Franco-American History: A Primer

If you’re unfamiliar with the history of French-Canadian immigration to the U.S., I highly recommend this very comprehensive article by Damien-Claude Bélanger of the University of Montreal and Claude Bélanger of Marianopolis College, also in Montreal. Entitled French Canadian Emigration to the United States, 1840-1930, the Bélangers’ paper explains the factors that often led immigrants to leave Canada and some of the challenges they faced establishing their families in the United States. Among the impressive statistics they quote:

– In the 1980 U.S. census, 13.6 million Americans claimed to have French ancestors.
– In larger centers such as Lowell, Woonsocket, and Lewiston, French-Canadian immigrants made up 25-60% of the population by 1900.
– Around 1900 most Quebecois and Acadian families would have had some family members living in the U.S.
– There would be 4 to 5 million more francophones living in Canada today if this immigration had not taken place.

Yet, strangely, this chapter of Quebec history has been largely erased from collective memory in Canada, and in the U.S. it is often ignored as well.

My solo show, Piecework: When We Were French, is in part an effort to revive the memory of this group of immigrants and their influence on American history and culture. My fundraising campaign, to support the making of a DVD of the show, has reached nearly 50% of its goal in this, its second week. Click here to learn more!

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