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French Institute: Dorilla Brulé Collection

Collection: Dorilla Brulé Collection

Dorilla Brulé Collection [1926-1997]

Extent: 2 legal-sized document boxes

Linear feet: 1 linear foot

Language: French and English. The bulk of this collection is in French.

Provenance/Source of Acquisition: Created by Dorilla Brulé

Ownership and Literary Rights: The Dorilla Brulé Collection is the physical property of the French Institute, Assumption University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.

Cite As: Dorilla Brulé Collection, French Institute, Assumption University

Restrictions on Access: The collection is available to researchers and other interested parties. Permission for use or reproduction can be obtained from the director of the French Institute, and is subject to the Institute’s user policies.

Scope & Content: This collection documents the adolescent and adult life of Dorilla Brulé and lives of her immediate family – most notably her brothers Rodolphe and Armand. The collection commences with Dorilla’s years studying in Montréal (c. 1926-1929), during which time she corresponded with her parents in Central Falls, Rhode Island, as well as her brothers Rodolphe and Armand, who were also in school in Québec. The collection has a large gap, including nothing from the 1930s through 1951. Picking back up in 1952, the ensuing twenty-three years of correspondence are mainly from Dorilla to her brothers, both Brothers of the Sacred Heart, respectively stationed in Québec and Africa(Lesotho and Zambia). Her correspondence and collected ephemera updated her brothers about her work as a teacher, their extended family, and the larger Franco-American community in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Additionally, there is select correspondence from Rodolphe to Dorilla, as well as from various relations and friends.

Since Dorilla’s brothers were stationed internationally, the care of her parents, uncle Abundius Brulé, and other extended family members, landed on her shoulders. Some of the correspondence in the collection is intensely personal as it describes the effects of strokes and other health issues, and her efforts to sell family property after their deaths.

While the ephemera are mostly in English, the letters are in French, with English phrases scattered throughout. The early letters are hand-written, while the later correspondence is mainly typed with handwritten additions and postscripts.

Biographical Note: See Finding Aid

Series Outline: The records of the Dorilla Brulé Collection are organized into two series:

Series 1: General Records

Series 2: Correspondence


Full Finding Aid:

Digitized Items

Letter, 4 November 1972

Letter from Dorilla Brulé to her brothers, 4 November 1972

Saturday, November 4

My dear Armand and Rodolphe,

The week went well!! Which is to say that there were no new problems. However, I haven’t solved any of the old ones. I do as my uncle has always done; I let myself go with the flow… his philosophy of the least effort. My uncle must have been thinking: “Après moi le déluge!” The flood has arrived, and I can’t fight it any longer. Let it run its course!

The sad news of the week is Mrs. Bourget. Three weeks ago, she had a paralyzing stroke. The nuns had her taken to Memorial Hospital [in Pawtucket], and she is still there now. She has been in a coma for three weeks and they are treating her with intravenous fluids. She is in absolutely the same condition that papa was in last year. Now it’s a matter of taking her out of the hospital; after three weeks they don’t want to keep her anymore. Claire doesn’t want to pay for nursing home care; the only remaining option is to send her to one of the state homes, Medical Center in Cranston. And Claire swears that if her mother has to go there, she’ll never set foot in the place to visit her. For his part, George is pained to think that his mother has to end her days as a pauper, she who owned a nice property and deprived herself of everything for her whole life. George no longer has anyone to confide in except Doris, whom he telephoned Thursday evening. Doris always goes big to get what she wants; she advised him to see a lawyer and to force Claire to take responsibility for her mother. She’s the one who has all the money. She should surely know that her mother can’t last long in her condition. Papa lasted three weeks after his stay in the hospital; I don’t believe that Mrs. Bourget can last longer than that. But her doctor says (the same doctor as papa) that she could last a day, a month, a year… basically no one knows. In any case Mrs. Bourget has had a very unhappy old age, and her elderly years have gone from bad to worse. You could say that after a sad life, she is having a sad death. Of course, no one is going to miss her.

This week I’ll have time off on account of the election. I suppose that Mr. Nixon will fare better than Mr. Trudeau. In any case politics makes a lot of noise; it’s the only thing talked about in the newspapers, on the radio, on television, in all the meetings… it’s getting boring. I’m anxious for them to change the subject. I’m planning to use my break to pick up the leaves which are covering the whole courtyard. I’ve already spent a few hours on it, but now the real drudgery begins. The trees haven’t yet lost all their leaves; I may decide to wait before starting to pick them up. Richard offered his services to me. I’ve also decided to hire some men to cut down several of my uncle’s trees, mulberries that are growing right next to the sidewalk… and I’m the one who picks up those leaves every year. I’m sick of it! Not to mention that their branches are blocking the entrance to the courtyard. Armand, do you remember cutting them back last summer? I’ve cut them back myself several times. Those trees are a real inconvenience… and I’ve had enough!

There are good things about my life; I’m not spending it in idleness. It is at times very interesting. And I’ve recovered my health after a summer of fatigue and poisonings. God is good! Take good care both of you.



Letter, 15 June c. 1967

Letter from Dorilla Brulé to her brothers, 15 June c. 1967

June 15th

My dear little brothers,

                                    We are really on vacation! But time is passing too quickly! I would have a lot of trouble telling you something productive I have done this week. I let myself make decisions in the moment; when I begin a day, I never know how I will finish it. I play it by ear; I do not follow a score.

                                    On Monday, Helen Horton came by to spend the day with me. She is getting ready to leave for Europe next week. She wanted to go to Providence to buy a raincoat. When I showed her mine, she immediately wanted to go to Stoughton to buy one. So we made an impromptu trip to Stoughton! Tuesday there was a real deluge. I contented myself with seeing Bertha in Manville, stopping at Doris’s, and ending my excursion at Mrs. Mitchell’s. It was a very full day in any case and very pleasant. Everywhere I go, people serve me an apéritif; I refuse at first so they insist, and I end up accepting their polite offer. Wednesday, I went to Saybrook, Conn. with Mrs. Mitchell; we spent the day at her brother and sister-in-law’s. It was a very nice trip, a distance of about a hundred miles. Yesterday I went swimming in Bristol for the first time this season. The water was good but cold! As you can see, I have not had a stressful week. In the meantime, I worked in the house and in the yard, and I took care of my uncle and dad.

                                    About my uncle Abundius, I’m beginning to understand what happened to him. I believe that he had a stroke. He still does not know how he spent an entire night in the hall of his house. He is still very slow in the way he speaks, thinks, and acts, but his memory has returned, and he is thinking clearly. I always prepare his midday and evening meals; he does not yet have the imagination and will to prepare them for himself. But he is making progress every day. This week, I took him to the bank; he wanted to pay his taxes. He left with five invoices and his bank book. He wanted to have a check made out in the amount of $1300.00 more or less. It was Loretta who served him. He was so slow in explaining himself that Loretta could tell that he was not well. His mind was clear, but he had great difficulty expressing himself. After her work, Loretta called me and told me that he had all the symptoms of a stroke, just like her mother, it seems. His eyes are a little lost and his mind has been badly affected for a while. His case is certainly difficult; he lives alone, he does not want the advice of a doctor, and he is close to certain that it will not be his last stroke. And his damn dogs complicate his life. This week in the really heavy rain he had to go out to take the dogs for a walk. Of course, I could not do it myself. I would never have been able to put the collar on that great big mutt!

                                    Monsignor Najmy, the Syrian bishop, and former parish priest of Saint Basile in Central Falls, died suddenly this week. He was the friend of Brother Denis with whom he made a trip to Canada some time ago. Today there was a service at the cathedral in Boston, after which he is to be taken to the Syrian church in Central Falls. Tomorrow, there will be another service in our Notre-Dame church; the bishop of Providence will officiate. I suppose the Syrian church is too small to accommodate the people who will want to attend his funeral. Brother Denis is very affected by his death. He is losing a friend of whom he was very proud.

                                    I say a warm hello to the two of you! I write to you each week not so much to interest you in my banalities, but to tell you that I am not forgetting you. Take care of yourselves!



Letter, 26 October c. 1967

Letter from Dorilla Brulé to her brothers, 26 October c. 1967

Thank you for the beautiful stamps! I will keep them as a souvenir of our walks at the Expo. A big thank you as well for the pens in 7 colors. They are really beautiful! I will use them at Christmas; there are colors to match all of the cards.

October 26th

My dear Armand,

                        Usually I don’t have the time to write letters during the week. But I anticipate that this Sunday is going to be very busy; so I am writing in advance. I received two invitations for Sunday! I am sought after… it’s not my fault!

                        I will tell you that time passes quickly and pleasantly. On Saturday, I was planning to stay home and do all sorts of small jobs. The intention was good! At nine o’clock, I got a phone call from Ruth; she wanted to go to Boston and wanted me to accompany her. To please her, I dropped everything and spent a very beautiful day in Boston… My second Saturday in a row! I returned with a good number of packages of all sizes; it’s fun to spend a little!

                        I will also tell you that I have made a good friend. It started with an act of charity that I thought I should do. It concerns Mrs. Mitchell. When Brother Félicien told me that his mother lived alone in a big house in Pawtucket, that her brother died in the St. Hyacinthe fire, and that he was the only child she had left, I wanted to go see her to talk about the people that we knew in common, and especially to tell her that I had met her friends in St. Théodore, the Beauregards and Brother Roch. Since that first visit, we have become good friends. Not a day goes by that Mrs. Mitchell does not talk to me on the phone, and I try to stop by her house at least once a week on the way back from my classes. I do not do this out of charity anymore; I feel very comfortable with her. She reminds me a bit of mother; she is a very kind person. Last Sunday, Brother Félicien had permission to visit his mother. Towards the end of the afternoon, Mrs. Mitchell called me to tell me that her son was at her house. I invited them to come have dinner with us. They came and we spent a few good hours together. They were like family! If you had time, Armand, to send a little note to Mrs. Mitchell, she would be happy to hear from you. (174 West Ave., Pawtucket) I often talk to her about you; she is very interested in our family.

                        Next Sunday then, I have to go to Sharon with Mrs. Mitchell for the dedication of a library in memory of Brother Albert. Mrs. Mitchell is one of the library’s benefactors and was sent two complimentary tickets for a Cocktail and dinner given on this occasion. I am going as her guest. There is also the fact that she cannot drive herself at night. She drives her car during the day, but not at night. This is my first invitation. My second invitation comes from Peg Palmer. Her mother is coming for a few days from the Carolinas, and she invited me to come see her on Sunday. So this will be my day for visits!

                        Today, I got the surprise of my life! Do you who walked into my class? The President of the school with the Governor of Rhode Island! The governor spoke to me in French, he shook my hand, and he asked me questions about my students… while a photographer was taking pictures! I suppose he did that pretty much all over the school. I had trouble recovering from the surprise!

                        I am not upset, Armand, that the Expo is closing. You were killing yourself! Now I hope that you can take the time to rest! How is your cold? Are you finally getting rid of it? And the other ailments? What stage are they? I am thinking of you, Armand, and I pray for you every day.



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Usage Policy

For reasons of preservation, French Institute collection materials do not circulate; however, non-rare materials are allowed to circulate through the d’Alzon Library or inter-library loan with the director’s permission.

It should be noted that the Institute’s collection includes a number of Franco-American newspapers from the New England region. Most consist of bound copies and nearly all have been microfilmed. To preserve the bound volumes, the Institute encourages scholars to consult the microfilm copies whenever they are available, for example, at the American Antiquarian Society or the Boston Public Library.