International Women’s Day – celebrating Franco-American “Home”

LEWISTON, Maine – March 8, 2019 is International Women’s Day.

USM LAC FAC program in support of International Women's Day

A program to highlight Franco-American women will be held on Friday, March 8, 2019, at 4 PM at USM LAC hosted by the Franco-American Collection.

A discussion about the important role of Franco-American women in supporting the concept of “Home”,  will be hosted at the Franco-American Collection, on Friday March 8, 2019, beginning at 4 PM, with speakers and an exhibit depicting the biographies of local women. The Franco-American Collection (FAC) is an archives located in the main campus building at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College, (USM LAC), located at 51 Westminster Street, in Lewiston.

“Home” is the theme of the program.  A reflection about the theme will raise the awareness about how women create “home”.  Is “home” a place? Is it a “past”?  A “person”? Or, an “idea”?

Two presenters, Katie Theriault of Lewiston and Zahra Houssein, who is a native of Djibouti, will lead the presentation and discussion, in room 170, on the first floor at the USM LAC.

Theriault is a graduate of Lewiston High School and Colby College in Waterville Maine. Houssein was a French teacher in Djibouti. She attended the University of Djibouti and the University of Dijon, in France. She has lived in Lewiston for the past three years.

Franco-American women who share international experience and are natives of Lewiston will be highlighted in an exhibit, located inside the Franco-American Collection’s archives. Three of their biographies are summarized below:

Tante Blanche

Remarkable Maine Women by Kate Kennedy describes the life and heroism of Tante Blanche: The Mother of Madawaska

  1. Marguerite Blanche Thibodeau Cyr (1738-1810) – Heroine of the Acadian people. In 1797, during a winter when violent storms assaulted the northernmost area of Maine, known before statehood as Madawaska territory, the 59 year old “Tante Blanche”, traveled to isolated cabins to help save lives in her community.  This account is described in “More That Petticoats: Remarkable Maine Women” by Kate Kennedy and in Madawaska’s history.
  2. Ida Levesque (1914-1940) – An obituary published in the local news: Lewiston Nun Dies in France Sister Myriam killed by a Nazi bomb

LEWISTON, Me, on August 16, 1940,  a refugee fleeing the Nazi horde, Sister Myriam daughter of State Representative and Mrs. Pierre Levesque of 128 Blake Street, was killled by a German bomb near Bethune, France, sometime in June.  According to a letter received by her parents today.  Born Ida Levewaue, Sister Myriam, a Dominican nun, had been living at Bethune at the Institute Ste Jeanne D’Arc.

Sister Myriam was born in Lewiston on the day the first World war was declared on August 3, 191. She entered the Dominican order in 1933, at Valleyfield, Quebec.  She went to France to study in 1935 and completed her religious studies at the Sorbonne. She was to have returned to Lewiston as a teacher next Fall (1941).

The letter, written by Sister Maria Dominique, of the Institute, told how Sister Myriam attempted to flee Bethune in the company of Sister Marie De Bethlehem. When the bombardment began, the sisters took refuge in a small house at the side of the road.  Ten other persons were also huddled in the wooden structure where the bomb struck.  Seven of them were killed while the rest were severely injured.  Sister Marie De Bethlehem was buried in the debris for 19 hours before a group of nuns effected a rescue. When the letter was written, Sister Marie was recovering.

  1. Madeleine Giguere (1925-2004) was the founder of the Franco-American Collection at USM LAC.  As described in her obituary, she was a prominent lifelong resident of Lewiston, although she traveled extensively. Notably, she was the author, and editor of numerous groundbreaking publications about Franco-Americans and she was an internationally recognized authority on the analysis of the U.S. Census, since 1970.  She was a sociologist and a professor at the University of Southern Maine. Giguere was instrumental in having ethnic heritage questions included in national surveys, and because of her meticulous examination of this data, the Franco-Americans’ quiet presence in Maine and throughout New England was documented and made more visible. Moreover, she served on state-wide committees defending women’s rights and promoting Franco-American contributions to Maine

Coordinators for the International Women’s Day program about Franco-American women and “Home” are Doris Bonneau, president of the FAC and Jacynthe Jacques, a member of the archive’s Board.  This program is free and open to the public.  Check the website for more information.

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.