French Heritage Center to host Jan. 27 talk on French Canadian immigration
(Photos courtesy of French Heritage Center)
CHICOPEE – The recently formed French Heritage Center will present “French Canadian Immigration to New England,” the next program in its “Rendez-vous” Lecture Series, on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. in the Elms College Library Theatre.
The speaker will be Leslie P. Choquette (pictured at left), a professor of Francophone Cultures and director of the French Institute at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., where she also teaches history. Her courses have included “France Since 1789” and “The History of Canada.”
Professor Choquette received her bachelor of arts degree from Radcliffe College and her master of arts and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. She is the author of the book Frenchmen into Peasants: Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling of French Canada, which won the Alf Andrew Heggoy prize in French colonial history. She also has written many articles about the French presence in North America.
In November 2012, Professor Choquette received Le Prix du Québec from the Québec Government for her contribution to the field of Québec Studies. She recently attended a conference in Paris, where she had the opportunity to do research.
One and a half million Canadians immigrated to New England in search of work in the booming textile mills, such as the one in Chicopee, pictured at right, and a Holyoke mill, below left. They came from Quebec mainly between 1840 and the years of the Great Depression in the 20th century.
French Canadian Americans, because of their proximity to Canada, kept their language, culture and religion alive much longer than any other ethnic group. From 1900 to 1930, more than 250,000 Canadians immigrated to Massachusetts alone.
Many New England cities formed “Little Canadas,” but most of these have gradually disappeared. A revival of the Canadian identity has taken place in some states, where Franco- Americans number more than seven or eight generations. A return to their roots seems to be taking place, with a greater interest in all things that are French.
The mission of the French Heritage Center in Chicopee is to honor, display, preserve and promote the legacy of Franco-Americans. The committee is seeking a donated space or building to call “home” in the Springfield Street, Chicopee historic district.
Anyone interested in becoming involved with the committee or wishing to become an “ami” of the center, can contact Marie Proulx Meder at email@example.com or call Jeanne Hebert at 413-594-9332.
The Jan. 27 educational lecture is free of charge and refreshments will be served.