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As you research and learn more about a topic, you will begin to consider the historical context of a topic to narrow the focus of your research.

In your initial post, do the following:

  • Share the topic you have chosen for the projects in this course will your classmates. Briefly describe the historical event you have chosen to analyze as well as the research question you will attempt to answer in your essay. (THIS IS THE TOPIC!!!!!
  • Consider your webtext reading about Québécois immigration. If you were researching this topic, what else would you like to know about the experience of the Québécois immigrants in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1870 that might not be covered in this piece?

Coming to America: The Québécois

A Québécois family arriving from Montreal, 1913. (Click button for citation)

From the late 19th century until the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, an estimated one million French-speaking Canadians came to America in search of jobs, an event sometimes referred to as the Quebec diaspora. Also known as Québécois (or Quebeckers, in English), this population of French-speaking people was drawn to America by the promise of industrial jobs in New England. This group was initially slow to assimilate* because of the language barrier and the fact that most of them were Catholic, in contrast to the predominantly Protestant populations of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Québécois were able to enter the United States easily during this time period because the border was open. Before 1895, immigration officials did not even monitor the border between the United States and Canada, so numbers of Québécois immigrants during this period are only estimates. When the U.S. imposed immigration quotas in 1921, Canadians were exempt. It was not until the system changed almost half a century later that Canadians would be subject to immigration quotas; 1968 was the first year in which Canadians were required to get visas in order to permanently relocate to this country. (Kelly, 2013)

Click on the tabs below to learn more about different aspects of life for the Québécois in the United States.

Select a list item tab, press enter, then search down for text. When you hear End of tab content, go back to the next list item to access the next list item tab.

Historical Context

In 1870, the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, was the second largest textile manufacturing city in the United States. Three out of four working people in Lowell earned a living in the textile factories. At that time, six percent of the population of the city was Canadian. By 1900, that number jumped to 16 percent, because of the increased immigration of Québécois to the area. (Early, 1982)

Lowell, MA, mills on the Merrimack River. (Click button for citation)

Lowell is just one example of the rapid migration of Québécois from Quebec to the northeastern United States. This migration was spurred in part because of the overpopulation of rural areas in Quebec, high birthrates, and poverty in the rural farming areas of Quebec. All of these changes meant that participants in the older, rural economies and social structures did not have sufficient land to continue that way of life as urban development spread. A recession in Quebec in the early 1920s also meant Québécois needed to look elsewhere for work.

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