Franco-American Civic League (Fall River, Mass.) records
Scope and Contents
The Franco-American Civic League (Fall River, Massachusetts) Historical Collection is divided into six series. Series I consists of FACL administrative and subject files assembled by Lucienne Dionne. Administrative files include the league’s bylaws and constitution, correspondence, press releases and special event programs and tickets. Subject files cover individuals and organizations of interest to members of the French Canadian community of Fall River. Series II consists of materials collected on religious organizations such as the Dominican Fathers of Fall River, the Federation of Cercles Lacordaire, and the Franco-American Federation of Fall River. This series also contains information on Fall River parishes, including Notre Dames de Lourdes and St. Anne's, two of the oldest parishes in Fall River. Series III includes pamphlets, programs, and newspapers articles on French Canadian social/cultural organizations of Greater Fall River. Of note in this series are the records of the Calumet Club. Series IV includes items from educational organizations such as La Societe de Concours de Francais de Fall River and materials relating to French education and instruction. There were a number of French primers with this collection that have been catalogued as Special Collections monographs. Series V contains items collected by Josephine Perrault, including a scrapbook and collection of religious books. Series VI contains examples of Franco-American newspapers, including L'Independant and Le Petit Courrier. The collection includes one artifact, the parade suit and top hat worn by Dr. Omer Boivin on the occasion of the dedication of Monument du Lafayette in Fall River.
- 1870 - 1993
Conditions Governing Access
Biographical / Historical
French-Canadians first emigrated to New England during and after the Insurrection of 1837-1838
in which agricultural workers rebelled from poor living conditions, low pay. The farmers suffered from
illiteracy and limited access to proper education; received inadequate, if any, representation in government;
and were generally disliked by the British-Canadians. Controlled by the British-Canadians, the
government was unsympathetic and as a result, many French-Canadians fled to neighboring New England.
By 1868, Fall River received its first wave of French-Canadian emigrants. Like those "patriotes"
of the Insurrection, these French-Canadians had also experienced poor living conditions in Quebec. Both
the government and the Catholic Church, however, criticized them for leaving their native Canada. The
Church, for example, blamed the emigrants for "forsaking their beloved motherland in favor of New
England, the home of the ancient Puritan and Protestant enemy" (Quintal, p. 149).
French-Canadians were attracted to Fall River, known as the “Spindle City” because of its wealth
of opportunities in textile mill work, masonry, carpentry, painting, fishing, and boat-building. Because of
lax labor laws, children also found work, especially in the textile mills. Though they were paid very low
wages, the extra earnings greatly helped their impoverished families who lived in unsanitary, cramped
apartments. Nevertheless, due to a strong work ethic, religious faith, and devotion to education, these once
very poor agricultural workers were able to donate their earnings, time, and energy to aid in the
construction of impressive cathedrals and parochial schools.
Franco-Americans at first chose not to assimilate; they preserved their ethnic identity, including
their language. This preservation of the French-Canadian heritage was accomplished through the
establishment of Catholic churches and parochial schools, the two most important aspects of FrancoAmerican
life. In Fall River, as in most other Franco-American communities of New England, the
Catholic Church penetrated the lives of all Franco-Americans by their involvement in parochial schools,
civic organizations, newspaper publications, and hospitals.
By 1900, over 400,000 Franco-American organizations had been established as this ethnic
minority became the majority, not only in Fall River, but in many ethnic communities throughout New
England. Additionally, the Notre Dame Church became known as the most powerful Franco-American
Catholic church in the United States (The Notre Dame Church, built in 1874 on Eastern Avenue to help
alleviate overcrowding in St. Anne's Church, burned in 1982). Education of Franco-American youths
flourished and by the 1950s, it had reached its climax. Unfortunately, the 1970s and 1980s brought major
changes to the Franco-American parochial school systems. Poor economies and subsequent cutbacks in
education forced the closings and/or consolidations of parochial schools throughout New England. As of
1995, St. Anne's was the only parochial school left in Fall River (Quintal, p. 282).
The Franco-American Civic League was established in 1926 to promote the civic, social, educational, industrial, and professional advancement of American citizens of French descent in the Fall River area. The League has also been successful in bringing about a better understanding of and appreciation for Franco-Americans since they have contributed much to society. Other accomplishments of the League have included assisting the young, old, and ill; participating in the development educational, religious, and cultural programs and events; initiating scholarship programs; and promoting the perpetuation of French customs and the French language. With the support of a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, the historical collection was assembled by league members under the leadership of Lucienne Dionne, between 1986 and 1996, before it was transferred to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Reference: Claire Quintal, ed. Steeples and Smokestacks: a collection of essays on the Franco-American experience in New England. Worcester, MA: Assumption College, Institut francais, 1996.
11.5 Linear Feet (20 manuscript boxes and 12 oversize boxes)
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by the Franco-American Civic League of Fall River in March of 1996; accession #96-18.
Richelieu International memos, programs, and newspaper articles, 1966,1983,1984 removed to MC135,Club Richelieu-Fall River records. Calumet Club records, 1910-1959, reprocessed as MC 137, Calumet Club records.
Background note and finding aid by Julie Fernandes ('99); processing by Julie Fernandes and Cecilia Weeks '96; completed December 1998.
- Franco-American Civic League (Fall River, Mass.) records
- Julie Fernandes ('99)
- completed December 1998
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description