Founder and Director, Franco-American Women’s Institute

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Rhea Côté Robbins was brought up bilingually in a Franco-American neighborhood in Waterville known as the South End. Côté Robbins is the author of creative nonfiction, memoirs titled, ‘down the Plains,’ and Wednesday’s Child, winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Chapbook Award.

She is editor of Canuck and Other Stories, an anthology of translations of early 20th century Franco-American women writers who wrote about their immigration experience. Her poems and essays have appeared in many publications. She is the founder and director of the Franco-American Women’s Institute, FAWI.

Talks

Who Gets To Tell Story? 

Telling or hearing story while conscious of the human ecology—listening to story justly with social consciousness of equality. I would like to define what qualifies as “story.”  I believe essentially that every person, artifact, ritual, etc. is story.  Everything we know comes to us via story; we are surrounded by story.  Story is the microcosm of the macrocosm. Who, in the cultural milieu, gets to tell story?


Where Are the Franco-American Women in Your Community?

Using a Franco-American woman’s search and research as a model to address the issue of what, if any Franco-American woman wanted to know about Franco-American women and their history, where would they begin if they were not told or not allowed to know and value the contributions of the Franco-American women’s history?


Franco-American Women, Suffrage and Political Activity

What was Camille Lessard Bissonnette doing to promote women’s suffrage in 1910-1911, and what barriers did she face?  What was happening across the border in the QC/Canadian women’s suffrage movement, which started in 1912?  And who were the Franco-American women of Maine who served in the Maine State Legislature starting in 1935?  The lives of these women illustrate the history of women’s suffrage here, connects the present, and helps us understand how we got here.

Historian, Educator

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Paul Buck is a Professor of History and Education at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He has a doctorate in U.S. and Canadian history from the University of Maine, which he completed in 2008. Paul is proficient in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Wolof. 

He has either studied or taught over the course of four academic years in French Canada (Québec City), Russia (Voronezh), and Senegal (Dakar). Paul enjoys participating in his adopted community of St. Agatha, particularly in local organizations that promote and celebrate the French language and the Acadian and Franco-American culture of the St. John Valley.

Talks

Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842) and Maine’s Northern Border 

Paul’s presentation examines the different perspectives of Maine statehood and of Maine culture as seen through the prism of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, which definitively established the boundary between British North America and the United States.

Paul explores the treaty itself and its impact on the singular Acadian and Francophone community of the St. John Valley, which found itself split into two countries. He gives historical context as well, most certainly commencing with the long-standing Maliseet and Mi’kmaq communities of the region, along with Scots-Irish and, by the 1820s, of Maine Yankee residents

President, Board of Directors, Abyssinian Meeting House

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Pamela Cummings is President of the Board of Directors and Director of Education Programs for The Abyssinian Meeting House. She is also the writer of two books and the founder of A Walk Back in Time, a theatrical walk retracing the footsteps of enslaved people in Portland, Maine. She is proud mother of Lindsey Alston DAndrea and Douglas Alston. 

Photo: PORTLAND, ME - MARCH 16: Pam Cummings, the head of the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian, in the upstairs of the meeting house which is currently being restored. The historical place of worship built by African Americans in the 19th century fell into disarray and a committee to restore the building has been working toward the goal for 20 years. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)

Talks

The Underground Railroad: Retracing the Tracks

An illustrious walk back in time to discuss the history of the Underground Railroad and its relevance and significance to Maine’s total and accurate history. Pamela explores the places that are hidden all around us in plain sight, each with its own story begging to be told and lessons waiting to be shared.


What’s in Your Hand? 

Use readily available resources to create your underground railroad–your escape from slavery to freedom. 

Visiting Scholar, Brown University, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

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Meadow Dibble is a Visiting Scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Originally from Cape Cod, she lived for six years on Senegal’s Cape Verde peninsula, where she co-founded and published a cultural magazine. Meadow received her PhD from Brown University’s Department of French Studies and taught at Colby College from 2005–08.

Today, she is editor of The International Educator newspaper. In 2018, following a brutal awakening to the reality of her hometown’s deep investment in the business of slavery, she launched Atlantic Black Box, a public history initiative devoted to researching and reckoning with New England’s role in the slave trade.

Talks

The Diseased Ship: A Cautionary Tale About Our Nation’s Twin Plagues That Went Untold for Two Centuries 

This dramatic story features a prominent Yankee sea captain, a tragedy on the high seas, a viral outbreak, a major political cover up, and a conspiracy of silence that has lasted two centuries surrounding New England’s involvement in the slave trade.

Following these historical threads into the present day allows us to consider the ways in which our region’s repressed history of complicity with the business of slavery relates to our current national conversations about race, privilege, identity, and access to the “American dream.”


Hiding in Plain Sight: New England Complicity in the Global Slave Economy

New England has long repressed the memory of its involvement in the slave trade and the Atlantic World slave economy, just as it has concealed or failed to center the stories of the region’s free and enslaved Black and Indigenous populations.

How could we have gotten the story so wrong for so long? This interactive presentation will contrast the cherished narrative of Northern exceptionalism with recent scholarship that reveals a long history of exploitation with which our communities have barely begun to reckon.

Writer, Educator

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Marpheen Chann is the author of an upcoming memoir titled Moon in Full: A Modern Coming-of-Age Story (Islandport Press, June 2022), a Maine politician, speaker, community organizer, and gay man of color.

As a gay, first-generation Asian American born in California to a Cambodian refugee family and later adopted by an evangelical, white working-class family in Maine, Marpheen uses a mix of humor and storytelling to help people view topics such as racism, xenophobia, and homophobia through an intersectional lens. 

Talks

​​Welcome Home: My Journey Through Foster Care, Coming Out, and Reuniting with Family 

Life is complicated and full of twists and turns. In “Welcome Home,” Marpheen shares his insights, lessons learned, and maybe a few laughs as he tells the story of being a second-generation Cambodian American who went through foster care and adoption, struggled with fitting in and adapting to a white-majority community, and coming out as gay to his devoutly religious family. 

Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine

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Libby Bischof explores American society through the lens of history—and the lens of a camera. A nineteenth-century American cultural historian, Professor Bischof specializes in the history of photography, particularly in Maine. Her other research interests include Maine history, modernism, how friendship informs cultural production, and nineteenth-century New England women writers. 

Bischof co-curated of the exhibition Maine Moderns: Art in Sequinland, 1900-1940 at the Portland Museum of Art with Senior Curator Susan Danly. The show won the critic’s choice award for best Historic Show in the 2011 New England Art Awards.

Talks

Maine at 200: A Visual History


History of Photography in Maine 


Visual History of Maine Through Postcards


The World War I Centennial and WWI Monuments and Memorials in Maine 

Professor of History, University of Maine

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Liam Riordan is a faculty member in the Department of History at the University of Maine in Orono. He is a specialist on the American Revolution, and has published about religious, racial and ethnic diversity in the Philadelphia region from 1770 to 1830, and the history of Loyalists. Riordan currently serves on Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission.

He is the past the Director of the University of Maine Humanities Center, and a former board member of the Maine Humanities Council. He helps organize Maine National History Day, a statewide history contest for middle and high school students. Liam’s wife is the principal of Reeds Brook Middle School in Hamden and they have two children.

Talks

What Did We Learn from the Maine State Bicentennial? Reflections on Historical Commemoration 


Picturing Maine’s Indigenous Context: Colonialism and the Penobscot


What are the Humanities, and Why are They Essential for our Future? 


The Five Most Important Things to Know about the American Revolution 


The American Revolution & the Origins of Multiculturalism in the U.S. 


Does the American Revolution Look Different from the Penobscot River?