Brazilian Feminists: Maria Lacerda de Moura
I’ve decided to start another post series about Brazilian women whom I consider to be feminists, since as someone who studies feminism and Latin America, I rarely run into any particularly famous feminist Latinas. This could be because I’m not looking, but I would argue that part of it also has to do with the fact that the North American feminist movement often overshadows other movements. So, I thought it would be fun to educate myself while educating my readers about one particular corner of the earth that had its fair share of feminist thinkers and activists.
Maria Lacerda de Moura (1887-1945) was born in 1887 in Manhuaçu, Minas Gerais, to parents Modesto de Araújo Lacerda and Amélia de Araújo Lacerda. She started working as a primary school teacher at the age of 16, eventually moving to the city of Barbacena, where she started the League Against Illiteracy, an organization that worked to fight homelessness. From there, she moved to São Paulo, one of the largest cities in Brazil, where she worked for an anarchist press, delivering speeches about education, feminism, and anarchism. She became famous as a teacher, writer, anarchist and feminist, and began to publish books which became so successful that they were published outside of Brazil. Some of her book titles included On Education, Plural Love, and The Women of Today and Their Role in Society.
In 1920 de Moura formed the League for the Intellectual Emancipation of Women, fighting for women’s right to vote and later helped to found the Women’s Anti-War Committee. She was able to publish the majority of her ideas through Renascença, a periodical she helped to start in 1923.
Maria Lacerdade de Moura was a very important figure in the history of Brazilian feminism, but strangely enough, she does not get as much attention as she should. She was one of the first well-known feminists in Brazil, but it seems that her name did not go down in history. Some argue that this is because she spoke out about taboo topics such as free love (which she did not equate with promiscuity), women’s freedom to sexual pleasure, virginity, divorce, and sex education for youth. These are of course, the very reasons I love her. She also stands out among other feminist because she worked hard to combine the fight for women’s rights with labor rights, analyzing everything through the lens of class. She was particularly concerned for poor women, and recognized inequalities among women (not just between women and men) where global feminist movements as a whole did not start to address this issue until the third wave.