As part of a national effort to recognize sites important to the women’s suffrage movement, a plaque is to be unveiled Thursday at 223 Lisbon St. to honor the contributions of Camille Lessard-Bissonnette, a columnist for the French-language Le Messager.

It is one of five spots in Maine that is to receive a plaque through the William G Pomeroy Foundation & Votes for Women Historic Marker Grant Program.

Camille Lessard-Bissonnette Pomeroy Foundation

The site on Lisbon Street marks the former office of Le Messager, the longest-running French language newspaper in Maine and a powerful voice for the immigrant community from 1880 to 1966.

Born in 1883 in Quebec, Lessard-Bissonnette, a columnist for the paper and author of the novel “Canuck,” about a French-speaking immigrant’s experiences, originally published as a serial in Le Messager.

“Camille was a lone voice in the French heritage culture of the state of Maine expressing her views on pro-suffrage issues. She was brave to express her views about women’s lives given the lack of status of the French in Maine,” said author Rhea Cote Robbins, who has long sought to raise Bissonnette’s historical profile.

The Pomeroy Foundation wrote on its website that Lessard-Bissonnette wrote under a pen name “Liane” and argued for the rights of women.


For example, it said, in the Feb. 4, 1910, edition of Le Messager, she took issue with those who sought to keep women above the fray.

“You say, sirs, that it is the woman who lights up your home. You compare her to a ray of sunshine. You exclaim that women must not be dragged into the mud of politics. But sirs, when a ray of sunshine falls on the mud does it dirty itself, or does it dry up and purify the mud?” Lessard-Bissonnette wrote, according to a translation by the foundation.

Lessard-Bissonnett’s contributions to the push for women’s suffrage in Maine were not widely recognized when she began writing about the issue more than a century ago because they appeared in the French newspaper.

Lessard-Bissonnett was almost never mentioned, for instance, in either of the two Lewiston English-language daily newspapers — the Evening Journal or the Daily Sun.

She had a wide audience, however, and more influence than mainstream officials, including other suffragists in Maine, recognized at the time.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the plaque on Lisbon Street is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday.

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