2023 Maass Research Grant Recipient Announced

photograph - Maxwell Pingeon - 2023 Maass Grant Recepient

Maxwell Pingeon – 2023 Maass Research Grant Recipient

Maxwell Pingeon, a PhD student in the department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia was named the 2023 Maass research grant recipient according to Dr. Elizabeth Dow, chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Manuscript Society.

“‘A Vast Catholic Body of the English Tongue:’ Irish Power, French Canadians, and the New England Language Wars, 1880-1930”

In his proposal Pingeon shares:

“A million French Canadians emigrated south in search of industrial jobs between the Civil War and the Great Depression. In New England, they became either the largest or the second largest Catholic immigrant group, after the Irish. Though other non-English speaking groups sought to preserve their language and culture with equal vehemence, French Canadians had the benefit of access to neighboring Canada for money, ideas, and personnel.

During this period, Irish American bishops attempted to assimilate francophones by gradually eliminating their bilingual education system. Language and religion had been the twin motors of French-Canadian resistance to Anglo-Protestant domination in Canada. As migrants to the United States, the same fear of ethnic erasure animated French Canadians in their conflicts with the English-speaking Catholic hierarchy.”

These “language wars,” as Max calls them, “culminated in 1920s Rhode Island. The Bishop of Providence began drawing funds from parochial school budgets to fund English-only “central Catholic high schools.” This provoked a mass backlash from French Canadians throughout New England. “The results included excommunications, interdicts, and countless skull-and-dagger machinations in the halls of the Vatican.” Named after the flagship newspaper that led the contestation of the bishop’s authority, the “Sentinelle Affair,” marked the final defeat of a militant section of the French-speaking population.

Research Venues

The Manuscript Society grant will aid Max in completing his research in key archives of the New England-Quebec region. Materials are housed in a combination of public and private collections. This includes the (arch)-diocesan archives of Boston, Providence, and Portland, Maine. Additionally, religious orders who have agreed to open their papers include the Holy Union Sisters of Fall River, Massachusetts, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Ipswich, Mass., the Grey Nuns of Montreal, and the Congrégation de Notre Dame.

The Montreal and Quebec City branches of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) host the letters of two Canadian intellectuals, Henri Bourassa and Lionel Groulx. These men followed and influenced both sides of the Rhode Island controversy. The BAnQ also holds the papers of an early chronicler of the conflict, Robert Rumilly. His work played an outsized role in its reception history. The BAnQ collection also holds the complete papers of the Sentinelle movement’s leader, Elphège-J Daignault.

The Rhode Island Historical Society contains the collection of the Providence Visitor, the diocesan newspaper. Papers of the French-speaking press, housed at Assumption College, in Worcester, Mass will also be explored.  Beyond copies of the infamous Sentinelle newspaper itself, Assumption’s collection also includes the personal correspondence of one of the two antagonists of the Sentinelle crisis, Union Saint-Jean Baptiste leader Élie Vézina, including his letters to and from the bishop, as well as with the apostolic delegation in Washington.

The society congratulates Max on his award and looks forward to reading his report upon completing his work. Watch for that report in the Manuscript Society News next year.

How you can Help

This research is made possible by all the members of the Manuscript Society who support the Maass Research Grant Scholarship Fund with their tax-deductible contributions. Thank you! https://manuscript.org/projects/scholarship-activities/