It Was Once Illegal in Maine to Speak or Teach French in School
If you dig into the history of any state across the country, you're bound to find some pretty strange old laws. Believe it or not, some are still on the books and active but many of them have been repealed over the years thanks to lawmakers catching up with the times. One of those hard-to-believe laws that once existed was the firm outlawing of teaching and speaking French in schools in Maine.
Maine's Response to a National Trend
According to Francomainestories.net, a law was passed on April 1st of 1919 that prohibited any teaching or speaking of the French language in any school across the state of Maine. The law was passed as a response to a growing belief in 'Americanism' after World War I. English was considered the language of the United States and the teaching and speaking of any language other than English was seen as un-American.
Were There Penalties For Disobeying?
Absolutely. Many northern Maine communities still used the French language as their primary language in the early-1900's. Students who were caught conversing in school using French could be penalized in a variety of ways. Those ways included detention, suspension or public humiliation. If an educator was found to be speaking or teaching French against the law, they could face much more severe penalties including fines, suspension or termination of their job.
The Law Stuck Around For a Long Time
For more than four decades, the English-only in schools law stayed in place for schools in Maine. It was finally repealed in the 1960's and eventually, French language returned to being taught in some schools across the state. But the law had substantial effect to Franco-American families. Generations of those families lost their fluent understanding and speaking of the French language.