Maria Quitéria de Jesus (1792-1853) was a Brazilian soldier who fought in Bahia for independence.
She was the first woman to enter a military unit in Brazil.
Who was Maria Quitéria?
Maria Quitéria was born in the city of Feira de Santana, Bahia, in 1792. She lived with her parents, but her mother died when she was ten years old.
When Dom Pedro proclaimed independence in Brazil, the Portuguese troops who were in Bahia refused to recognize him as Emperor. In this context, an appeal was made to the male population to enlist and fight.
Thus, they asked Maria Quitéria's father to send someone from his family to the war, but he did not have any children at the required age. That's when Maria Quitéria offered to accompany the battalion.
As was to be expected, her father did not allow it. In this way, Quitéria went to her sister's house, dressed in her brother-in-law's clothes, cut her hair and enlisted in the Battalion of Voluntary Hunters of Príncipe Dom Pedro.
From then on, Maria Quitéria became the "soldier Medeiros".See also:Causes of Brazilian Independence
Participation in Battles
However, her cover was blown. Contrary to what might be expected, Quitéria was not expelled from the battalion. She just added a petticoat to her uniform and continued to fight.
In this way, Maria Quitéria participated side by side with the men in several battles, among which the ones on Ilha de Maré, Conceição, Itapuã and Pituba stand out. In the latter, she attacked an enemy trench and arrested two Portuguese soldiers.
At the end of the war, Maria Quitéria was decorated by Emperor Dom Pedro I with the Imperial Order of the Southern Cross, in 1823. On this occasion, she asked the sovereign to write a letter asking her father to forgive her.
She left the Army and was reformed with the rank of Alfares (second lieutenant). Maria Quitéria got married, had a daughter and died in 1853, on the outskirts of Salvador, Bahia.
The Brazilian Army honors her as patron of the Complementary Staff of Officers.See also:23 important women in the history of Brazil
Historical context of Maria Quitéria's life
At this time, Brazil was experiencing important political and economic changes with the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family and the opening of ports in 1808.
Later, when Dom João VI returned to Portugal in 1820, he left his son and heir in Brazil, encouraging Brazilians to think about the possibility of separating from Portugal.
On September 7, 1822, Dom Pedro proclaimed the independence of Brazil and several battalions of volunteers were formed in order to expel Portuguese troops that refused to leave Brazil.
The process of emancipation in Brazil was not peaceful, despite this theory being very widespread. There was fighting, especially in the Northeast and in Bahia, and the fighting only ended on July 2, 1823.See also:The Coming of the Royal Family to Brazil