Growing Up Franco-American with no patent leather shoes

“We kept such a low profile that it was only in 1977 that Maine recognized Franco-Americans as an ethnic group, even though we had been here for scores of years”, wrote Lorraine Dutile Masure, in her autobiographical memoir.  Writing personal and often comical short narratives, Masure has given readers personal insight to the Franco-American experience.

Growing Up Franco-American by Lorraine Dutile Masure

A heartfelt story with comical overtones describes what makes the Franco-American experience special.

In her cultural memoire, Masure answers the question “What is a Franco-American?” This often asked question arises because French-Canadians were successful in becoming part of the English speaking American culture.

Masure presented an educational and uplifting program about her growing up experiences, on October 10, at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn Campus (USM LAC), sponsored by the Franco-American Collection. There were two principal reasons why Masure wrote about her Franco-American heritage. “I wanted to acknowledge the brave decision made by my grandparents. They were Elmire Beauchesne Côté and Joseph Côté- the ‘original dreamers’.”

Lorraine Dutile Masure (right) and Doris Bonneau

Lorraine Dutile Masure (right) author of “Growing Up Franco-American (with no patent leather shoes)” and Doris Bonneau, president of the USM LAC Franco-American Collection, in Lewiston.

Her grandparents made the decision to leave their agrarian way of life in Quebec, to come to the United States, to work in our mills and to earn a predictable paycheck. They traveled about 400 miles, from their homes where they worked on farms, to live in a ‘mechanical age’. They made this transition during the industrial revolution, when the power of fast-running water fueled many manufacturing mills. They also left Quebec to escape the English government in Canada, after the French lost the war in 1759, on the Plains of Abraham”, she said.

A second reason for writing the book was to compare and contrast what life was like after the French Canadians settled in the US.  She described this comparison through charming personal stories.  Among them were memories about food, religious beliefs, and practices, the speaking of French in the home, the celebrations of music and an affirmation of family values. These continue to be the attributes that define the Franco-American identify and Masure have given the light of cultural pride to all of them.

“By writing this book, I hope to give a cultural nudge to Franco-Americans, to urge them to take pride in our rich heritage. I hope we will speak the language we learned growing up, it is the French we spoke at home. It doesn’t matter how we learned French, it is a beautiful language. I don’t aspire to speak Parisian French, but all who are non-Franco probably don’t aspire to speak British English, either,” she said.

Masure was born in Lewiston and grew up in the Sanford-Springvale community. It was an honor for me to introduce her to the audience at USM LAC, with the Franco-American Collection.  As a matter of fact, during the years when Masure was an academic Dean at the University of Southern Maine in York County, she came to know Madeleine Giguere, who was the benefactor of the Collection at USM LAC. “I admired her and the Franco-American academic courses she wrote,” she said. In fact, Masure even sent an audio taped course about Franco-Americans, taught by Giguere, to her brother, who was the Dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School, in Indiana.

Masure lives in Sanford. Her email is shawmut@metrocast.net.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.