The establishment of French culture in North America, an important story that continues today with strong Franco-American communities in Maine and beyond, began in the 17th century, says Juliana L’Heureux, a journalist who has been describing the phenomenon for more than 35 years. She will present “Sent by the King: Franco-American Ancestral Pride for ‘Les Filles du Roi,’ in a Zoom talk from the Cushing Public Library on Thursday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m.
The program is free and open to the public. To register, call Wendy Roberts at 207-691-0833 or email email@example.com.
Louis XIV was the king and les filles were young females shipped to North America to provide French émigrés with wives. The goal was to promote growth and stability in New France, in competition with England and other European powers. Centuries later, says L’Heureux, the results are to be seen in vital cultural communities in Canada, Maine and other areas, known for pride in their heritage and strong family fabric. A significant percentage of Mainers self-identify as Franco-American.
L’Heureux will describe the history of choosing les filles (about 800) and their impact on early North America. They were selected for their good health and propriety and committed themselves to married life in the harsh climate of Quebec and further south. Their names are known and honored by many descendants. Annie Proulx’s recent book, Barkskins, describes the setting in Canada at the time of les filles’ arrival.
Juliana L’Heureux served on the Maine Legislative Task Force about Franco-Americans and in 2018 was inducted into Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame. She is currently chair of the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College. She has written extensively on Franco-American culture and currently publishes a blog in the Bangor Daily News.