Rhea Côté Robbins was brought up bilingually in a Franco-American neighborhood in Waterville, Maine known as 'down the Plains.' She attended Waterville High School and graduated in 1971. Her maman came from Wallagrass, a town in the northern part of the state and her father was from Waterville. Tracing the family tree back, on both sides of her parents, she found that in Québec their people settled in close proximity to each other, and on a further search into their origins in France, she discovered that in the 1600s they lived within ten miles or less of each other. At least three of the branches of the original settlers came over on the same boat to New France. She has spent many years researching the origins and visiting the hometowns of these people in Canada and France.
She attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle, 1980-1982, graduating with an A.A. degree with a concentration in Art. In 1982-85, she attended the University of Maine on a bilingual education scholarship. This was in part funded by a federal grant in recognition of the Franco-American population which exists in the State of Maine. After teaching public high school briefly, she worked as editor of an international, bilingual socio-cultural journal entitled, Le FORUM, formerly known as Le F.A.R.O.G. Forum, at the Franco-American Center from 1986-96. She received her Master of Arts degree from the University of Maine in May, 1997. She received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Maine at Farmington in 2004.
Through her work and studies, she has had the luxury and opportunity to spend much time contemplating what does it mean to be Franco-American and female in the U.S. She has made contact with many people across the country who are also interested in this cultural group. She traveled to Louisiana to compare the progression of the culture within a different milieu. She has also traveled to Canada and France to visit the hometowns from where her ancestors emigrated. She is a founder and Executive Director of the Franco-American Women's Institute which is an organization to promote awareness about the contributions of the Franco-American women to the culture, their families and the communities they live in. In addition, she has worked in the Maine prison system with women prisoners and created a writing group with the women. She has taught creative nonfiction, literature and Franco-American Women's Experiences at the University of Maine.
Côté Robbins was the 1997 winner of the Maine Chapbook
Award for her work of creative nonfiction entitled, Wednesday's Child.
The book, taught in university courses such as social work, culture, literature,
writing, and women's studies is in its fourth printing. She also
edited a book of translations of Franco-American women writers who were
writing in the early part of this century. Several translators collaborated
on this project. She is also interested in developing a literary
criticism on these early women writers in the Franco-American literary
tradition as well as Grace de Repentigny Metalious, author of Peyton
Place, Return to Peyton Place, The Tight White Collar and No Adam In Eden.
These books were written by Metalious on the Franco-American women's experiences
in New England. Côté Robbins has written a sequel to
Child, called 'down the Plains' and is available through bookstores.
She lives in Brewer with her husband, David and they have three children,
Bridget, Benjamin who is married to Jana Bishop, and Jesse.
She co-edited and designed I am Franco-American and Proud of It: Franco-American Women's Anthology. She is a contributor to Old Women's Wisdom, a multi-cultural anthology of women over eighty years old living in Aroostook County. Rhea served as editor for ten years of Le FORUM, a bilingual, socio-cultural journal. In addition, she has authored two bibliographies one for WBDC and the Leadership Development Project entitled, Women and Class; the other is entitled Franco-American Health Related Bibliography. In 1995 she was selected for the Steve Grady Endowment Fund for Creative Writing, First Prize, Poetry. Her essays, poetry, book reviews, and recipes have appeared in the following publications: River Revue/Review Rivière, Reflections on Maine, Les Voix/Voices, L'Ouest Français et la Francophonie Nord-Américaine, Rafale, Stolen Island Review, Pucker Brush Review, ECHOES, Portland Magazine, WBDC Developments, Feminist Times, Le FORUM, Le F.A.R.O.G. Forum, Portland Sunday Telegram, Bangor Daily News, Brewer Register, Foxtail, Young Poets of America, other collaborative, fund-raising submissions include, Eating Between the Lines: A Maine Writer's Cookbook, Nos Histoires de l'Ile: Livre de cuisine, and RSVP Recipes: Aroostook Count. She maintains a page of current writings at: http://www.fawi.net/PoemsandEssays/WritingsbyRhea.html as well as editing several web pages, and an electronic magazine featuring writings of Franco-American women entitled, moé pi toé at: http://www.fawi.net/Links.html
She is working on a book of literary criticism on the tradition of Franco-American women writers and Grace Metalious, the author of , author of Peyton Place, Return to Peyton Place, The Tight White Collar and No Adam In Eden and who was a Franco-American woman writer. Côté Robbins has written a sequel to Wednesday's Child, called 'down the Plains'for which she is seeking publication. She is currently working on a third installment of the memoirs titled, If These Walls Could Talk. She has work included in two anthologies Voyages A Maine Franco-American and Acadian Reader published by Tillbury House and French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets published by Louisiana Literature Press.