Sunday, March 9, 2014
Rhea Cote Robbins is a
Robbins is the founder, and the executive director of the Franco-American Women’s Institute (FAWI) and a
Rhea Cote Robbins, a Maine writer and founder of the Franco-American Women's Institute and editor of "Canuck & Other Stories", presented at the Auburn Public Library
In fact, since the beginning of the 17th century when French immigration to
Perhaps this heroism is rooted in the life of the famous Saint Joan of Arc, but it’s also been carried out by women who dedicated their lives to religious orders, to defending their frontier homes in times of war and in caring for others, during times of extraordinary need.
Robbins has collected a vast amount of information about Franco-American women, which she’s made available in a website loaded with public resources, at http://www.fawi.net/.
Franco-American women are important in every phase of the culture. Although they’re honored in public statuary and religious histories, most of their writings and stories about their heroism are published in French and, therefore, not widely distributed.
“As a result, their voices have been silenced and now need to be heard,” she says.
Writings from three particular women who published in French are now available in English, featured in one book,“Canuck & Other Stories”, edited by Robbins. These three authors’ writings are in the translations (translators credited):
· Camille Lessard Bissonnette (1883-1970), “Canuck”, a book about the French Canadian immigration experience from a young woman’s point of view, translated by Sue Huseman and Sylvie Charron;
· Alberte Gastonguay (1906-1978), “La Jeune Franco-Americaine: The Young Franco-American”, about the Lewiston French, as published in the newspaper Le Messager in 1933, translated by Madeleine C. Pare Roy; and
· Corinne Rocheleau Rouleau (1881-1963) “Francaise d’Amerique, Frenchwomen of
“Generations of Franco-American women forebears are described in the writings,” says Robbins.
Moreover, the three women writers address contemporary themes like domestic violence, equal pay, marriage and family. “They are the role models who lived the immigration experience,” she says. In so doing, they left for us to read a legacy about how women can “multitask”, by caring for others while still standing up for ourselves.
"Canuck & Other Stories", a translation edited by Rhea Cote Robbins
Robbins grew up in
“There was a time when I tried to walk away from the Franco-American culture,” she says. “But, we always manage to come back.”
As a matter of fact, her bilingual ability helped her to access higher education and achieve a degree at the
“I finally identified as a Franco-American when I was given an opportunity to advance my education and my bilingual background at the University, especially by working with the
Attending the workshop in
“It’s important for us to communicate beyond ourselves, about how the French culture honors women and women heroines,” says Robbins.Tweet
Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.
Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.