and not language. 


The Franco American Legacy

            Indisputably, the emigration of French-Canadians to New England has left an enduring mark.  Similarly, the immigrants whom returned to Quebec left a lasting impact on their homeland economy by returning with savings.  Within French Canada, “the emigrant became one of the prime vessels of transmission for the American culture” (Bélanger, pg. 11).  A very positive image of the United States was projected in Quebec thanks to the Franco Americans.  This is opposed to the anti-Americanism attitude sometimes characteristic of English-speaking Canada.  This positive attitude is felt even to this day.  In terms of their impact in the United States, the Franco-Americans strengthened Catholic institutions in New England and actively participated in the industrialization process.  While French is hardly spoken regularly in Franco America, the Roman Catholic faith has remained a stronghold (Bélanger, pg. 11). 

            Of the legacy of “survivance,” Rollins claims:

The national status of the French-Canadians is higher than it is in New England.  As most of these people live in the six northeastern states, it becomes apparent that the few who have migrated to other sections have been quite successful in becoming ‘Americanized.’  These French Canadians have not been influenced by the ‘survivance’ ideal due to their being isolated from the majority (Rollins, pg. 95). 

When specifically examining the impact of the ‘survivance’ legacy on Franco Americans in New England, it is suggested that among the Franco Americans that reside there, the second generation has failed to keep pace with others ethnic groups in the Americanization process (Rollins, pg. 95).  The causes of this resistance to assimilation may have been the strong desire these immigrants had to keep their mother tongue upon arrival as well as their French culture; the fear of losing this culture would have meant losing the all-important Roman Catholic faith.  The price the French-Canadians paid for this preservation may have seemed worthwhile, but socially an imbalance resulted.  The French-Canadians lost one generation in the process of maintaining “survivance;” therefore, the third generation of Franco Americans roughly parallels the second generation among other immigrant groups in terms of the amount of Americanization they have undergone:

While the second generation Poles, Italians, and Irish were becoming ‘Americanized’ though maintaining their Roman Catholic Religion, the second generation French-Canadians were remaining French-Canadian in language and culture (Rollins, pg. 96).


Tracing time: From soldiers to mill workers to declination and Present day

            The presence of Franco-Americans in the United States began firstly with their involvement in warfare and then extended when the group continued to establish itself with work in the textile industry.  Pressing forward to the era between the two world wars, Franco-Americans were still raised by parents who clung to traditional ways, however, as these children came into contact with children of other ethnicities they were exposed to mores and values that were different than those learned in the home (Brault, pg. 86).  Franco Americans institutions were in fact able to remain solid during the 1920’s and 1930’s. 

            Involvement with textile industry provided economic similarities among Franco-Americans while the establishment of parishes and parochial schools lent itself to voluntary segregation through development of “Little Canadas.”  By 1957, however, this intense group cohesion through voluntary segregation suffered a blow when the number of jobs in the textile industry dropped significantly and a financial crisis occurred.  This crisis resulted in older workers being eliminated and younger works feeling compelled to seek jobs in the suburbs (Roby, pg. 436).  This movement caused the populations of major industrial cities in New England to decrease dramatically.  Widespread anxiety then led the American Congress to adopt a generously funded program for urban renewal.  Certain cities were selected for renewal where the end result would be for developers to rebuild low-rent housing units as a priority on the sites of expropriation (Roby, pg. 437). 

Politicians hoped this urban renewal would facilitate re-housing for a majority of evicted property owners and tenants.  This proved to be rarely the case. 

            The Northern Canal Urban Renewal project demolished more than 200 buildings in Lowell, Massachusetts—for the most part in “Little Canada”—which displaced hundreds of families.  This urban renewal project became a catastrophe for parishes.  Families were often driven from their homes and were not able to return to the parish because of the unaffordable cost of renting a unit in the new buildings.  As a paradigm, this scenario became a widespread reality throughout New England.  A major indication of the decline of Franco America was the lack of parishes; no national parishes were founded since 1927.  For over thirty years injustices were inflicted on Franco-Americans and organizations of English inspiration actually worked to stifle Franco-American associations and brotherhoods.  Furthermore the elder generation was forced to stand down when:

They attacked the very source of our ethnic existence by restricting, then by Anglicizing, our clergy, as well as by controlling and Anglicizing our schools, using methods somewhat less Christian (Roby, pg. 455). 


By 1976, after years of ethnic silencing, “Little Canadas” became a thing of the past both figuratively and physically. 

            While descriptions of migration and settlement tend to accentuate the concise ethnic solidarity and physical proximity of Franco-Americans, the contemporary Franco-American cannot fit into such a small box.  Today, some Franco-Americans remain in disappearing industries of fabric mills and shoe shops.  More progressively, though, Franco-Americans very actively cross all employment and educational lines.  The group is not confined to one sector of socio-economic life (Hendrickon, pg. 73).  Without a doubt this ethnic group has both benefited and suffered from the push for “survivance” and the subsequent force of Americanization.  Increased political activity and social mobility provide arguably positive structural impacts on Franco Americans.  On the other hand, the decline of ethnic parishes and bilingual education create a strain for contemporary Franco-American families striving to maintain “survivance” and portray traditional Franco values to their children exclusively. 

As with any issue of importance the ultimate fate of its survival truly depends upon the heart.  Even with French customs taking a secondary degree of importance to the American way, the Franco-Americans in New England are not in great danger of cultural death.  Newer generations of Franco-Americans may only wish to partly remember their heritage, but partial remembrance should not be seen with a pessimistic eye.  Dorothy Gallagher claimed in an article in the New York Times regarding the ideology of writing that as is true with story telling, the second you put a pen to paper, some element of the story is lost (Gallagher, 2002).  Sociologically, the active preservation of culture can be viewed in the same light.  The forest of Franco-Americans may not be as dense as it once was, but fundamentally is not being clear-cut.  Franco-American roots have most definitely proven their strength and with these roots there shall be no fear that ancestors will be forgotten. 








Works Cited


Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage in New England:. Hanover: University P of New England, 1986. 1-282.


Bélanger, Damien-Claude. "French Canadian Emigration to the United States, 1840-1930." Feadings in Quebec History. 23 Aug. 2000. Marianoplolis College. 2 Nov. 2005 <>.


Coté Robbins, Rhea. "Franco-American Project." E-mail to Lisa D. Helstrom. 2 Nov. 2005.


Doty, C. Stewart. The First Franco-Americans: New England Life Histories from the Federal Writers' Project 1938-1939. Orono: University of Maine at Orono P, 1985. 1-161.


Foley, Albert S. 1960.  Survey of Collation of Research in Inter-religious Relations.  Unpublished paper, Spring Hill College. 


French Canadians in the United States.  Thorsten V. Kalijarvi

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 223, Minority Peoples in a Nation at War. (Sep., 1942), pp. 132-137.

Stable URL:            7162%28194209%29223%3C132%3AFCITUS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-9


Gallagher, Dorothy. "Recognizing the Book That Needs to Be Written." New York Times 17 June 2002. 2 Nov. 2002 <>.


Hendrickson, Dyke. Quiet Presence. Portland: Guy Gannett Co., 1980. 1-266.


Roby, Yves. The Franco-Americans of New-England: Dreams and Realities. Septentrion, 2004. 1-533.


Rollins, John H. Hidden Minorities:The Persistence of Ethnicity in American Life. Washington D.C.: University P of America, Inc., 1981. 1-257.


The Social Context of Franco-American Schooling in New England.  Phyllis L. Jacobson

The French Review, Vol. 57, No. 5. (Apr., 1984), pp. 641-656.

Stable URL:


Wade, Mason.  1950.  The French Parish and Survivance in the Nineteenth Century New England.  Catholic Historical Review. 


Wednesday's Child. Brunswick: Maine Writers & Alliance, 1997. 1-89.


[1] Racial and Ethnic Crash: Examining Wounds (pg. 3) by Lisa Helstrom, November 14, 2005, SO 252 Colby College, Professor Gilkes


Information on the film Crash

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