French-Canadian Americans

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by Marianne Fedunkiw


Canada, with an area encompassing just over six million square miles, is the largest country in the world. This American neighbor to the north is bordered on the other three sides by oceans: the Pacific to the west, the Atlantic to the east, and the Arctic to the north. At 5,525 miles, its border with the United States is the longest undefended border in the world.

More than half of the 26.9 million people in Canada are concentrated in the corridor between Windsor, Ontario, and Québec City, Québec. Much of the remaining population lives in the southern areas of each of the nation's ten provinces and two territories. The country's largest cities are Toronto, with 3.8 million residents, Montréal with 3.1 million, and Vancouver with 1.6 million. Although there are French Canadians in each of the provinces, by far the greatest number can be found in the province of Québec. In 1991, 81 percent of the population of Québec cited French as their "mother tongue" (the first language spoken as a child and still understood), compared to about nine percent for English. The next-highest concentration of French-speaking Canadians is in New Brunswick (33 percent). All of the remaining provinces reported figures of less than five percent, ranging from 0.4 to 4.6 percent. Overall, 6.5 million Canadians, or 24 percent of the population in 1991, reported French as their "mother tongue." English-speaking Canadians numbered 16.5 million, or almost 61 percent of the total population.

There is also a strong and growing trend of bilingualism in Canada. According to the 1986 census, 16 percent of the population spoke both English and French, again with the province of Québec leading the way. In Québec almost 60 percent of anglophones, more than 30 percent of francophones, and close to half of those whose mother tongue is neither English nor French were bilingual. For comparison, outside Québec only about five percent of anglophones and 80 percent of francophones were bilingual.

Québec was by far the leading point of departure for French-Canadian immigration to the United States, although there were those who travelled south from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Ontario. Québec is the largest province, making up almost 16 percent of Canada's total area and over one-fourth of its population. The provincial motto is Je me souviens (I remember), and the flower is the fleur-de-lis. Both motto and flower are featured prominently on the provincial coat of arms.


The man who is credited with discovering the Canadian mainland was French explorer Jacques Cartier (1491-1557). He was seeking gold and riches via the famed Northwest Passage to the East, but reached Newfoundland instead in May 1534. He made another journey to Canada in 1535 and, unlike earlier explorers, continued west along the St. Lawrence River as far as modern-day Québec City, and then pressed on even farther to the future site of Montréal. This first foray into the interior was difficultparticularly because of the harsh winter conditions in Québec City and the rampant scurvy that killed many men. The remainder were said to be saved by a native tea made from the bark of the white spruce tree.

Cartier's third voyage to Canada was a failure in terms of establishing a settlement. Permanent settlement would have to wait until the fur trade gave reason to send more than the occasional fishing vessel. Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) finally established the first trading post on the site of Québec City in 1608. Champlain, too, had sought the Northwest Passage, but he soon realized that beaver pelts would be responsible for the survival of any settlements. He set up a system of company monopolies to systematically hunt and sell pelts and, in exchange for 300 settlers coming to the new land annually, to serve as the area's government from 1627 until 1642.

Unfortunately, Champlain's early settlement was attacked by English and Iroquois Confederacy rivals. The Catholic church, an integral part of French settlement, also suffered during the mid-seventeenth century at the hands of those opposed to French colonization. Groups such as the Jesuit missionaries, who were sent to convert the natives, were often attacked, and many missionaries and their followers were tortured and killed.

In addition to founding Québec, Champlain ventured into northern New York (he discovered the lake named for him in 1609), and explored the Atlantic coast as far as Massachusetts, including many of the larger rivers in Maine. However, Champlain's efforts to establish a successful French colony were thwarted by weather, battles with the English and certain native groups, and limited support from France. He died in Québec in 1635, at the age of 68.


For all of the hardships, the King of France, Louis XIV, did not give up. In 1665 he sent two ships to Québec containing the first regular troops to be sent to Canada, in addition to Alexandre de Prouville, the Marquis de Tracy (1596-1670), who was made lieutenant-general for all French possessions in North America. The government changed from Champlain's company monopolies to a Sovereign Council composed of the governor of New France, a bishop, and an intendantthe latter being the chief representative of royal power in a French colony. France shipped boatloads of demoiselles bien choisies (women of good health and upbringing), or filles du roi (king's girls), to raise the numbers and help settle New France. Jean Talon (1626-1694), the first intendant of New France, was instrumental in doubling the population between 1666 and 1678, to 7,605 settlers. He was joined in his efforts by the first bishop, François de Montmorency-Laval (1623-1708), who established a seminary that would become the University of Laval, and the governor of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac (1622-1698).

Talon also successfully implemented the seignorial system, in which feudal land tenures were granted to settlers free of charge in exchange for clearing the land and pledging loyalty to the King of France. The seigneur would, in turn, subdivide his acreage to tenants who paid a nominal rent, cleared, and farmed the land. These habitants were the first French Canadians. Soon the settlements had, at their center, a parish church and an established curé (priest) to meet their religious needs. In addition to the habitants, there were the coureurs de bois, traders who negotiated for furs with the Indians in the upper reaches of the Ottawa River and in the Great Lakes.


The French settled in other parts of North America as well. By the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), France ceded Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Acadia to England. The French, however, retained control of present-day Cape Breton Island on the east coast of Nova Scotia where they built the fortress of Louisburg (1720-1740) to defend its remaining territory. In addition to Acadia, or the Maritime provinces of Canada, the French could be found in the coastal region of northern Maine. The first Acadian settlement was established in 1604 by Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts at St. Croix Island in the Bay of Fundy. In 1755, 6,500 Acadians were deported to the American colonies of the Atlantic Seaboard for having refused to take an oath to the king of England. Many of them would later find their way to Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns, a derivation of the word Acadian. Other early French towns in the United States included Detroit, Michigan, founded by Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac (1658-1730) in 1701. Cadillac also served as colonial governor of the Louisiana territory.

Finally, outside of Québec, the major concentration of French settlers was in what are now Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois. The Louisiana Territory was claimed for France in 1682 and named by explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle (1643-1687), after King Louis XIV. French forts along the Mississippi River spread northward from New Orleans. A pair of French Canadians founded and helped to colonize this southern French territory. Pierre le Moyne d'Iberville (1661-1706) established the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1699, and Jean-Baptiste le Moyne de Bienville, established New Orleans in 1718. In 1803 the United States bought the land, which spread from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, from France for $15 million in the Louisiana Purchase.

There are many other place names in the United States that tell the tale of French influence and settlement. The state of Maine is said to have been named for the province of Mayne in France, and Vermont comes from the French words vert mont, which mean "green mountain." Duluth, Minnesota, is named for Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Du Lhut (1636-1710), who won the Lake Superior and upper Mississippi region for France. Likewise, Dubuque, Iowa, is named for Julien Dubuque (1762-1810), a pioneer settler of Iowa. Vestiges of the French connection remain in Minnesota's motto, L'Étoile du Nord (The star of the north).


The English, French, and Spanish all wanted to claim North America for their own. After a series of smaller skirmishes, the French and Indian Wars of 1689-1763 (between the French and the English) finally led to the fall of the French colonies. These battles, offshoots of various European wars, culminating in the Seven Years' War, saw the French and native peoples aligned against the British and their American colonists. In 1745 English forces captured the fort at Louisburg. (It was returned to France in 1748.) The most renowned battle, however, took place on the Plains of Abraham in modern-day Québec City in 1759. By the time the assault was over, both the French General, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm (1712-1759), and the British commander, Brigadier General James Wolfe (1727-1759), lay dead on the battlefield. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 and France ceded her Canadian and American territories east of the Mississippi to England, as well as much of French Louisiana to Spain as compensation for Florida, which Spain yielded to Great Britain. This temporarily ended immigration from France to the Canadian coloniesthe French numbered around 60,000 in 1763. During the American Revolution, some French Canadians moved to the United States to escape British rule, while many American Loyalists (who were British sympathizers) were granted land in Québec and the Maritime Provinces.

In recognition of the differing interests of English and French Canadians, what are now the provinces of Ontario and Québec became Upper Canada and Lower Canada, respectively, in 1791. Lower Canada had its own legislature, and French Canadians were allowed to practice their Roman Catholic religion. Nevertheless, tensions culminated in a revolt in 1837, when Britain tried to unite the two Canadas. After the rebellion was quelled, the two halves were successfully joined in 1840. Many of the French rebels fled to the United States, particularly to New England. Finally, the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867.


The battle to maintain French Canadian culture and language in a land under British rule also surfaced outside of Québec. Resentful of the encroaching power of the English from the East, Louis Riel led a group of French Canadian Métis (individuals who are part French and part American Indian) settlers in an attack on Upper Fort Garry, the main camp of the Hudson Bay Company, in 1869. Riel was one-eighth Native Canadian and seven-eighths French Canadian, and his Métis followers were of similarly mixed native and French ancestry. They captured the fort and used it as leverage to bargain for special rights for the French and the Métis in Manitoba.

Riel's actionsincluding the execution of Thomas Scott, a Protestant who fought the French Canadians and Métisled to a growing hatred on the part of the English in the East. Although Manitoba entered the Canadian confederation in 1870, Riel was banished from Canada in 1875. He settled in Montana temporarily, but returned to Canada in 1884 to participate in the fight for French Canadian and Métis independence. He was charged with treason and later executed for his part in the Saskatchewan Rebellion of 1885.


French Canadians continued to resent having to subordinate themselves to British rule throughout the twentieth century. When World War I broke out in 1914, French Canadians fought against conscription to fight in what they perceived to be Britain's war. French-speakers also fought to have their culture and language recognized and maintained. The 1960s saw a resurgence in the "Quiet Revolution" to preserve "Québec for the French Canadians." In 1976, the Parti Québecois (PQ), a group of militant separatists, was elected to national office for the first time. Their leader was René Lévesque (1922-1987). The year after gaining power, the PQ declared French to be the official language of the province of Québec, but this was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979.

A number of referenda have been taken in Québec to gauge popular support for the idea of separating from Canada. In 1980 the vote was against separating, but just a year later the province refused to acknowledge the new Canadian constitution. To address this issue, the premiers of the provinces met in 1987 and drew up the Meech Lake Accord (named for the site of the meetings). The Accord recognized Québec as a "distinct society," but changes to the constitution were not forthcoming, since many English Canadians were opposed to special treatment for Québec. The Accord failed to be ratified by all the provinces. In 1994 Québec once again voted in favor of the PQ, which has renewed its call for independence. Separatism, therefore, remains by far the most significant issue facing French Canadians in Québec during the later decades of the twentieth century.


Exploration by the French was not limited to Canada. Jesuit missionaries travelled south along the Mississippi River, and in 1673 Louis Joliet (1648-1700) and Jesuit Priest Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) explored the Mississippi River. Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle (1643-1687), discovered the mouth of the Mississippi in 1682.


Small groups or individuals of French Canadian descent have decided to settle in the United States since the major periods of exploration in the seventeenth century. Some fled the aftermath of the Patriote Rebellion of 1837, when hostility toward the French was high. The large number who crossed the border in the nineteenth century, particularly to the New England states, made their choice to seek a better life. These were predominantly young adults, some with families and others who were single. Traditionally, French-Canadian Americans had large families, and these numbers, coupled with dismal economic conditions, drove them south. Some estimates put the extent of the migration at 600,000, which had the effect of draining Canada of a generation.

Work in textile mills and the logging industryanything besides the backbreaking farm work in Québecwas what drew them. For example, six mills opened in the Lewiston area of the state of Maine alone between 1819 and 1869. When they did settle, French-Canadian Americans sought to build a sense of community much like what they were used to "back home"centered about a parish church and school, thus combining both the nuclear family and the extended family of the ethnic community. By 1850 about 20,000 French Canadians had settled in the New England area, with the majority living in Vermont. By 1860 there were another 18,000, including clusters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.


The influx of French Canadians in the years following the American Civil War resulted from the initiative of American businessmen to expand the textile and shoe industries. Although the French Canadian population was largest in Vermont throughout the 1850s and 1860s, since 1870 Massachusetts has claimed the majority. In his book The French-Canadian Heritage in New England, Gerard J. Brault notes that the French Canadians "have the distinction of being the only major ethnic group to have immigrated to the United States in any significant number by train." Most French Canadians settled in a circular pattern around Bostonin towns such as Lewiston, Maine, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Lowell, Massachusetts, to the north; Worcester and Holyoke, Massachusetts, to the west; and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Fall River, Massachusetts, to the south. New York State also attracted some settlers as did the Midwestern states of Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota. The majority of Franco-American settlements were established from the 1860s to the 1880s, though some areas of Vermont had high numbers of French-Canadian Americans as early as 1815.

Québec did not enjoy losing its youth. Starting in 1875, the Canadian government made fairly successful efforts to bring them back by offering either free or cheap land. In fact, up to half of those who had travelled south returned to Canada by 1900. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, recessions in the United States and relative prosperity meant that immigration to the United States fell off from previous years and some French Canadians returned home.

French Canadian settlers in the United States maintained a high level of concentration and a low level of mobility. By 1900 towns such as Woonsocket, Rhode Island (60 percent French-Canadian American), and Biddeford, Maine (also at 60 percent), were very much French Canadian. The most outstanding example is the area in Maine, along the Canadian frontier, known as the St. John Valley, which was almost entirely Franco-American. This level of concentration heightened the sense of community for the new immigrants and facilitated getting French Canadian priests to serve the thriving parishes. Spiritual guidance and a sense of community became all the more important because, for those who toiled in tedium at the mills, "home" was no longer fresh air and open land but crowded, dingy tenement houses.


According to The Canadian Born in the United States, a book published in 1943 using American census data, 47 percent of those reporting themselves as "French Canadian born" immigrated to the United States earlier than 1900. Almost 16 percent of those in the United States through the year 1930 came from 1901 to 1910, while about ten percent came between 1920 and 1930.

The 1920s and 1930s were decades of strength for French-Canadian Americansorganizations had been established, French-language newspapers were thriving, and there were successful battles against attempts to abolish teaching in French. Mount Saint Charles Academy, a Franco-American diocesan high school in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was established in 1924 and hailed as a strong academic school. Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, continues to offer Franco-American studies as well as French-language instruction. Founded in 1904, it was built upon the model of the French Canadian collège classique, in which liberal arts were taught with traditional values and Catholic doctrine.

Elementary schools were set up in great numbers in the 1920s and 1930s. These were parochial schools, supported by the parishes, and they offered a half-day of exposure to the French language and culture. By the 1960s, however, these schools, faced with the increased cost of having to pay lay teachers, were forced to close.

Maintaining French identity became more of a challenge after World War II. The initial immigrants had established a vibrant community of French-language parishes, schools, press, and fraternal organizations, but the group was slowly assimilating and there was no large wave of immigration to keep up the enthusiasm. Immigration to the United States dropped off after the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the same time, many French-Canadian Americans took advantage of the proximity of their home country and lived where the economic conditions or political situation was better for them.

The French were also regarded differently in Canada than in the United Statesin Canada they represented one of the two founding nations, while in the United States they were just one of many ethnic groups to arrive in America after much of the country had been settled. After World War II, the original incentives to remain a tight community faded away. More French-Canadian Americans had the opportunity to get an education, for example, and their economic situations improved so that they no longer had to huddle in tenement houses while working long, hard hours in the textile and shoe mills. As a result, many began to drift outside of traditional Franco-American enclaves. For example, most of the once-numerous French-speaking parochial schools near Albany, New York, had ceased to exist by the 1960s, having been demolished for urban renewal or sold to other denominations.

This trend reversed in the 1970s and 1980s, however, with a move toward reviving French Canadian traditions and language. Many books have been written, in both English and French, on the Franco-American experience, and a number of historical centers, such as the French Institute at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, support Franco-American studies.


Historically, most of the French Canadian immigrants settled in the New England states, geographically closest to the province of Québec. Some, however, travelled further to settle in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, and even California. By 1990, the state with the highest number of French-Canadian Americans was Massachusetts, with 310,636, followed by Michigan with 174,138, California with 156,625, New York with 155,531, New Hampshire with 118,857, Connecticut with 110,426, Florida with 110,221, and Maine with 110,209. All other states have less than 100,000.

Although California ranks third, the Northeast predominates as home to French-Canadian Americansthat region alone makes up 45 percent of the total of 2.16 million who cited French Canadian ancestry in the 1990 census. This total is a small percentage of the American population just under one percent of the total 248.7 million but it ranks French-Canadian Americans at sixteenth on a tally of the most frequently reported ancestry groups. Franco-American New England is often divided into three regions: central and southeastern New England, which includes southern Maine; western Vermont and upper New York State; and northern Maine, particularly the area known as the St. John Valley.

It is interesting to note that the number of individuals citing French Canadian as their ancestry for the 1990 census was substantially larger than for the census a decade earlier. One possible explanation cited by census takers was that French Canadian was listed among sample response categories intended to help those who were uncertain of their ethnic originin 1990, but not in 1980.

Acculturation and Assimilation


French Canadian life, in Canada and in the United States, centered around the communityfirst that of the family (which tended to be large), and then that of the larger French-speaking community. One thing French-Canadian Americans had in common with their French Canadian ancestors was resistance to other ethnic influences. In Canada, French-speakers long opposed all things British, and in the United States, Irish or English Americans often viewed the newest immigrants as interlopers. This lack of acceptance helped to draw Franco-Americans closer together and resulted in maintaining traditions, customs, and language through the generations. Many of the traditions and beliefs are also tied to a strong sense of religion. To be a Franco-American immigrant was to be a strict Catholic, especially for the early settlers.


Many French Canadian proverbs can be interpreted as similar to those found today in English, although several are French Canadians in origin. Some well-known examples include: Each to their own taste; God dictates and women decide; Better to prevent than to heal; If the young knew and if the old could...; To leave is to die a little; Speech is silver, but silence is golden; Better late than never; Slow but sure; After the storm comes good weather; Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are; and, One you have is worth more than two you think you may get.


French Canadian farmers ate hearty, simple meals. Breads and other carbohydrates were popular and readily available. Breakfast items included pancakes, fried eggs, salt pork spread on slices of bread, coffee, and tea. Soup, made from peas, cabbage, or barley, was a staple for lunch and dinner meals; also on the daily menu might be potatoes, bread and butter covered in maple syrup, pork, and seasonal vegetables. In the Roman Catholic tradition, no meat was served on Fridays.

More elaborate meals were prepared for special religious holidays and celebrations. Tourtière (pork and spice pie), cretons (pork terrine), ragoût boulettes (a stew of chicken, beef, or veal), boudin (blood sausage) and sugar pies are some of the dishes associated with French Canadians. In fact, one French Canadian dish, poutine (french fries covered with gravy and cheese curds) is now being served in North American fast-food restaurants.


Traditional French Canadian costumes harken back to the days when the coureurs de bois hunted for beaver pelts and the voyageurs explored Canada. Most recognizable were the brightly colored, woven sashes, or ceintures fléchées.

As Brault explains, more common were the clothes worn by the farmers. They wore flannel shirts over loose-fitting pants fashioned of droguet, or drugget, a durable and coarse woolen fabric. The pants would be held up by suspenders or a broad leather belt. On his feet, a man would wear stockings and moccasin-style boots. To combat the cold, the French Canadian farmer would add a vest or sweater, a tuque (woollen cap), and an overcoat made of wool or animal skins fastened about his waist with a ceinture flechee.

Women made many of their materials, such as the drugget. They, too, would wear woolen stockings and moccasins in addition to a flannel skirt over a heavy slip or jupon, as well as a long-sleeved bodice and sturdy apron. In the winter, women would wear heavier blouses and skirts, shawls, and a cotton or woollen capuche on their heads to keep warm. Since most French-Canadian Americans today live in towns or cities rather than on farms, these clothes are worn only on festive cultural occasions. Part of the assimilation process was to adopt clothing that was "American."


Rounds were a popular form of song for French Canadians. Round dances, in which the participants, often children, danced in a circle making certain actions as they sang, were also popular.

Among the most popular traditional folk songs were those that told stories of settlers, voyageurs, or kings, and courtships between maidens and young men. For example, "À Saint Malo" told the tale of ladies and sailors who argued over the price of grain until the women eventually won and got the grain for nothing. Perhaps the best-known song is "Alouette," which came from France but is identified with Québec. It can be sung as a round and tells the tale of a lark.

Traditional French Canadian dances include the quadrille and the gigue (or jig). Square dances, with many of the calls in French, also became popular in the twentieth century. All of these involved musical accompaniment, with fiddles, harmonicas, and later accordions. As part of the tight family and community structures in French Canadian life, music and dancing were featured at any celebration.


Some of the major holidays are part of the Christmas season, from Advent (a time of fasting and prayer) to Christmas and its midnight mass followed by a réveillm (a repast designed to "wake you up"). There is also the feast on New Year's Day (a holy day of Obligation for Catholics that includes family visits and the bénédiction paternelle in which the father blesses all of his children and grandchildren) and finally Epiphany (called la Fête des Rois ) on January 6. For the evening meal on January 6 it was a French Canadian tradition to serve the Twelfth Night Cake (le gâteau des Rois "the cake of kings"). Inside the cake were a pea and a bean; whoever got the slice with the bean was deemed king and whoever found the pea was named queen. La Chandeleur or Candlemas, another winter holiday held on February 2, included a candlelit mass and pancake parties in the evening.

In addition to the religious liturgies and worship of Holy Week and Easter, there is Saint-Jean-Baptiste day on June 24. John the Baptist was declared the patron saint of French Canadians by the Pope in 1908. A society was established in the saint's name in 1834 to promote patriotic celebrations. November featured both All Saints' Day and Saint Catherine's Day, during which it was a French Canadian custom to pull taffy.


There are no ailments specific to French Canadians in the United States, with the exception of occupational maladies related to the fact that many of the newly arrived immigrants worked in dusty, grimy mills or quarries. Dr. Paul Dufault (1894-1969) and Dr. Gabriel Nadeau (b. 1900), both French Canadian immigrants, were leaders in the treatment of tuberculosis, spending the better part of their careers at the Rutland, Massachusetts State Hospital, the first State Hospital for tuberculosis patients in the United States.


French belongs to the Latin and Romance group of Indo-European languages. In The French Canadian Heritage in New England, Brault notes that "correct" speech was a sign of status, but that did not stop the evolution of syntactical and phonological differences. One French Canadian "dialect," called joual, is synonymous with the lower classes, or at least with loose pronunciation. Brault goes on to summarize some of the most obvious phonetic differences in the French spoken by French Canadians in Canada and the United States compared to France. A computerized dictionary called Trésor de la langue française au Québec (The Treasures of the French Language in Québec ) documents Canadian French.


Some of the most common French Canadian sayings are similar to those of France. Greetings and popular expressions include: Bonjour, or Salut each of which can be translated as "hello" depending on what degree of formality is intended; Au revoir Good bye; Bonne chance Good luck; Merci Thank you; De rien or Il n'ya pas de quoi You're welcome, or (literally in the first case), It was nothing; Félicitations Congratulations; Bonne Fête or Joyeux Anniversaire Happy Birthday; Bonne Année Happy New Year; Joyeux Noël Merry Christmas; and À votre ŝanté To your health.

Family and Community Dynamics

The family is at the center of the French-Canadian American's world. In previous decades this meant not only the nuclear family but the extended clan who would come together to eat, play card games, sing, drink, and dance.


Some tension has existed historically between French immigrants and French Canadians because, while French immigrants tended to be well-educated, most of the first French Canadian immigrants were farmers and received little if any formal education.

Although the French-Canadian Americans worked with Irish Americans in the mills and had a common religion in Catholicism, the language barrier and the sense that the Irish were established immigrants, having come a generation earlier, led to tension. In his 1943 account of New England immigrants, The Shadows of the Trees, Jacques Ducharme wrote that "many were to feel the caillou celtique, or 'Kelly Biscuit,' for in the early days the Irish were not averse to violence by way of showing their distaste for the newcomers." There was opposition to French teaching in schools, and it spilled over into the workplace, where there was favoritism based upon background, and the church, where it took years before American bishops brought French-speaking priests to Franco-American parishes.

There was also rampant prejudice against Catholics and Jews in New England in the 1920s. By 1925 the Ku Klux Klan numbered more than half a million. It supported the Protestants in the area and their efforts to "take back what was their own." This resulted in cross burnings and hooded Klansmen fighting with French-Canadian Americans throughout New England. Many French Canadian immigrants hid in their houses while the Klan stormed through the streets.


The tradition for immigrants at the turn of the century was a conservative courtship where a potential suitor might visit a young girl's home on Sunday evenings to spend time with the entire family. After a series of visits that became more private although always in public pursuits, such as buggy rides or swinging on the porchthe young man, or cavalier, would ask the father for the hand of his blonde in marriage. Often the young man was at least 21, although his fiancée could be as young as 16.

The wedding itself was a festive affair marked by feasting and dancing. In parishes, the bans would be read for three consecutive Sundays, naming the intention of that particular couple to marry. With all parishioners being so informed, if any impediments to the upcoming marriage existed, they could be announced then. Brault notes that in rural Québec, the bans might only be read once, because this procedure was viewed as embarrassing to the couple.

Much like today, the groom was given a stag party in his honor. In this case it was called the enterrement de la vie de garçon, or "burial of the bachelor life," and was symbolized by a mock funeral in which the groom lay on planks while a eulogy, sincere or in fun, was read over him. The bride, in turn, might be honored with a shower.

Wedding attire was influenced by the fashion of the time. The elaborateness of the ceremony was dictated by the wealth of the participants. The church bells pealed for the morning nuptial mass and a reception followed. Honeymoons often meant a few days' stay at a relative's home. Brault says that after marriage, French Canadian women were often expected to dress more conservatively and in darker colors, while men displayed their marital status by growing a mustache or wearing a gold watch and chain. Today, many of the marriage practices reflect a greater assimilation into American culture as well as a move away from a predominantly rural way of life.


Until recently, French-Canadian Americans tended to have large families, often with ten or more children. Baptisms, as a religious rite, were an integral part of life. As Brault describes, if there was any risk that the newborn might not survive, the priest was called immediately to baptize the baby. Otherwise the ceremony was performed within the first week. Traditionally, boys were given, as part of their name, Joseph, and girls given the name Marie, in addition to being named by the parents. Often one of the other given names was that of a godparent.

The role of godparent, as in other cultures, is filled by close relatives or friends. They are responsible for bringing up the child if the parents die, part of which includes ensuring that the child is brought up in the Catholic faith. After the baptismal ceremony, the parents, godparents, child, and guests returned to a family home for a celebratory meal. Godparents would bring gifts for the child, and, in the past, for the mother and the church sexton, who would ring the church bells to mark the occasion.


Brault states that French Canadians feared sudden death or la mort subité most because it meant there would be no time to prepare for death, particularly for the administering of the last rites by a priest. When a person died, the church sexton signalled the death by ringing the church bells. This, Brault says, not only told all those in the town that there had been a death, but also revealed who had died: one stroke signalled a child, two a woman, and three a man.

The wake took three days, during which visitors greeted the family in their home. Until it became the practice to carry out wakes in "funeral parlours," the dead were laid out in the family home. Flowers were not part of the setting, although it was customary to shroud the room in white sheets so it resembled a chapel and to hang a cross between a pair of candles at the person's head. The visitors came to pray with the family and gathered once an hour to recite the rosary.

After the wake, a morning funeral was held, complete with a mass in church, and then the body was taken to the cemetery for burial. The priest accompanied the family and other mourners and said a prayer as the casket was lowered into the burial plot. Everyone then returned to the family's home for a meal in honor of the dead person.


Religion is at the heart of French Canadian life. While in Canada, French Canadians were staunch Roman Catholics; this did not change when they immigrated to the United States. In fact, as was true in Canada, the church was an integral part of the early settlementsoften the priest acted as counselor in secular matters, in addition to spiritual leader. Some of the earliest parishes were established in the 1830s and 1840s in rural northern Maine. By the turn of the century, there were 89 Franco-American parishes.

In his book Ethnic Diversity in Catholic America, Harold J. Abramson states that the completeness with which French-Canadian Americans transplanted their religion, especially to the New England area, was partly due to being close to Canada. Basically, the immigrants set up the same sort of parish-centered social organization that had existed in the home country. In his book about Franco-American life in New England, The Shadows in the Trees, Jacques Ducharme wrote: "The Franco-Americans are profoundly attached to their parish church, and there one may see them every Sunday.... From Maine to Connecticut these churches stand, forming a forest of steeples where men, women and children come to pray in French and listen to sermons in French. When the tabernacle bell rings, know that it proclaims the presence of le bon dieu. "

Despite their proximity to Canada, French Canadians in New England experienced many of the trials typical to new immigrants, including discrimination by religion and language. The church offered them a place where their language could be freely spoken and celebrated. But in the early days, mass was often conducted by priests who spoke little or no French. Because of this, many attendees could not understand sermons, risked getting their meatless days wrong, and gave little for special collections because they did not understand what they were for.

The fight for French masses began in earnest in the late nineteenth century. For example, in October of 1884 parishioners at the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Church in Fall River, Massachusetts, began a two-year struggle against the Irish American Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, to gain a French-speaking priest after the death of their French Canadian pastor. Their battle successfully ended what became known as "the Flint Affair."

Often it was the Irish Americans who opposed French-language services. In May 1897, for example, French-Canadian Americans in North Brook-field, Massachusetts, wrote to the Papal Delegate to tell him that their Irish American priest would not allow religious services or teaching in French. It was not until 1903 that a French priest and French services were permitted. Such fights also went on in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine communities. It was also a matter of some time before French Canadians assumed positions of power within the Catholic church. The first Franco-American bishop was Georges-Albert Guertin (1869-1931), named Bishop of Manchester in 1906. He was followed by, among others, Ernest J. Primeau (1960-1974) and Odore J. Gendreau (1975 ).

These battles with the Irish Americans over religious issues continued into the 1920s. One of the most notable was the "Sentinelle Affair" of 1924-1929. A group of French-Canadian Americans, most from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had been concerned about their religion, language, and culture surviving in the United States. They resented the hierarchy of the Catholic church in the United States, which was mostly Irish, and militantly defended the Franco-American parochial schools and the fragile autonomy of the French-language parishes.

Religion played another role in Franco-American communities through religiously affiliated fraternal organizations. Like other ethnic groups, the French-Canadian Americans set these up to offer insurance as well as language and cultural activities to new and recent immigrants. The oldest of the two most prominent mutual benefit and advocacy organizations is the Association Canado-Américaine, founded in 1896, followed by the Union St. Jean Baptiste in 1900. Both still exist today, although the Union has since become affiliated with Catholic Family Life Insurance.

Employment and Economic Traditions

Immigration to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries effectively drained Québec of a large number of its young adults. Economic times were tough in Canada, and the newly opened mills in New England offered employment for both women and menalthough this was hard, back-breaking, and often unhealthy work. Many children joined the labor force in the mills as well. Women also earned money by taking in boarders. Another group of French Canadians settled near the forest of northern Maine to work in the logging industry.

Although the first major wave of immigrants was made up predominantly of farmers, mill workers, and lumbermen with little education, there was also a select group of educated individuals, such as priests, doctors, and lawyers who came to serve the needs of their people. Of course, as Franco-Americans became more established, the numbers of professionals grew. There is a rich history of French-language journalism, particularly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, in the early 1870s, Hugo Dubuque (1854-1928) of Fall River, Massachusetts, led the way in refuting Labor Commissioner Carroll D. Wright's description of French-Canadian Americans as "the Chinese of the Eastern States;" Dubuque became a Massachusetts Superior Court Justice after serving ten years (1888-1898) in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Another judge, Alfred J. Chretien, (b. 1900), who was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, attended Harvard University after spending his adolescence in Québec. After graduating, he established a law practice in Manchester, New Hampshire, and went on to be named Chief Justice of the Manchester Municipal Court in 1940. He played an active role in the formation of the Legal Aid Society of New Hampshire and was a member of the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges.

A number of French-Canadian Americans distinguished themselves in labor unions and syndicates. J. William Belanger (1902-c.1992), born in Newmarket, New Hampshire, began his working career at the age of 14 in the Hamlet Mills. As an employee of the Hope Knitting Company in Central Falls, Rhode Island, he founded a union affiliated with the American Federation of Labour (AFL) during the Great Depression, and later became director of the Textile Union of Massachusetts, affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In 1948 he was elected president of the Massachusetts CIO.

The first financial institution controlled by French Canadians in New England, the Banque Coopérative Lafayette, was set up in 1894 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Not long afterwards, the first Franco-American Credit Union in the United States, La Caisse Populaire Sainte-Marie, opened in Manchester, New Hampshire on November 24, 1908. Credit Unions were founded in most of the important Franco-American centers of New England. Initially parish-based, they later became independent entities that did much to support small businesses and to encourage home ownership.

Politics and Government

In his study of Franco-American life in New England, Gerard J. Brault states Franco-Americans have supported the Democratic presidential candidate since the election of 1928 when the Catholic Al Smith was defeated by Herbert Hoover. Franco-Americans also voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but by 1952 and 1956 most voted for the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. There are also regional trends: most today are Democrats, with the exception of French-Canadian Americans in New Hampshire and Vermont, where many are "dyed-inthe-wool Republicans." The Franco-American elite has also supported Republican candidates in the past. Even the working class voted the Republican ticket, as in Rhode Island, to elect one of their own, Aram Pothien, as governor or to distinguish themselves from the Irish who usually voted the Democratic ticket, as in Worcester, Massachusetts. Brault adds, however, that no recent comprehensive study has addressed the issue of historical voting patterns for the group at large. Patterns usually take into account religious and economic considerations, with French-Canadian Americans choosing the candidate who, on these two counts, is most supportive of their views.

In addition to being involved in local politics Maine alone boasts of more than 500 Franco-American mayors and state legislators in a single century. According to Brault, there have been a number of Franco-Americans in state and federal politics as well. Aram J. Pothier (1854-1928), a Republican, was chosen governor of Rhode Island in 1908 and served two terms, from 1909 to 1915 and from 1925 to 1928. Subsequent Franco-American governors also served in Rhode Island, including Democrats Emery J. Sansoucy (1857-1936) from 1921 to 1923 and Philip W. Noël (1931 ) from 1973 to 1977.

On a federal level, Franco-American senator Félix Hébert (1874-1969), a Republican, was elected in 1928 and served until 1934. Jean-Claude Boucher (1894-1960) was also a senator. Born in Rivière-Ouelle, Québec, his family moved to Lewiston, Maine, around the turn of the century, and he was elected a senator from Maine in 1935. Journalist Antonio Prince (1894-1973) made a run for the senate in 1935 as a Democratic candidate, but was not successful. Georgette Berube of Lewiston, Maine, a member of the state legislature, also made a run in the Democratic primary of June 1982, but was defeated.

Among those who have been elected U.S. representatives, there have been three French-Canadian Americans from Rhode Island (Louis Monast from 1927-1929; Aime J. Forand with two terms, 1937-1939 and 1941-1961; and Fernand J. St. Germain from 1961-82) and two from New Hampshire (Alphonse Roy from 1938-1939 and Norman E. D'Amours from 1975-1984). Internationally, editor Elie Vézina (1869-1942) was named a special ambassador to Haiti by President Herbet Hoover as a member of a Commission of Inquiry in 1930. Vézina, born in Québec, founded the newspaper Le Devoir in Michigan. Franco-Americans were also named to consular posts in France; Alphonse Gaulin, Jr., (b. 1874) of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was Consul to LeHavre in 1905 and to Marseilles in 1909, and Eugene-L.Belisle was named Consul to Limoges in 1906.


Franco-Americans have served in all of the major wars, including the American Revolution; some 800 French-Canadian Americans are believed to have fought for American independence. Rémi Tremblay (1847-1926) fought in the Civil War and wrote about his experiences in a novel entitled Un Revenant (1884). There are also many tales of French Canadians being tricked into enlisting in the Union Army. After being offered jobs in the United States and given gifts of money, many signed a document they could not read and travelled south only to find themselves put in uniform and bullied into taking part in the Civil War. For many who survived, it was a natural decision to stay in the United States, and if they were married, they sent for their families as soon as they were able.

One of the most famous images of World War II features a Franco-American, Private René A. Gagnon (1924-1979) of Manchester, New Hampshire, one of three raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. It was captured on film by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. Gagnon survived the battle and returned from the war to settle in Hooksett, New Hampshire.


Because of the proximity of Canadaat least to the large pockets of French-Canadian Americans in New Englandmany French Canadians in the United States still have strong ties to their home country. However, family ties seem to diminish with each passing generation: many third- and fourth-generation French-Canadian Americans have lost touch with relatives who stayed in Canada. French-language newspapers and Franco-American studies programs help French-Canadian Americans keep abreast of what is going on in Québec.

Individual and Group Contributions


Will Durant (1885-1981), raised in Massachusetts and New Jersey, received his Ph.D. from Columbia University at the age of 32. He published the first installment of Story of Civilization in 1935, and the tenth volume, entitled Rousseau and Revolution (co-written with his wife Ariel), won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Maximilienne Tétrault (1884-1959) of South-bridge, Massachusetts, studied at the University of Boston and at the Sorbonne in Paris, after which she taught French at the University of Baltimore, at Notre-Dame in Indiana, and from 1936 to 1944 in Detroit. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the role of the press in the evolution of the Franco-Americans of New England.

Professor Joseph Medard Carrière (1902-1970), whose specific interest was in folklore, published, in 1937, Tales from the Folklore of Missouri. He was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur by the French government in 1950.

Professor Gérard J. Brault (1929 ) was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. A specialist in the Middle Ages, he is also interested in the language and culture of Franco-Americans. In 1986 he published The French-Canadian Heritage in New England, an important English-language work on Franco-American life in the United States.

Armand Chartier (1938 ), born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is a professor of French at the University of Rhode Island. He published Historie des Franco-Américains de la Nouvelle-Augleteure in 1991, a thorough compendium of facts and figures on Franco-Americans from 1775 to 1990.

Claire Quintal (1930 ) is a professor of French at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, as well as the founding director of its French Institute. A native of Central Falls, Rhode Island, she is a scholar of Franco-American, French, and French-Canadian culture. Under her direction, the Institute has organized 11 colloquia, publishing the proceedings of these between 1980 and 1995.

Eloise Brière, born in Northhampton, Massachusetts, in 1946, has taught at Rutgers University and the State University of New York in Albany. Among her published work are The North American French Language in New York State (1982) and Franco-American Profiles (1984).


Hubert Prior "Rudy" Vallée (1901-1988) earned a doctorate from Yale but is best known for his film and stage career as a bandleader. In 1927 he created the Connecticut Yankees orchestra and later opened the New York cabaret club Villa Vallee. He starred in The Vagabond Lover (1939) and later on television. Born in Island Pond, Vermont, he was brought up in Westbrook, Maine, where he is buried in St. Hyacinthe cemetery.

Eva Tanguay (1878-1947), born in Marbletin, Québec, was brought up in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She starred for many years in the Ziegfeld Follies. Paul Bunyan (who had a blue bull named "Babe") was a French Canadian made famous by the loggers of Michigan. The "strong man" tradition was once very current throughout French North America. The best known of these were Joe Montferrand and Louis Cyr, who both performed in New England. The name Montferrand became synonymous with strength among Franco-Americans.


Many Franco-Americans have had distinguished careers in journalism, particularly in the early years of immigration to the New England states, when many started up French-language publications. One such individual was Ferdinand Gagnon (1849-1886), often referred to as "the father of Franco-American journalism." Gagnon was born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, and after studying at the seminary there, moved to Manchester, New Hampshire before settling in Worcester, Massachusetts. There he published Le Travailleur, the foremost newspaper of its day.

Born in Wottonville, Québec, Philippe-Armand Lajoie (1887-1964) moved to New England with his family in 1889. Lajoie became editor of Fall River's L'Indépendant in 1926, which later became one of the four best French-language dailies in New England. In addition to his writings, he was a noted composer of religious music.

Marthe Biron-Péloquin (1919 ) came from a family of journalists. Her father, Louis-Alphonse Biron (1861-1947), was born in Saint-Louis-de-Lotbiniere, Québec, but after moving to Lowell, Massachusetts, he founded L'Impartial in 1898 and later acquired L'Étoile (1939-1957), a local daily. Marthe wrote for L'Étoile, and served as an editor for Bulletin de la Fédération féminine franco-américaine (Bulletin of the Federation of Franco-American Women ) from 1973 to 1986.

Alexandre Bélisle (1856-1923) founded L'Opinion publique (Public Opinion ), in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1893. Bélisle also published a history of the French-language press in 1911, called Histoire de la presse franco-américaine.

Born in L'Epiphanie, Québec, Élie Vézina (1869-1942) immigrated to Michigan in 1890 where he founded the weekly Le Devoir in Muskegon. Vézina then worked in Chicago for the Courrier de l'Illinois. In 1930 President Herbert Hoover named him to a special commission in Haiti.

Wilford Beaulieu (1900-1978) founded Le Travailleur in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1931. The second newspaper in New England by that name, it honored the memory of Ferdinand Gagnon. A literary and cultural affairs weekly, the paper was an ardent voice in the cause of French survivance in New England. It ceased to be published after the death of its owner/publisher.


Among the best-known Franco-American authors is "Beat Generation" novelist Jean-Louis "Jack" Kerouac (1922-1969). In addition to On the Road, he profiled his youth spent in the French-speaking community of Lowell, Massachusetts, in books such as Doctor Sax (1959), Visions of Gerard (1963), and Vanity of Duluoz (1968). Another famous author is Grace (DeRepentigny) Metalious (1924-1964) of Manchester, New Hampshire, who wrote Peyton Place in 1956. The fiction best-seller was made into a film in 1957 and a long-running television series in the 1960s. Two of Metalious' other novels, The Tight White Collar (1960) and No Adam in Eden (1963), deal with working-class French Canadians in New England.

Josaphat Benôit (1900-1976), in addition to being editor of L'Avenir national, a paper in Manchester, New Hampshire, and co-founder of the paper L'Action in 1949, wrote a number of books dealing with Franco-Americans, such as L'Áme franco-américaine (1935), Rois ou esclaves de la machine? (1935), and Catéchisme d'historie franco-américaine (1939).

Georges-Alphonse Boucher was born in 1865 at Rivière-Bois-Clair, Québec. Trained as a physician, he settled in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1890. His first work of poetry was titled Ode à Québec, which was followed by three editions of Je me souviens and then Sonnets de guerre (1943), inspired by World War II. Other works include Chants du nouveau monde and his memoirs, Vie abrégée, published after his death in 1956.

Rémi Tremblay (1847-1926) was author of Un Revenant, one of the earliest novels published by a Franco-American, which dealt with the Civil War battle of Cold Harbor. Rosaire Dion-Lévesque (1900-1974), another Franco-American poet, translated Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Novelist and journalist Camile Lessard-Bissonette (b. 1883) was the author of Canuck (1936). Poet, novelist, and critic Louis Dantin (1865-1945), who was born Eugene Seers in Québec but later lived in Boston, wrote Les Enfances de Fanny.

Novelist Gérard Robichault, who spent his childhood and youth in Maine, writes such autobiographical novels as Papa Martel and The Apple of His Eye. Annie Prouex won the National Book Award (1993) and the Pulitzer (1994) for The Shipping News. The novel also received the Heartland Prize from the Chicago Tribune and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. Prouex was awarded a Pen/Faulkner Award in 1993 for her first novel Postcards. Annie David Plante (1940 ), who was born in Providence, Rhode Island, is a prolific writer with nine novels to his credit. Robert B. Perreault, the only Franco-American to publish a French-language novel since 1938, wrote L'Heritage (1983). Playwright Grégoire Chabot and poets Paul P. Chassé and Normand C. Dubé are also worthy of mention.


Composer Calixa Lavallée (1842-1891), born in Verchères, Québec, left for the United States at age 15, in 1857, to participate in the Civil War as part of the Fourth Rhode Island Regiment. After that he studied in Paris and, in 1879, became organist of the cathedral in Boston. Among his compositions are operas, marches, waltzes, and the music for the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada."

Opera singer Albaninée Emma Lajeunesse (1847-1930) moved to Plattsburgh, New York, from Chambly, Québec, in 1852, then back to Montréal before settling in Albany, New York, in 1864. She was a soloist, at age 18, at the cathedral in Albany and went on to sing at Covent Garden in London as well as touring Europe, Russia, Ireland, and the United States in various operatic roles. At the request of Edward VII, she sang at the funeral of Queen Victoria.

The Champagne brothersOctave (1859-1941), Eusebe (1865-1929), and Philias (1871-1957)played various instruments in local bands and orchestras in Lowell, Massachusetts where the family had settled. Masterful performers of French Canadian folk music, they also played their own compositions. Octave published and distributed the songs written by the other two.

Violinist Joseph-Émile Chambord Giguère (1877-c.1957) was the son of French-Canadian musicians who moved to the United States around 1874. Giguère, who was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, studied in both Canada and the United States as well as at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, Belgium. After returning from Europe, he toured North America extensively.

Montréal-born composer and musician Pierre-Amedee Tremblay (1876-c.1949) served as organist at cathedrals in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. He composed the operetta L'Intransigeant and also published, in 1902, a collection of French Canadian folksongs, Dix-huit chansons populaires du Canada.

C. Alexander Peloquin (1918 ), born in Northbridge, Massachusetts, is a noted organist and composer of sacred music. He began his career in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and has for more than 40 years been organist at the Catholic Cathedral in Providence, Rhode Island. Named Director of Choral Activities at Boston College in 1955, he also founded the Peloquin Chorale in Rhode Island after World War II.


Inventor Victor Bélanger (1856-1918), the founder of the Worcester, Massachusetts, newspaper Le Courrier de Worcester is credited for developing a rotating coil for spinning cotton. Another inventor was John C. Garand (1888-1974). Born in St. Remi, Québec, Garand moved to Jewett City, Connecticut. He is credited with the design of the .30 caliber Springfield rifle, which was used by American troops during World War I. His M1 rifle, which eliminated manual operation of the bolt mechanism, was adopted as standard equipment by the Army, Navy, and Marines in 1936 and was a staple weapon during World War II and the Korean War.


Napoléan ("Larry" or "The Big Frenchman") Lajoie (1875-1959), a member of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, was a contemporary of Ty Cobb. Lajoie still ranks as the player with the seventh-highest batting average in major league history, averaging .339 in his 21 years in the major leagues, which ended in 1919. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. Another Cleveland Indian was Louis Boudreau, born in Harvey, Illinois, in 1917. He was with the Cleveland team from 1938 to 1950, as both player and manager, during which time he was the youngest manager in the major leagues. Boudreau went on to play for and manage the Boston Red Sox (1950-1955) and then moved on to the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1957). He was nominated to the Hall of Fame in 1970. A third famous Franco-American in baseball is Leo Durocher (1905-1982), born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Durocher spent 41 years in the major leagues, first as a player and later as a manager. He led the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the New York Giants to three National League pennants in the years 1941, 1951, and 1954, and the Giants to a World Series victory in 1954.

Other Franco-American athletes include marathon runner and Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit (1957 ); boxer George "Kid" Lavigne (1869-1936); and Henri Renaud, the first Franco-American to win the Boston Marathon on April 19, 1909.


Sculptor Lucien Gosselin (1883-1940) was born in Whitefield, New Hampshire. The nephew of French-Canadian sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert, he studied in Paris from 1911 to 1916 and is known for his statues, monuments, and designs for commemorative medals. Another artist of the period was Lorenzo de Nevers (1877-1967), born in Baidu-Febure, Québec. He spent ten years in Paris (1902-1912) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and upon his return, he established his studio in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where his family had prospered in the furniture business. He is known for his religious paintings, portraits, and landscapes.

Born in Old Town, Maine, Bernard Langlais (1921-1977) is known for his large and somewhat whimsical carvings of animals. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art has three of his sculptures"Seated Bear," "Horse in Field," and "Lion"in its permanent collection. Another Franco-American sculptor, Armand Lammtague (c.1940 ), who was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island, is known for his life-size statues of sports figures, especially Larry Bird, the basketball star, and Bobbie Orr of hockey fame.

Woodcarving is a celebrated art in Franco-American culture. One of the most famous woodcarvers was Adelard Côté (1889-1974), originally from St. Sophie, Québec. Côte moved to Biddeford, Maine, in his early twenties. Although a blacksmith by trade, he began whittling in his fifties and was a prolific artist, creating elaborate primitive carvings, many with moving parts.

Photographer Ulric Bourgeois (1874-1963) received his first camera at age 11. This artist, born in Fulford, Québec, moved to Manchester, New Hampshire, soon after he married in 1899, and opened up a studio. His work documents Franco-American life in New England and Québec, which he visited often. His life provided inspiration for the Québec film J.A. Martin, photographe.



The first French Canadian newspaper published in the United States was Le Patriote Canadien, the first issue of which was printed in Burlington, Vermont, on August 7, 1839. The Franco-American press served not only to disseminate news, but also as a forum for ideas. French-language and bilingual papers flourished in the United States until the 1930s, when many were abandoned by readers in favor of English-language dailies. Some of those available today follow.

Le Canado-Americain.

Quarterly fraternal magazine published in English and French.

Contact: Julien Olivier, Editor.

Address: 52 Concord Street, P.O. Box 989, Manchester, New Hampshire 03101-1806.

Telephone: (603) 625-8577; or (800) 222-8577.

Fax: (603) 625-1214.

Le F.A.R.O.G. Forum.

A bilingual quarterly, first printed in 1972, it comes out of the University of Maine's Center for Franco-American Studies with a circulation of more than 4,500. The Center also publishes the bilingual quarterly newspaper Le Forum, which offers articles on the activities of prominent Franco-Americans, book reviews, genealogy information, and scholarly pieces on Franco-American studies.

Contact: Rhea Côté-Robbins.

Address: Center Franco-Américain, University of Maine, 126 College Avenue, Orono, Maine 04469.

Telephone: (207) 581-3775.

Le Journal de Lowell.

Founded in 1975, the journal has a circulation of about 4,200, mostly in Massachusetts. This French-language monthly features news on the New England region as well as news from Québec and France.

Contact: Albert V. Côté.

Address: P.O. Box 1241, Lowell, Maine 01853.

Telephone: (508) 453-1780.

La Revue Canado-Américaine.

Published by the Association Canado-Américaine.

Contact: Paul Paré.

Telephone: (603) 622-2883.

Le Soleil de la Floride.

This monthly, founded in 1983 with a circulation of 65,000, reaches French-speaking readers throughout Florida, Québec, and parts of the Caribbean, especially French-Canadian "snowbirds" who spend winter in warmer climates.

Contact: Jean Laurac, Editor.

Address: 2020 Scott Street, Hollywood, Florida 33020.

Telephone: (305) 923-4510.

Fax: (305)923-4533.

E-mail: [email protected]

Online: http:/


This bilingual quarterly newspaper, which is free to its members, is sent to some 16,000 households. It is published by the Union St.-Jean-Baptiste (USJB), a fraternal life insurance organization for French-Canadian Americans with 44,000 members.

Contact: Joseph Gadbois (English); or, Bernard Theroux (French).

Address: 68 Cumberland Street, P.O. Box F, Woonsocket, Rhode Island 02895-9987.

Telephone: (401) 769-0520.


WCUW-FM (91.3).

"L'Heure Française" Airs every Saturday from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Contact: Marcel Raymond.

Address: 910 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01610.

Telephone: (508) 753-1012.

WFEA-AM (1370).

"Franco-American Hour" broadcasts music and information from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.

Contact: Joe Maltais.

Address: 500 Commercial Street, Manchester, New Hampshire 03101.

Telephone: (603) 669-5777.

Fax: (603) 669-4641.

WHTB-AM (1400).

Broadcasts every Sunday from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Contact: Bernard Theroux.

Address: 1 Home Street, Somerset, Massachusetts 02725.

Telephone: (508) 678-9727.

Fax: (508) 673-0310.

WNRI-AM (1380).

Broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to noon.

Contact: Roger Laliberte.

Address: 786 Diamond Hill Road, Woonsocket, Rhode Island 02895.

Telephone: (401) 769-6925.

Fax: (401) 762-0442.

WSMN-AM (1590).

"The French Program," broadcast every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Contact: Maurice Parent.

Address: 502 West Hollis Street, P.O. Box 548, Nashua, New Hampshire 03061.

Telephone: (603) 882-5107.

Fax: (603) 883-4344.

E-mail: [email protected]



This half-hour programproduced in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the Cable Network and rebroadcast on the public broadcasting system in Maineis repeated a number of times each week. It includes interviews of French-Canadian Americans on topics from music to cooking. Broadcast in French, it serves local audiences in New England and New York. It is also broadcast in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Québec.

Contact: Paul Paré.

Address: Association Canado-Americaine, 52 Concord Street, P.O. Box 989, Manchester, New Hampshire 03105-0989.

Telephone: (603) 625-8577.

Organizations and Associations

In addition to the organizations listed below, there are many local historical societies and genealogical societies for Franco-Americans throughout the United States. See Le Répertoire de la vie française en Amérique, a sourcebook of French Canadian organizations in the United States and Canada, for more information.

Association Canado-Américaine.

Supports 45,000 members and local branches in many states, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, as well as in Canada. Its interests include life insurance, cultural excursions, a summer camp, and a French-language cable television program for the New England region.

Contact: Eugene Lemieux.

Address: 52 Concord Street, P.O. Box 989, Manchester, New Hampshire 03105-0989.

Telephone: (603) 625-8577.

Fédération Féminine Franco-Américaine de la Nouvelle-Angleterre (Federation of French-American Women.

Consists of some 5,000 women in 49 local associations who organize conferences, projects for seniors, cultural exchanges, and aid for students in French programs in a bid to promote French cultural interests in the New England region. Among the local associations are branches in Bristol, Connecticut; Lowell, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire; Woonsocket, Rhode Island; and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Contact: Marthe W. Whalon, President.

Address: 240 Highland Avenue, Fall River, Massachusetts, 02720.

Telephone: (508) 678-1800.

Union St. Jean Baptiste.

USJB, which serves over 40,000 members, has local branches throughout New England.

Contact: Charles Boisvert, Assistant Vice President.

Address: 68 Cumberland Street, P.O. Box F, Woonsocket, Rhode Island 02895-9987.

Telephone: (401) 769-0520; or (800) 225-USJB.

Fax: (401) 766-3014.

Museums and Research Centers

Center Franco-Américain.

Established in 1991, the Center is loosely affiliated with the fraternal organization Association Canado-Américaine. This resource center has an art gallery with featured exhibitions, a library, and offers French-language classes. The Center is also affiliated with the Federation Americaine Franco-American des Aînés/Francophone American Federation of the Elderly (FAFA), founded in 1981 to promote the interests of Franco-American seniors in both local affairs, as well as on a state and national scale.

Contact: Adele Baker, Director.

Address: 52 Concord Street, P.O. Box 989, Manchester, New Hampshire 03105-0989.

Telephone: (603) 669-4045.

Center Franco-Américain de l'Université du Maine.

Part of the University of Maine since 1972. Resources here include library and video materials on Franco-Americans and their publications, F.A.R.O.G. Forum and Maine Mosaic.

Contact: Yvon A. Labbé, Director.

Address: 126 College Avenue, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469.

Telephone: (207) 581-3775.

Conseil International d'Etudes Francophones.

Founded in 1981, this research center conducts studies of Franco-American literature, history, culture and language. Although its headquarters are at Montclair State University in New Jersey, it includes in its membership 300 individuals and 25 organizations.

Contact: Maurice Cagnon, President.

Address: French Department, Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, New Jersey 07043.

Telephone: (201) 655-4000.

Fédération Franco-Américaine du New York.

Sponsors lectures on the French in America, Québec films, language courses, the Fête du Roi (Twelfth Night) a winter cultural celebration, and exchanges with Québec. These activities, mostly in English, are for the public as well as members. Founded in Cohoes, New York in 1980, this organization, with about 140 members, also publishes a bulletin, Franco-Nouvelles, at least nine times a year.

Contact: Bernard Ouimet.

Address: Box 12-942, Albany, New York 12212.

Telephone: (518) 692-2690.

Institut Français.

Founded in 1979, the institute is associated with Assumption College. It has organized 11 colloquia and published 12 books dealing with the French experience in New England. These include The Little Canadas of New England, as well as books on schools, religion, literature, the press, women, and folklore. The center collects documents on Franco-Americans and its holdings contain such archival materials as manuscripts, newspapers, and books.

Contact: Claire Quintal, Director.

Address: Assumption College, 500 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01615-0005.

Telephone: (508) 752-5615.

Sources for Additional Study

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

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

French America: Mobility, Identity, and Minority Experience across the Continent, edited by Dean R. Louder and Eric Waddell, translated by Franklin Philip. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

Parker, James Hill. Ethnic Identity: The Case of the French Americans. Washington: University Press of America, Inc., 1983.