Women’s History and Movements in 20th-Century Brazil
- Maria Lygia Quartim de MoraesMaria Lygia Quartim de MoraesUniversity of Campinas Department of Sociology
In the early twentieth century, Brazil depended on coffee exports, its slave regime had just been abolished, and most of its inhabitants lived in the countryside. The Catholic Church exercised the moral direction of society, and White landowners virtually established the rules of sociability and controlled economic and political life. A woman’s social position was fundamentally determined according to their social class. Wealthy and White middle-class women had access to some form of education, and when they left the family home, it was to marry and raise a family, being completely dependent on their husbands, with no political rights, and only allowed to work upon marital authorization.
With rapid urbanization, wretched working conditions, as either a domestic servant or a textile worker (the two female labor niches), worsened the lives of poor women in the city. Access to education, the struggle for labor rights, and the right to vote were the pillars of the long women’s emancipation process that was in progress.
In 1964 a military coup plunged Brazil into a long dictatorship that only ended in 1985 with the return of democratic institutions and the election of a civil president. The conquest of democracy was made with the broad participation of the various women’s groups and movements, especially the feminist movements.