History of South America

Feminism in Brazil

The feminist movement in Brazil emerged in the 19th century with the struggle for female education, the right to vote and the abolition of slaves.

Currently, there are several feminist organizations in Brazil that defend the equality of women's rights with men's. Likewise, there are specific organizations of black, indigenous, homosexual, trans, etc., feminists.

There are even women's movements that are against feminism.


In the 19th century, the condition of Brazilian women accompanied the country's social and economic inequalities. Brazil was a society based on slavery that oppressed black women so much in their condition as slaves; and the white one, restricted to household chores.

During the Empire, the right to female education was recognized. In this field, the potiguar writer Nísia Floresta Augusta she is considered a precursor of Brazilian feminism. A teacher and educator, she founded the first school for girls in Rio Grande do Sul and later in Rio de Janeiro.

Based on the work of the English Mary Wollstonecraft, Nísia Augusta writes several books and articles in newspapers on the female issue, abolitionism and republicanism. Her Works Advice to my daughter, from 1842; Humanitarian booklet , from 1853 are pointed out as the first on feminism in Brazil.

Demands for the right to vote also begin, as happened in the United States and England. It is worth noting the case of dentist Isabel Mattos Dalton who takes advantage of her diploma status to exercise her right to vote in Rio Grande do Sul, even if it is an isolated case.

Personalities such as Chiquinha Gonzaga, pianist and composer, who did not accept using a male pseudonym to sign her works, stand out.

Read more about the Women's Vote in Brazil.

First Republic

Leolinda Daltro at a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, in 1917.

With the advent of the Republic, the feminist movement in Brazil becomes broader. The new regime does not grant women the right to vote, nor does it facilitate access to the labor market for white urban or wealthy middle-class women. On the other hand, black, indigenous and poor white women have always had to work to survive.

Although the Republic separated the Church from the State and instituted civil marriage, it was difficult to obtain a divorce. The Civil Code of 1916 defined a woman as incapable dependent on her father or husband. A married woman needed her husband's permission to travel, receive an inheritance, work outside the home, or acquire property.

At this moment, when the first factories appear in Brazil, female and child labor is in demand, as it is poorly paid and helps to maintain the low cost of production. Thus, in the General Strike of 1917, there are specific demands on the part of this collective with the bosses.

In this context emerge the figures of Leolinda Figueiredo Daltro , who founds the Women's Republican Party and Bertha Lutz , from the Brazilian Federation for Feminine Progress. Both fought for the right to vote and for equal rights between men and women.

Read more about the General Strike of 1917.

Getúlio Vargas Government (1930 - 1945)

Due to pressure from feminist movements, Brazilian women were able to vote in 1932.

Despite this, with the consolidation of Getúlio Vargas and the coup of 37, the Vargas dictatorship closed Congress and suspended the elections.

Therefore, the image of the woman consecrated by the Vargas government will be the woman who works as a nurse, teacher, secretary and, of course, a wife dedicated to the home.

Understand more about the Vargas Era.

The 50's

In the 1950s, with the return of democracy, the lawyers Romy Martins Medeiros da Fonseca stand out. and by Orminda Ribeiro Bastos.

Romy Fonseca asked the Chamber of Deputies for a study on the situation of married women in the Brazilian Civil Code.

Indignant at the laws that subject married women to the guardianship of their husbands, the two lawyers drew up a new proposal that would expand women's rights. The project was presented to the National Congress in 1951. Despite its great repercussion, the project passed through the parliamentary bureaucracy for ten years.

Only with the pressure of the women's movement, the National Congress approved, ten years later, the changes indicated by Romy Medeiros and Orminda Bastos.

The new Civil Code of August 27, 1962, ended the guardianship of husbands over their wives. Now, women would no longer need their husband's permission if they wanted to work outside the home, receive an inheritance, or travel.


The 1960s were marked by sexual liberation, the emergence of the birth control pill and the civil rights movements. These bring up specific issues, such as the issue of black women, indigenous women and homosexuals. These are discussions carried out by Simone Beauvoir in her book “The Second Sex”, about gender and identity.

Brazil was experiencing a great effervescence of popular movements and feminist organizations discussed the news that arrived from outside. However, the military dictatorship hits citizens hard, preventing the right of association.

The 70's

However, the country was experiencing a period of military dictatorship, and any political manifestation was seen as a threat to national security.

Some women fight against the military dictatorship and many are imprisoned, tortured and exiled. They participate both in the peaceful resistance in marches and in the armed movement in the Guerrilha do Araguaia, for example.

During the detente promoted by General Geisel, several women, including Therezinha Zerbini , create the Women's Movement for Amnesty . This one brought together mothers and wives who had their children and husbands exiled or imprisoned by the National Security Act. After the Amnesty Law was enacted, the movement continued to fight for redemocratization in Brazil.

In 1975 it is declared by the UN as the International Year of Women. In a country that lived under dictatorship, it was the excuse for women to get together, discuss problems and find solutions.

The 1st Meeting of Women in Rio de Janeiro and the Meeting for the Diagnosis of Women from São Paulo were held, which gave rise to the Center for the Development of Brazilian Women.


The Brazilian deputies elected to the Constituent Assembly were known as the "lipstick lobby".

With the return of democracy to Brazil, women gained more prominence in government with the creation, in 1985, of the National Council for Women's Rights (CNDM).

They also won 26 seats during the election to the Constituent Assembly, where they fought for the inclusion of laws that favored women.

In addition to legal equality between men and women, maternity leave lasting longer than paternity leave was incorporated; encouraging women's work through protective norms; shorter term for women's length of service and contribution pension.

Read more about the 1988 Constitution.

Likewise, on 06.08.1985, the first Women's Defense Police Station was opened in São Paulo. , which specializes in assisting victims of domestic aggression and cases of violence against women. Currently, these police stations only exist in 7.9% of Brazilian cities.


With the increase in female schooling and the democratic stabilization of the country, the goals of the feminist movement were adapted according to the dynamics of society.

Therefore, women began to demand greater participation in public life. The so-called "positive discrimination" laws were a step forward in this regard. These, oblige the parties to guarantee quotas of 30% of women candidates for the legislature.

21st Century

The feminist movement in Brazil followed the demands of the new millennium with the inclusion of new themes to its agenda, such as sexual and racial diversity and the questioning of motherhood as an obligation.

Through social networks and blogs, the new generation of feminists found a platform to express their ideas.

In 2006, during the Lula government, the Maria da Penha Law was enacted, which more rigorously punishes cases of domestic violence. The law was hailed as a major step forward in preventing domestic violence against women.

Equally, within the feminist movement, the concern with the woman's body and with the use that society, men and she herself make of this body grew. In this sense, the organization Marcha das Vadias is an example of the use of the female body as a protest, as women attend demonstrations wearing few clothes.

In Brazil, the fight continues for the eradication of domestic violence, greater political representation, the right to natural childbirth, breastfeeding in public places, the right to abortion and the end of a culture that makes women submissive to men.

However, there are small groups of women who do not share the goals of certain currents of feminism.

See also:Femicide:what it is, law, types and statistics

Read more:

  • Feminism
  • International Women's Day
  • Black Brazilian Personalities
  • Extraordinary Women Who Made History
  • Women who made the history of Brazil
  • Misogyny:definition, origin and relationships between machismo and sexism
  • Sociology at Enem:what to study

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