Claire Quintal

College Dean, Founder of the French Institute, Second Female Professor at Assumption College

My first year [teaching] here, I must add, was difficult because they [the Assumption College students] were still all male. They were going to start accepting women the following year. And I remember when I first walked into one classroom, it was Intermediate French, and it was all boys, of course boys, men. And I could tell from their reaction that they thought Assumption had hit bottom, that Assumption College was really going to the dogs. They were against it; you know, the men who were here at the time did not want [the school] to accept women…… Let me say that that first year was interesting because I was teaching intermediate French and I was also teaching a senior seminar. And the senior seminar went famously, again all men. And I enjoyed them, and I am still in touch with some of them. But the Intermediate French [class]-they didn’t want to be there for one thing, you know when you really don’t want to study French, but you have to because it was the rule at the time that you had to have so many semesters of a foreign language. And then to have a woman in front of you besides. So that was a humbling experience, and it was balanced, luckily, by the senior seminar. They were more mature, they were leaving anyway, they were not going to have to worry about having women in the classrooms with them. And then in the second semester, I began teaching at Clark. And that was very important for me because the students at Clark were used to having women in front of them, you know as professors.


Dr. Claire Quintal was one of the first women professors at Assumption College. She never married because she chose a career path in lieu of a family, which in her generation were the only two options. She was born in 1930 to a loving Roman Catholic, French-Canadian family where French was her first language.  She grew up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where she had a happy childhood. Claire attended Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA, and graduated in 1952. She taught high school level French, English, and Latin in between college and graduate school and enjoyed every minute with her students. She came to Worcester in 1968, after living in France for ten years and receiving her doctorate. Claire has an overall good outlook on Worcester, MA but feels that there is room for improvement. Claire was not very active politically but was a delegate at the [Houston] International Year of Women Conference in 1975 and was President of the Franco-American Women’s Federation of New England for eight years. She did a lot for women with a French-Canadian background. She taught French at Assumption for many years including for one year before the college became co-ed. It was a challenging and lonely experience for her. She prides herself in having founded the French Institute at Assumption College, that has published and translated articles and books relating to Franco-Americans and the immigrant experience. She was also Dean of the Graduate School.

Interview Date: 
March 17, 2009
Interview Focus: