The Suffragist Movement in Brazil: A History To Be Remembered

Almost in the whole world, the suffragist movement has influenced the future of women's social role. That’s because, if you don’t know, suffragism comes from the word suffrage, which means the right to vote in political elections – and with that participation, the possibility of having more freedom and other rights. Since the emergence of democracy, women were excluded from voting because they were not seen as citizens. However, that changed in 1893, when for the first time in New Zealand and the world they went to the urns legitimately. 

But don’t think that this right was easily won: it was years of struggle and resistance, led by different women around the planet. Mary Wollstonecraft, an English writer, is considered the pioneer of modern feminism with her publication The Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the end of XVIII century, and since then her ideas have influenced generations. 

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Here in Brazil, there were  also important women who led the suffragist movement. In fact, our country could’ve been the first to release the female vote, however, at the beginning of 1891, a draft amendment to the Constitution that requested this right was denied. One great name that gained prominence in this century was Nisia Floresta, who published the article entitled Women's Rights and Injustices of Men –which addressed issues such as the need for equality in education and politics.

But it was only in 1910, when The Female Republican Party came with the first female president: the teacher Leolinda de Figueiredo Daltro, that the things really started moving forward to real changes. In 1919, Daltro succeeded in getting the first bill in favor of suffrage presented, but despite being approved in the first vote, the second was never held, which prevented it from getting out of the role. There have been many attempts over the years, while the suffragettes were ridiculed for wanting women to be part of the political scene. 

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In 1927, the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte granted women the vote. The first registered voter was Celina Guimarães Viana. However, although they went to the urns, the female votes cast were annulled by the Federal Senate Committee on Powers, which saw the need for a law in force to allow them. In that same state, Alzira Soriano was elected when she was 32 as the first female mayor in Latin America, in the city of Lajes, in 1929. She was elected with 60% of the votes and remained only seven months in power.

But it was only in 1931, when Getúlio Vargas was the president, that was granted the limited vote, which allowed only single women, widows with own income or married with the authorization of the husband this right. Fiinally, after many comings and goings and a tireless struggle for the freedom of the leaders of the movements, Getulio signed, in 1932, the law that gave all women over 21 the right to vote in Brazil, which they did the following year. At first, the vote was not mandatory, but that happened in 1934, with the coming of the Carta Magna. 

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It’s very important to know all this historical trajectory to understand what many women have passed through future generations. Now, with far more rights than before, our struggle must continue, aiming even more equality and respect within society.