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date: 25 November 2017

Gender and Sexuality in Brazil since Independence

Summary and Keywords

Over the past forty years, increasing attention to gender and sexuality in Brazilian historiography has given us a nuanced understanding of diverse ways in which women and men in Brazil’s past experienced patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression. As gender historians have shed light on how racialized and patriarchal gender and sexual roles have been reconstituted in different historical contexts, empirical studies in the field of social history have focused primarily on the historical agency of women, particularly non-elite women, who lived within or pushed against the confines of prescribed gender roles. Pioneering histories of sexual minorities have accompanied this trajectory since the 1980s, although this subfield has grown more slowly.

A few nodal themes help to explain transformations in gender relations during each of the major periods of Brazil’s social and political history. Under the empire (1822–1889), honor is the entryway for analysis of gender and sexuality. Gendered standards of honor were critical tools used to mark class and racial boundaries, and to traverse them. Historians of the imperial period also stress the centrality of gender to the social, cultural, and economic networks built by members of various occupational, familial, and kinship groups. During the First Republic (1889–1930), the focus shifts to state vigilance and social control, together with debates over modernization of sexual and gender norms, particularly regarding urban space and prostitution. In the Vargas era (1930–1945), patriarchy and racialized sexuality formed the core of intellectual constructions of the nation’s history and identity, at the same time that homosexuality and women’s and worker’s rights generated intense debate. A new emphasis on domesticity emerged in the context of developmentalism in the 1950s, helping to spur a reaction in the form of the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The dictatorship (1964–1985) went to great lengths to suppress challenges to gender and sexual norms as part of its broader strategy to demobilize society and repress oppositional political movements. These challenges reemerged in the 1970s, when feminists and sexual minorities gained much greater visibility within a new wave of social movements.

The 1988 constitution articulated these movements’ aspirations for social justice and equality through its foundational principal of human dignity. Significant legal changes followed over subsequent decades, including recognition of equal labor rights for domestic and sex workers, affirmative-action policies, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2011. Despite notable setbacks, the momentum toward gender and sexual equality at the start of the 21st century was remarkable. This momentum was halted by the political coup that ousted the first woman president in 2016. The anti-feminist mood that accompanied the impeachment process underscored an overarching theme that runs through the historiography of gender and sexuality in Brazil: the centrality of gender to the major legal and political shifts that mark the nation’s history.

Keywords: Brazil, gender, sexuality, slavery, patriarchy, domestic service, homosexuality, prostitution, women’s labor, racism


The inauguration of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and the Supreme Court decision that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage, both in 2011, were milestones in the history of gender and sexuality, marking the vast distance travelled since the nation’s independence from Portugal in 1822. These advances stand in contrast to the political climate that produced Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016, when the congressional vote was punctuated by homophobic slurs and, as many Brazilian feminists pointed out, criticism of Rousseff was rife with misogyny.1 Rousseff’s successor, Michel Temer, signaled his government’s return to older structures of political dominance by eliminating ministries dedicated to social inclusion and naming a cabinet composed entirely of white men, a number of whom were accused of more serious crimes than Rousseff.2

Rousseff’s impeachment marked a departure from the emphasis on social justice that was the hallmark of left-leaning administrations that first came to power in 2003. These governments made significant progress toward gender equality and sexual rights by accelerating legal processes that had been set in motion in the mid-1980s, when a multitude of social movements shaped Brazil’s return to democracy after a twenty-one-year military dictatorship. In 1988, a new constitution not only established dignity and social justice as fundamental principles, but specifically, and repeatedly, mandated state action to ensure gender equality. Struggles to define the scope and substance of constitutional guarantees ensued over the decades that followed, as activists confronted inconsistent state responses and countless setbacks—the post-impeachment rollback chief among them. On balance, however, their victories outweighed their defeats.3

The expansion of civil and political rights for women and sexual minorities at the turn of the 21st century seems especially striking for a nation that has long been characterized as deeply patriarchal and peculiarly marked by sexualized forms of both repression and self-expression. Brazil’s most eminent early-20th century-intellectuals identified patriarchy, or “patriarchalism” (patriarcalismo), as a powerful legacy of the colonial past that shaped the nation’s political and economic structures as well its people’s character. Beginning in the 1970s, Brazilian feminist activists and intellectuals (increasingly in alliance with advocates of sexual minorities) wrested authority over the discourse on patriarchy, and, partly because of their influence, social historians of the 1980s and 1990s challenged previous depictions of women’s lives and non-heteronormative sexuality as defined entirely by dominant men. Many of these historians resisted situating their work within either women’s or gender history subfields, both because strong Marxist influence since the field’s florescence at the end of the military dictatorship (1964–1985) prioritized class analysis and because the category of “gender” was associated with theory-heavy trends in cultural and intellectual history and in the social sciences, particularly anthropology. By the turn of the twenty-first century, however, a new generation of social historians drew inspiration from both sides of this intellectual divide, applying gender analysis to their empirical research and in some cases incorporating the term “gender” into various historical subfields.

As historians uncovered the agency of women and sexual minorities in the past, describing how they maneuvered within, challenged, or lived outside of patriarchal norms, feminists and other activists have also emphasized the ways defenders of patriarchal norms press back, continually reproducing gender inequality and sexual repression in the present. Multiple forms of discrimination and inequality persist, despite many decades of feminist and LGBT mobilization around issues such as equal pay and political representation, reproductive rights, and discrimination and violence against women and LGBT persons, particularly as these issues intersect with discrimination on the basis of other social markers, such as regional origin, class, and race. Tensions between feminist and anti-feminist visions of Brazilian history erupted in an intense political battle over the decennial National Plan for Education in 2015, when conservative congressmen struck references to gender analysis from the original text, provoking protests by a range of academic and civil rights organizations.4

Rousseff’s impeachment reminds us that the remarkably rapid movement toward formal legal equality for women and sexual minorities in the early 21st century cannot be seen simply as the final chapter of a linear historical movement or a predetermined outcome of Western modernization. Instead, since gender and sexuality are fundamental ways of representing and asserting power, both are implicated in multiple layers of Brazilian history writ large. Choosing one among many possible perspectives on this history, this essay considers the significance of gender and sexuality to the nation’s major political shifts, focusing particularly on the prominence of patriarchy and racialized sexuality in the nation’s history and historiography and the ways these themes have been revised by several generations of historical actors over the past two centuries.

Gender, Sexuality, and Honor under the Brazilian Empire (1822–1889)

In 1822, Brazil became an independent empire headed by the reigning Portuguese prince. Political continuity, unique in the Americas, held the former Portuguese kingdom together while strengthening twin pillars of colonial society: slavery and the patriarchal family. These two overlapping institutions significantly shaped the history of gender and sexuality for the nearly two centuries that have followed. Yet both institutions were constantly challenged, and ultimately transformed, by both concerted effort and the everyday lives of women and men who lived within and outside of them.

Importation of African slaves expanded rapidly in the decades after independence up to 1850. The new arrivals landed in a country that had already received more slaves than anywhere else in the Americas. The ubiquity of diverse manifestations of African cultures, the striking presence of African and African-descended women in public spaces, and the presence of slaves in a wide range of Brazilian households up to the last quarter of the 19th century played a central role in the formation of diverse types of families and their changing gender and sexual dynamics.

Honor and Gender Roles within Elite Families in the 19th Century

Although family honor and birthright lost much of their legal significance with the passage of a liberal constitution in 1824, the continuation of slavery required maintenance of distinct social “conditions”: slave, freed, and free. Gendered concepts of honor accentuated distinctions among them while structuring social relationships at each rung of the social hierarchy. At the top, political power continued to rest on largely rural-based oligarchical networks, and marriage remained an important instrument for social mobility and economic and political alliances. Men sought to marry women of equal or higher social status, measured by their family’s wealth, color, connections, and reputation. Reputation rested heavily on displays of gendered sexual norms: women’s sexual chastity or fidelity attested to their honesty and their male family members’ honor and authority; men’s sexual conquests outside of marriage evidenced their dominance over women and other male protectors. Dependency, associated with femininity, was a mark of subordination that was widely distributed in Brazil’s patronage-based society, and displays of deference by social inferiors were equally critical to both male and female honor.5

While these honor norms were common throughout Ibero-American colonial societies, Brazil’s continued dependence on slavery produced desperate attempts to preserve them through the end of the 19th century. Novelist Machado de Assis, frequently using gender and sexual fidelity as signifiers of broader relations of power under the empire, brilliantly portrayed the variety of everyday rituals of subordination demanded of the assortment of dependents tied to every elite or even middling family.6 Dependents included slaves, former slaves, retainers, and less fortunate relatives or neighbors who might occasionally enjoy some form of patronage. Those at the top also resorted to legal means of enforcing the status quo, though they met with decreasing success as the century advanced. For example, slave owners resisted passage of the “free womb law” in 1871, which freed all children born thereafter, on the grounds that it would erode traditional family values that sustained social order. They argued that the custom whereby benevolent masters voluntarily freed deserving slaves, often conditionally, fostered bonds of affection and gratitude between freedpersons and the master’s family. Without these sentiments, former slaves would become disrespectful and lazy, while former masters would no longer protect and care for them. Opponents also predicted that the free womb law would tear slave families apart because freeborn children would lose respect for their still-enslaved mothers. These arguments were ridiculed, and ultimately defeated, in debates that revealed the increasing insecurity of ostensibly seignorial elites as they witnessed the erosion of slavery along with the family-based metaphor that had legitimized it.7

The hilarity of much of Machado de Assis’s fiction derived from the self-delusional sophistry of an upper-class male protagonist who struggled to hold onto his worldview in the final decades of slavery, unaware of the subterfuge employed by his subordinates as they jockeyed to make the most of their relationship with him.8 It was becoming increasingly clear to all but these guileless sons of the slavocratic elite that patriarchal domination and the honor system that supported it were powerful myths that had obscured the reality of most women and men’s lives in colonial Brazil. Even among the colonial elite, for example, although women were subjected to stringent restrictions, their public reputation could overshadow private deviations such as out-of-wedlock pregnancy or authoritative behavior. Wives’ roles in wealthy and middling families often included running large households to support an estate, household production of various goods, and nurturing the social relationships that were so critical to the family’s position in a society built on patronage. Exceptional women, particularly widows, might sit at the helm of a powerful patriarchal family. And although married women’s legal and economic autonomy declined in the 19th century, they retained a superior position in regard to legal separation, family wealth, and their own property than women in societies considered more modern and liberal, such as Great Britain.9

Honor, Family, and Social Networks of Enslaved, Freed, and Free Poor Populations

Gendered conceptions of honor based on patriarchal family ideals also shaped social relationships among the enslaved, freed, and free poor populations, and, like elite women, poor women tended to play a critical role in sustaining family and other social networks necessary for survival and social mobility. Family structures, gender roles, and sexual organization varied considerably among this heterogeneous population, however, and honor took on different meanings.

Formal marriage was less common among the free poor and especially among the enslaved and formerly enslaved, with significant variation by region and over time.10 Throughout the history of slavery in Brazil, men vastly outnumbered women among new arrivals from Africa and on large rural plantations, and their life expectancy was short, leaving them little chance to marry or form families. Rising prices for slaves after the African traffic ended in 1850 seems to have generally improved conditions—again, with great variation—but reduced the likelihood of manumission and subjected urban slaves and freed and free people of color to the increased danger of being sold through legal and illegal internal trafficking. Freed and free women were particularly vulnerable, and even those victims who escaped were often unable to recover their kidnapped children.11

Marriage and family stability were more accessible to slaves and to poor freed and free individuals where populations were not mobile—for example, on profitable plantations with large slave populations and in regions where there was access to stable work or land. Not only demographics, but also slaveowners’ attitudes, affected slaves’ access to marriage: many owners disallowed marriages in order to maximize their prerogative to sell individuals separately, but others encouraged or even required marriage and kept multigenerational family units together as a way to maintain religious morals or a compliant labor force.12 Marriage strategies, rituals, and expectations brought from Africa also played a role in the formation of conjugal relationships.13 Most people chose partners from within their ethnic group, whether “creole” (Brazilian born) or one of various African “nations,” or cultural-affinity groups created through a similar language or region of origin.14 Slaves often gained entry to free poor communities—which could help them attain freedom, survive, and even prosper—through ethnic or religious affiliations, extended families, or intimate or sexual relationships.15 Social networks and material conditions affected how honor played out. Because families depended on women’s labor, and were frequently matrifocal, women’s reputations lay more in public recognition of their hard work to support their families and command respect in public than seclusion and subordination to a husband.16 Colonial-era black and mulatto militia units could bolster the honor of freed and free men of color, particularly for those who ascended into the officer class, but these units were eliminated in the 1830s, and black men found it much more difficult to rise past the lowest ranks in the armed forces that replaced them.17

As was true in previous centuries (and in contrast to the southern United States), although the slave population did not reproduce itself, the freed and free poor population continued to expanded rapidly in the 19th century, as it had during the colonial period, with women performing the bulk of reproductive labor. Historians have documented widely variable rates of manumission, ranging from less than 2 percent to over 40 percent in studies of different locales and periods; most studies have found higher manumission rates among small holders (owners of 1–5 slaves) than on large estates. Scholars generally agree that overall manumission rates were probably similar to those of Spanish America and certainly much higher than in British colonies, and that manumissions declined with the rise of slave prices in the 19th century. Compared to men, women consistently enjoyed both higher manumission rates and better chances of accumulating wealth as freedpersons; this advantage was even more pronounced among those born in Africa. Women’s relatively stronger position for negotiating their freedom resulted from their greater proximity to masters’ families as domestics and to higher-status men through intimate and sexual relationships (rarely marriage) and, much more importantly, their greater access to social and labor networks that permitted self-purchase and subsequent accumulation of property, particularly in urban areas.18 Toward the end of the century, enslaved women also used the courts to argue for their children’s and their own freedom, making gender-specific arguments about their rights as mothers.19

The Role of African and African-Descended Women in 19th-Century Urban Commercial and Religious Networks

Most freedpeople remained impoverished and vulnerable to exploitation and to re- enslavement by former masters.20 Yet some achieved a surprising degree of social mobility. Even more surprising is the prevalence of African-born freedwomen in some 18th- and 19th-century cities and towns who headed relatively prosperous households, a few of whom became quite wealthy. Freedwomen, like freedmen, invariably purchased slaves as a first step toward accumulation of wealth (some were able to purchase slaves even while they themselves were still enslaved), although this strategy became less feasible as prices rose after 1850. Enslaved and freedwomen and men alike also constructed both horizontal and vertical social networks that included ties to owners and former owners as well as integration in multi-ethnic religious institutions. Many of the avenues toward economic success, however, were gender-specific. Freedmen accumulated honor, status, and wealth through militia service and as bush captains, barbers/surgeons, and merchants in the Atlantic slave trade.21 Freedwomen’s most notable path to economic success was through the local economy, as street or market vendors. Especially if they did not have biological children, freedwomen frequently formed households and fictive kinship ties with female slaves who worked alongside them and often inherited their property.22 The 18th-century mining boom in the province of Minas Gerais played an especially important role in fostering these networks because of the unprecedented number of slaves, particularly African-born women, who gained freedom, and prospered, in this frontier society.23

Black women vendors remained a prominent presence in cities and towns throughout Brazil in the 19th century. Their colorful clothing and baskets of produce or other foods, often balanced on their heads, attracted the eye of a number of painters who captured what they considered the country’s peculiar cosmopolitan street scenes. Much of their work was unregulated and semi-legal, leading to their periodic persecution. Attempts to suppress their trade were ineffectual, however, because they were integrated into commercial networks that were necessary for marketing and distribution of basic provisions, they made social and political connections that provided protection, and, at least in some municipalities, they supplied considerable tax revenue. This female entrepreneurial labor played a significant role in the development of local economies and in the wealth accumulation that helped form a class of prosperous black free and freedpersons in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.24 From the 1830s to the end of the century, however, opportunities for social advancement by both women and men of color narrowed for many reasons, including growing elite fears of slave revolts and the black population in general, the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, which made slave ownership more difficult, new forms of political exclusion that accompanied the empowerment of a new conservative elite, and the dissemination of new forms of racism.25

Black women, particularly those belonging to various African “nations,” also played important roles in the formation of social networks through festivities and religious institutions, including participation in black Catholic lay brotherhoods throughout the colonial and imperial periods.26 Whereas leadership in Catholic organizations was male-dominated, women’s leadership was prominent in the creation of the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomblé, during the 19th century. A few African-born priestesses who helped to found the religion in Bahia even travelled to West Africa, where they collaborated with Yoruban priests, enhancing the prestige of their newly established sect and setting a precedent that other female religious leaders would follow in the 20th century.27

Domestic Service and Social Anxiety at the End of the Empire

Particularly in urban areas, most enslaved and free poor women performed some form of domestic work, often in addition to other kinds of work. As members of an elite household, young, unmarried female domestic slaves were especially vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of masters, who also expected them to maintain the family’s honor through sexual modesty and by not venturing alone on to the world of “the street.” Their isolation and lack of autonomy places them in marked contrast to the street vendors described above. Yet slaves owned by more modest urban families, or by single women, were commonly rented out as day laborers. Like urban slaves hired out for other kinds of work, such as selling goods or sex on the street, some domestic servants were able to achieve a degree of autonomy, accumulating savings and forming social networks that could ameliorate the oppression of slavery and even help them negotiate their freedom. Elite associations of “the house” with safety and modesty and “the street” with sexual and other dangers were thus often inverted for domestic workers.28 Nonetheless, the intimate nature of relationships within households and the overlapping roles of female family members, consensual partners, and domestic servants meant that regardless of the intensity or complexity of the labor involved, domestic work was broadly considered to fall within the private realm of intimacy and affection, not the public world of work and money, whether performed by enslaved or free women, before or after abolition.29

Notwithstanding this continuity, anxiety about domesticity and domestic servants surfaced in a number of literary works that attempted to imagine a world without slavery in the second half of the 19th century. These texts, many written by physicians, tell stories of forbidden love while warning that the moral corruption brought by the destruction of slave society would transform domestic slaves into demons. The stories resonated with elite fears of the “enemy” within the home and decried the deleterious effects of slavery on white families and on the future of Brazilian society.30

Beginning in the final decades of the 19th century, these themes resurfaced in debates over regulation of domestic work that was designed to protect employers, without any mention of rights or protections for workers. Legislators warned of the danger, often represented as contagion and disease, posed by these “outsiders” to the family. The wet-nurse, because of her physical proximity and maternal sentiment toward her wards, was the quintessential example. The debates persisted well past abolition, as domestic workers continued to endure forms of abuse and violence most associated with slavery in its peculiar combination of proximity, affection, violence, and hierarchy.31

The First Republic, 1889–1930

Abolition of slavery without compensation in 1888 was met by massive displays of popular support for the emperor but alienated his most powerful supporters, paving the way for a coup led by positivist-inspired military officers the following year. A democratic republic was established, with suffrage limited to literate adult men—about 3–5 percent of the total population. Political power continued to rest in the hands of regional oligarchies, with the federal government and economy largely controlled by the most prosperous among them, the São Paulo coffee barons. The patriarchal extended family also survived the transition, both as a form of social and political organization and a metaphor for social order.

Yet the republican state was founded on promises of equality among citizens as well as “order and progress”—the positivist motto stamped onto its flag—and the regime’s political survival required that it address glaring public-health and infrastructural problems, particularly in burgeoning post-abolition cities. For most of the nation’s elite, this meant mimicking European (specifically Parisian) models in order to “modernize” and “civilize” what they saw as the racially inferior, backward society inherited from the empire.

Conflicting visions for Brazil’s civilization were frequently expressed through debates over whether and how to “modernize” the gender and sexual norms associated with the “traditional Brazilian family.” The intense focus on prostitution that accompanied these debates in Rio de Janeiro, the centerpiece of the republic’s efforts to showcase its modernity, provides a good example. Fears that prostitutes would morally contaminate honest family women on the city’s streets mirrored anxiety about honorable families’ vulnerability to contamination by poor, mixed-race residents, whether those working as domestics in their homes or sharing urban public space. Very real threats posed by diseases including syphilis, tuberculosis, smallpox, and yellow fever were conflated with social and moral “contagion.” A massive urban renewal project and police-enforced zoning policies worked in tandem to “sanitize” the areas targeted for “civilization” through repression of street vendors, popular cultural manifestations such as Afro-Brazilian religion, and non-normative gender and sexual expression, together with eviction of poor residents and removal of poor prostitutes to “tolerated zones” on the city’s outskirts.32

Increasingly after WWI, the oligarchical elite’s authoritarian civilizing mission, along with its political legitimacy, was thrown into question. Many male professionals and writers criticized what they considered Brazilians’ extreme preoccupation with women’s sexual honesty as emblematic of backward traditionalism. They were joined by female activists in the 1910s and 1920s who protested against honor killings of women, which had not been permitted by law since the early 19th century but commonly resulted in acquittals by all-male juries.33 Middle- and upper-class women also began pressuring for expanded access to education and professional careers, which they won slowly over the first few decades of the 20th century. By the 1920s, groups of professional women, some of whom educated abroad, had formed associations to lobby for women’s civil and political rights. The most important was the Brazilian Federation for Feminine Progress (Federação Brasileira pelo Progresso Feminino, FBPF), led by biologist Bertha Lutz.34 Other elite women, some of whom formed part of a vibrant and polymorphous artistic and intellectual movement known as modernism, mocked traditionalist gender and sexual norms along with what they saw as the Europeanizing pretentions of a retrograde oligarchy.35 More broadly, a new nationalist aesthetic embraced the “popular culture” inspired by the African heritage of the poor majority, which included new forms of gender and sexual expression through music and dance. The implications of these cultural critiques would become increasingly clear after the collapse of the First Republic in 1930.

The Vargas era: 1930–1945

Patriarchy and Racialized Sexuality in Cultural Constructions of National Identity

The overthrow of the First Republic in 1930 by a broad-based military and civilian coalition led by Getúlio Vargas (president from 1930 to 1945 and 1950 to 1954) marked a cultural as well as a political turning point. What had been admired as modern and civilized in previous decades now represented the failure of an elitist state to develop authentic political and cultural institutions and represent the true character of the nation’s people, much less achieve the progress that would improve their lot. These themes coalesced in the work of the two most celebrated among a legion of “interpreters of Brazil,” or intellectuals who sought to explain the nation’s distinctiveness: sociologist Gilberto Freyre and historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. By recognizing patriarchy as the fundamental logic underlying Brazil’s social and political order, Freyre and Buarque de Holanda implicitly identified gender and sexuality as primary signifiers of power. More explicitly, they described family formation and sexual practices as primary strategies for asserting power and reproducing social hierarchy. Coming at a time of intense nationalist soul searching in the wake of the inchoate Revolution of 1930, their work had a powerful impact on the construction of national identity, and on analyses of the role of gender and sexuality within this identity, by generations of intellectuals and political elites.

Buarque de Holanda’s Roots of Brazil, first published in 1936, argued that the “patriarchalism,” or patriarchal logic, that emerged from colonial slave-based plantation households played a central role in the formation of Brazilian society and political culture. Patriarchy not only structured power in and outside of the family, but it embedded “personalism” (personalismo) and patronage deep into the Brazilian psyche. These intractable national characteristics led Brazilians to reproduce political oligarchy and corruption, making it impossible for the nation to adapt to modern economic and political institutions such as republicanism and democracy. Progress would require reducing poverty and expanding social justice in ways that would empower people on the bottom to break out of social relations of dependency.36

Representing the frustrations of a new middle class in the modernizing cities of the center south, Buarque de Holanda’s work reacted against the nostalgic vision of the traditional Brazilian family that was most famously depicted by northeasterner Gilberto Freyre. Like Raizes do Brasil, Freyre’s The Masters and the Slaves (1933) focused on the patriarchal structure of colonial plantation households as the key to understanding the Brazilian psyche. Unlike Buarque de Holanda, however, Freyre emphasized the positive legacy of this heritage.

Applauding the civilizing influence of the Portuguese colonizers, Freyre argued that the ubiquity of interracial sexual relations, as well as other forms of intimacy and affection nurtured within patriarchal colonial households, had created a uniquely harmonious multi-ethnic society. Freyre recognized that the productive and reproductive labor on colonial plantations had been extracted through good measures of violence—he emphasized in particular the sadistic nature of sex between male masters and female slaves and punishments exacted on the same slaves by jealous mistresses. Yet he believed that the net result of interracial sexual relations, and the broader social relationships they symbolized, was an organic social order that allowed Brazil to avoid racial animosity.37 The book caused an immediate sensation, contributing directly to the construction of nationalist beliefs that would reach mythic proportions.

Freyre’s most enduring contribution was to celebrate the importance of Africans and their descendants in shaping Brazil’s affable, tolerant, and festive character. He attributed a central role to the mulata, the mixed-race woman who he believed symbolized the special sensuality of Brazil’s tropical environment and stimulated, literally and figuratively, the nation’s unique biological and cultural fusion. This celebration of the mulata resonated with, and helped to promote, a variety of popular artistic manifestations that competed to represent the essence of national culture in the 1920s and 1930s. The most successful was samba, a music and dance genre created by black popular artists and community members on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Samba’s birth in the nation’s capital, its blended African-European roots and disparagement by the Europeanized elite of the First Republic, and the success it enjoyed in post–World War I Paris certainly contributed to its elevated status. Most importantly, the genre reinforced themes that were central to an emerging national identity that became hegemonic during the Vargas period. Among the more ambiguous of these themes was the racialized and gendered sexuality represented by the alluring mulata, a stock character in samba lyrics.38

The impact of the elevation of the mulata on actual women was equally ambiguous. The sensuality and beauty attributed to mixed-race women offered them a positively valued place in national culture and an outlet for empowerment and self-expression in festive spaces such as carnival. This valorization did little, however, to eliminate the racist and sexist objectification of women that was part of the patriarchal colonial legacy.39 This legacy was expressed by a popular adage of uncertain origins, quoted by Freyre and other 20th-century “interpreters of Brazil”: “white women are for marriage; black women are for work; mulatas are for sex.”

Yet Freyre helped to propagate the belief that sexual mixture and affectionate, albeit hierarchical, social relationships had all but eliminated racism in Brazil. This idea, identified by social thinkers of the time as “racial fraternity” in the early decades of the century and “racial democracy” after the 1940s, was vigorously promoted by the Vargas regime. Black male intellectuals also deployed these ideologies in their criticism of racism as “un-Brazilian.” In all of these iterations, ideas about race reinforced the sexual objectification of black and mulata women, whose bodies and affection served to create fraternal ties between black and white men.40

The Construction of Homosexuality

The construction of homosexuality in the first half of the 20th century shared some of the features of heterosexuality, including similar racial and gender associations. Homosexuality had been decriminalized by the 1830 Criminal Code, and although a few proposals to imprison or forcibly hospitalize homosexuals circulated among legal and medical authorities in the late 1930s, no laws specifically targeted same-sex relationships. Instead, repression of “deviance” or “affronts to public decency” was left to the discretion of the police.41 It seems likely that women were largely able to keep sexual relationships with other women hidden, as they rarely attracted the attention of authorities or the general public.42 Male homosexuality was more vigorously repressed, but, according to police and medical authorities, also occupied an increasing variety of public spaces. Male-to-female cross-dressing was an indispensable part of carnival revelry, in which most of the cross-dressers parodied femininity in ways that emphasized the inversion, for three days, of their performance of masculinity during the rest of the year. Other men, most of whom identified as homosexual, extended drag performances throughout the year, contributing to both the celebration of transgressive sexuality in nocturnal bohemian social spaces in the early part of the century and its expansion to other social venues in later decades, particularly in the culturally vibrant capital, Rio de Janeiro. A specifically Brazilian “travesti” (transvestite) subculture in several urban centers, which also included prostitutes, would expand internationally in later decades, followed in the 21st century by significant “trans” activism.43

As was true in many societies prior to the development of internationally linked LGBT movements since the 1970s, men who had sex with other men did not necessarily identify as homosexual if they took the “active” role, and this was especially true if the “passive” partner took on an overtly feminine identity. Outside of public performance and commercial sex, most men who sought same-sex relationships—whether they identified as homosexual or not—kept them private while developing a community thorough a range of codified signals and social spaces within the expanding bohemian nightlife of urban centers such as Rio de Janeiro. The increased moral policing of the later Vargas years periodically restricted these spaces, as was true in later decades, particularly during the military regime of 1964–1985, but they continued to reemerge in new forms.44

Feminism and Women’s Rights under Vargas

Although the intellectual and political elite was dominated by men throughout the Vargas years (even today, homages to the great “interpreters of Brazil” do not include a single woman45), the salience of discussions involving family values in the context of a rapidly expanding state and civil society created unprecedented space for women to participate in public discourse. Feminist organizations, most notably the FBPF, still comprising mainly upper-middle-class women and led by Bertha Lutz, seized the opportunity. Feminists used personal connections and arguments stressing women’s respectability to achieve an immediate goal—suffrage, in 1932—while developing multipronged strategies to eradicate the nation’s patriarchal political ideologies and legal structures and to empower women of various social classes. Yet class, regional, political, and racial divisions also surfaced among women who mobilized in the 1930s, thwarting feminists’ attempts to create a “national women’s party.” Two salient examples are elite white women in São Paulo who drew upon traditional gender roles to support an anti-Vargas revolution in 1932 and black women in São Paulo and other cities who joined the Black Front, an organization focused on racial equality, whose affiliates in different cities embraced political ideologies that ranged from socialism to variants of fascism and also generally embraced traditional gender roles.46

The brilliance of Vargas’s political leadership in the early 1930s lay in his ability to incorporate contradictory ideologies into nationalist propaganda and social policy. This was apparent in his approach to conflicts over gender roles and women’s rights. Vargas granted women’s suffrage and a host of protections for women workers by decree in the early 1930s, and in 1934, Carlota Pereira de Queiróz, a leader of women’s efforts to support São Paulo’s revolt, became the first woman elected to the National Congress. Lutz, elected as a substitute, joined her in 1936. Among Lutz’s most notable efforts was to create the Women’s Legal Statute, a bill that aimed to eliminate women’s inequality from all aspects of civil law, with particular attention to marriage property, family rights for women living in consensual unions, and the rights of women workers.47

Yet Vargas’s strategy for constructing a hegemonic national identity undermined the comprehensive critique of Brazil’s patriarchal political structures that motivated opponents of the traditional elite, including male intellectuals such as Buarque de Holanda and feminists such as Lutz. Vargas drew inspiration instead from Freyre, propagating a notion of “Brazilianness” (brasilidade) that denied racial differences or prejudice while exalting the masculine honor of the Brazilian worker. He enhanced his own authority through paternalism and patronage, referring to himself as “father of the people” and representing his corporatist state through the metaphor of the traditional patriarchal family while promoting working-class masculine authority in messages about national honor and family. Moreover, although his sweeping labor legislation and populist rhetoric alienated some sectors of the traditional elite, his corporatist authoritarian political model and pro-Catholic policies brought into the political arena a new generation of religious social conservatives. Conservatives successfully lobbied for a constitutional provision to guarantee state protection of the family, “formed by indissoluble marriage,” in the constitution of 1934 (this antidivorce provision was reiterated in new constitutions in 1937, 1946, and 1967) and obstructed Lutz’s comprehensive women’s rights bill.48

Women Workers and Labor Law under Vargas

After a military coup created the authoritarian New State in 1937, extending Vargas’s presidency indefinitely while prohibiting autonomous political organizations, the regime intensified its emphasis on the patriarchal family as the basis of social cohesion and state power. An elaborate propaganda and censorship apparatus promoted idealized working-class masculinity and femininity as the essence of Brasilidade. Among the tasks of state censors, for example, was to “clean up” popular music, especially samba, by scratching lyrics that celebrated work avoidance and mulatas and encouraging references to the “traditional values” of the Brazilian family.

Vargas’s deployment of patriarchal family values aimed to discipline the urban masses, whose support he had earned in the early 1930s through promises of sweeping labor-rights legislation. Although some women workers benefited from implementation of labor reforms in the 1930s and 1940s, Vargas’ program heavily favored male-dominated occupations in the industrial and service sectors. Male trade unionists capitalized on the state’s construction of honorable working-class masculinity by demanding a “family wage” for male heads of households, while female workers were largely pushed out of the relatively well-remunerated industrial workforce and into the informal labor market.49 Domestic service, still the largest employment category for women, remained unregulated. A pioneering attempt to unionize domestic workers in 1936 was led by Laudelina de Campos Mello, a domestic worker who was active with the local affiliate of the Brazilian Black Front (the first national race-based political organization) in the city of Santos, in São Paulo. The association of domestic workers Mello created was suppressed by the Estado Novo in 1942.50

Vargas-era legislation did little to alter conditions or wages for the small number of women in middle-class professions. A good example is teaching, including university teaching in liberal-arts fields, which had been female dominated since the beginning of the century. Wages were notoriously low, with positions in primary and secondary schools typically not offering a living wage. Women’s inroads into other liberal professions increased very slowly until the 1950s and 1960s, when the growth of university education and of social acceptance of women’s education led to a sharp increase in the proportions of women professionals, particularly in the fields of medicine, dentistry, and law. 51

Developmentalism and Domesticity in the 1950s

The Estado Novo was overthrown and democracy restored in 1945, but many of the laws and institutions Vargas created would continue to shape the history of gender and sexuality over the decades that followed. As was true in much of the Western world, the 1950s in Brazil saw a preponderance of conservative ideologies of heteronormativity, sexual repression, and domesticity, whereas rebellion against the gender and sexual constraints of postwar society was a defining feature of a new youth culture of the 1960s and 1970s and played a prominent part in that generation’s oppositional politics.

The post–World War II period in Brazil was characterized most forcefully by “developmentalism,” a term that encompasses cultural and political ideals alongside state-interventionist policies aimed at industrializing and diversifying the economy within the framework of Western capitalism. This economic course had been charted by Vargas, but reached dizzying speed in the late 1950s as the economy expanded under President Juscelino Kubitschek (1956–1961), who famously promised to progress “50 years in 5.” It was a period of optimism fueled by economic growth and expansion of urban consumption, represented less by the mulata and more by the white, middle-class “girl from Ipanema” of Bossa Nova, the musical genre associated with the white urban middle class that overtook samba as Brazil’s emblematic cultural export. Yet although the middle class was growing, it still represented a tiny minority of Brazilians. Rapid growth exacerbated the already enormous gaps between rich and poor, urban and rural, and white and black or brown, while sustaining a high level of political mobilization. Escalating demands for inclusion in the benefits of modernization coincided with international Cold War polarization, leading to the radicalization of movements on the left and right.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, these national and international tensions were reflected in increasingly intense battles over how to modernize gender and sexual norms. In part, the heightened concern with gender and sexuality reflected the nation’s preoccupation with its international image. At the 1945 San Francisco Conference of allied nations, Brazilian delegate Bertha Lutz successfully argued for inclusion of women’s equal rights in the United Nations Charter, and Brazil was quick to sign this and other international commitments to women’s equality. Feminist activists and their supporters in congress immediately pointed out that Brazil’s civil code perpetuated patriarchal traditions that were incompatible with modern statehood and explicitly violated Brazil’s international obligations.52

Attempts to reform civil law provoked virulent opposition by Catholic politicians who warned that reducing men’s authority in the home would create social anarchy and open the door to communism. Battles raged in Congress and in public forums for over a decade, resulting in compromise legislation in 1962: the Statute of the Married Woman. The statute gave women preferential custody of their children in cases of litigious separation and permitted women to accept paid employment and inheritances without their husband’s permission. Feminists such as Bertha Lutz, however, complained that the statute ignored “everything else,” leaving patriarchy intact as husbands retained their status as “head of the family” and the right to administer marital property.53 Women’s-rights advocates such as lawyers Orminda Bastos and Romy Martins Medeiros da Fonseca and congressman Nelson Carneiro continued efforts to pass other provisions that had been part of Lutz’s failed 1936 statute, including equitable divorce legislation (finally passed in 1977), rights for women living in consensual unions, protection from domestic and other violence, and provisions such as child care, maternity leave, and other measures to ensure women’s equal access to the labor market. In an increasingly polarized political climate and without the support of a national organization similar to the FBPF of the 1920s and 1930s, however, feminism had lost much of its vigor.

Both the mainstream communications media and popular culture reinforced the re-entrenchment of a patriarchal political cultural in the 1950s and early 1960s. Vargas-era state propaganda and censorship had come to an end in the late 1940s, along with its moralizing discourse targeting the working class. In its place came a dramatic increase of messages promoting modern middle-class domesticity in the national and international (particularly U.S.) media and advertising that targeted white, urban, female consumers.54 Many women, both elite and working class, responded enthusiastically to these messages. In rapidly growing urban areas, middle-class housewives could still rely on an ample supply of low-paid domestic workers, many of whom recent migrants from rural areas. Domestic workers continued to constitute the largest category of women workers, followed by other sectors of the informal labor market. Yet well-paid union jobs and social-welfare benefits for men in industrial centers such as São Paulo made it possible for a growing minority of working-class women to become housewives, and many more aspired to this domestic role. They flocked to the “home economics” courses offered by the largest association of industrialists, SESI, in São Paulo in the 1940s and 1950s.55 Wives benefitted from Vargas-era social welfare benefits, and although efforts to extend these benefits to women living in consensual unions failed in congress, they increasingly won in the courts, their efforts culminating in a Supreme Court ruling that created guidelines known as “Concubine’s Rights” in 1964.56

For the growing numbers of activists who took to the streets demanding social justice in the early 1960s, the promotion of middle-class domesticity and urban consumption seemed out of place, or even perverse, in a country where the majority still lived in dire poverty. Within and alongside demands for inclusion in the benefits of modernization came a variety of challenges to the gender and sexual discourses that accompanied capitalist developmentalism.

Political Polarization, Military Dictatorship, and Radical Challenges to Gender and Sexual Norms, 1960s–1970s

In a climate of escalating political mobilization and polarization, exacerbated by global Cold War tensions in the early 1960s, many staked their positions on the terrain of gender and sexuality. Most famously, when elite women took to the streets to protest the left-leaning policies of President João Goulart (1961–1964), a protégé of Vargas, they expressed their defense of their class interests as patriotic support for the patriarchal values of the traditional Brazilian family. The “Marches of the Family with God for Freedom” movement featured women banging pots and pans to symbolize their inability to fulfill their domestic roles because of the crisis and using homophobic provocations to incite the members of the military to defend the nation. After the military staged a coup in 1964, it deployed similar rhetoric to justify staying in power for the next two decades.57

Challenges to the gender and sexual norms supported by the military dictatorship were most visible in the youth culture that developed in urban centers, particularly within Brazilian universities, which grew rapidly in the 1970s. University graduates were still members of a tiny, mostly white, elite, but rose from 2 to 5 percent of the population from 1970 to 1990. A much more significant change was in the proportion of women graduates: from less than 1 percent in the 1910s to 40 percent in 1970 and more than 50 percent after 1980.58 Many of these women participated in student mobilizations that voiced increasingly radical critiques of the national and global social and political order, particularly after the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Their presence, and their adoption of new styles of dress and comportment associated with youth culture of the 1960s around the Western world, marked an implicit rejection of 1950s gender and sexual norms. After 1964, female students’ participation in not only street protests but also guerilla organizations provoked intense fascination in the media. The military regime vilified these women, and, as has been true of other repressive regimes, the fear of challenges to gendered power hierarchies was expressed in the systematic use of sexual intimidation and forms of torture against female prisoners.59

Although many women and men involved in oppositional political movements criticized patriarchal values and social hierarchy, few organizations during the 1960s defined themselves as feminist, and fewer still as gay or lesbian. Many on the left criticized feminism as a “bourgeois” philosophy associated with Western liberalism and United States imperialism, and homosexuality as a mark of perverse capitalist alienation. Influenced most powerfully by various strains of Marxism, the left generally emphasized the primacy of class over race or gender oppression and, after 1964, insisted that focus should not be diverted from overthrowing the dictatorship.60

The seemingly sudden explosion of feminist groups in the late 1970s, together with the emergence of small gay-rights organizations, coincided with the defeat of the armed guerrilla. Brazilian exiles abroad, particularly in France, had gained a new perspective on women’s and sexual oppression through interactions with feminists, while women who had remained in Brazil, many of whom became increasingly disillusioned with left-wing political parties and student organizations, formed a variety of new “women’s” organizations, some of which incorporated “feminist” into their titles.61 Some participated in ongoing parliamentary efforts to reform family law. They won an important victory with the legalization of divorce in 1977.62 Women also led organizations of family members of victims of political repression and initiated a campaign for a general amnesty for all political exiles, won in 1979. Many of the women who first became involved in politics during the amnesty struggle also began organizing to combat their oppression as women. Several regional meetings of women’s organizations beginning in the mid-1970s put them in contact with activists from organizations focused on other issues—such as racial discrimination, housing, or falling wages—who had also begun to critique their oppression as women.63

Although many self-identified feminists, the bulk of whom were white and middle class, attempted to create an inclusive movement, sharp economic and racial inequality created differences in women’s experiences of gender oppression that that were at times unbridgeable. In some ways, the increasing professional opportunities and autonomy that middle-class women began to enjoy in the 1970s reinforced these differences. Middle-class professional women faced wage discrimination and harassment as well as a double workday, since gendered domestic expectations had changed little since the 1950s. Yet not only were their wages many times higher than those of most workers, but their domestic work frequently included supervision of maids (increasingly day workers rather than live-ins), which made it possible to balance professional and domestic work without transforming gender roles within their own families. The irony of white feminists’ racial and class privilege was not lost on black women activists, who were more likely to join organizations that focused on class or racial oppression, such as the Unified Black Movement, than feminist organizations.64 Laudelina de Campos Mello, for example, continued her militancy through progressive Catholic groups in the 1960s and a nascent, multifaceted black movement in Campinas, São Paulo, in the 1970s. Still advocating for domestic workers, she helped win an important victory in 1972, when the state recognized domestic work as a profession with limited legal rights.65

Alongside struggles for equal rights in the workplace, calls for women’s sexual liberation intensified in the 1970s, transforming many women’s lives. Sexual ideologies and double standards reminiscent of honor codes of earlier centuries had not completely disappeared, and they were reinforced by growing religious fundamentalism over the subsequent decades. Yet as the population became more urban than rural after 1970, widespread access to birth control brought a sharp decline in fertility.66 Divorce still carried stigma, but it permitted many women greater autonomy. At the same time, more egalitarian and liberal ideas about gender and sexuality were spreading rapidly by the end of the dictatorship in 1985.

New Republic: 1985–Present

Human Rights and the 1988 Constitution

The resurgence of the struggle for gender equality and sexual rights was part of the phenomenon of “new social movements”—grass-roots organizations that formed outside of traditional labor unions and partisan politics—that mushroomed in Latin America as a whole in the 1980s, a decade marked by re-democratization accompanied by an acute economic crisis. Women were particularly active in these movements, which tended to be community or identity based rather than ideological and party based, and were often related to family survival. Many, particularly in rural areas or urban slums, had sprung from Catholic Church efforts to minister to the poor by creating lay consciousness-raising groups known as “ecclesiastical base communities.” At the same time, women, many but not all of whom considered themselves feminists, and a small but growing number of gay men, worked to transform what they saw as the machista culture of the left. Some worked within political parties, but the most notable new form of advocacy was the creation of a variety of grass-roots organizations that employed the language of human rights, applying it not only to state violence but also to various forms of inequality and injustice. By the time the military finally stepped down in 1985, human rights had become a meta-discourse employed by a wide variety of movements for social justice, ranging from families of victims of the regime to advocates for sexual and reproductive rights to the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission.

Leaders of these movements would come together in the convention that produced the 1988 constitution, which established human dignity and equality as its fundamental principles. Part of the convention’s work was to gather input from civil society, a process that generated tremendous publicity for groups such as the “lipstick lobby”—the name given by the media to groups that represented women’s interests. Heated debate erupted over how to define these interests, particularly regarding proposals to incorporate reproductive and gay and lesbian rights, which were blocked by traditional conservatives and the emerging “evangelical block,” a congressional caucus whose base was in new evangelical protestant churches. Feminists succeeded, however, in dismantling legal support for patriarchy through articles that incorporated the major components of Bertha Lutz’s 1936 bill: equal rights within marriage, equal pay and rights as workers, maternity leave, recognition of consensual unions as family entities, and equal family rights for children, regardless of their parents’ civil status.67

Non-governmental Organizations and the Struggle against Domestic Violence

Women’s leadership in civil society continued to expand in the decades that followed the passage of the 1988 constitution, particularly through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on social policy and human rights. Part of a global process that some activists and social scientists have called the “ngo-ification of social movements,” the 1990s saw the consolidation of thousands of NGOs in Brazil, many of which focused entirely or partially on gender or sexuality and were generally characterized by higher levels of funding and institutional support than previous grass-roots groups. By placing struggles around gender and sexuality within a human-rights framework, different groups of activists have mobilized the support of national and international NGOs as well as national and international governmental organizations (IGOs).

The campaign against domestic violence exemplifies this multicentered approach.68 Building on mobilizations dating to the 1920s, the campaign gained widespread visibility due to the combination of ground-level organizing by feminist groups that provided victim services, national political lobbying, alliances with international NGOs, and work thorough the international human rights system. Among the most visible results included the creation of women’s police stations throughout Brazil beginning in 1985, which became a model for similar initiatives around the world; the condemnation of the domestic violence situation in Brazil by international human rights NGOs; the hosting of the Inter-American Convention to Eradicate Violence Against Women in the city of Belém in 1994 and Brazil’s ratification of the resulting treaty; and the first case of domestic violence to be heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in 2001. The commission found that Brazil had violated the Belém treaty, among others, by failing to address endemic violence against women. Among the state’s responses was to create a law in 2006, with input from feminist organizations, that specifically criminalizes domestic violence against women. The law is named for the victim in the case, Maria da Penha. According to a 2015 World Bank study, state efforts to combat violence against women by expanding women’s police stations had a positive, but uneven, effect around the country, with rural areas showing the least improvement. Levels of violence against women are still among the highest in Latin America, and this violence disproportionately targets black women as well as members of sexual minorities.69

21st-Century Legal Transformations: Affirmative Action, Labor Rights for Domestic Servants and Prostitution, and Marriage Equality

In a trend common to many nations, women have surpassed men since 1980 in educational attainment over the past three decades, and today make up 61 percent of college graduates (12 percent of women and 10 percent of men held college degrees in 2012). Women are still underrepresented in the highest-paying professions, however, and economic and political power remains largely dominated by white men. Women overall earn about 30 percent less than men, with the gender pay gap increasing with educational attainment.70 They also represent a small minority of elected officials. Feminist pressure led to gender quotas for political parties’ candidate lists since 1997, but the laws are weak, and progress has been slow. Although the election of Dilma Rousseff as the first woman president in 2011 represented a milestone, the candidate downplayed her gender and the relevance of “women’s issues” to her political campaigns. This changed with the political crisis of 2016, when Rousseff’s denunciation of her opponents’ misogyny and elitism brought her closer to feminist and other progressive groups. Her presidency did not lead to more women in other elected offices. For example, as of 2016, women make up only about 10 percent of the federal legislature, among the smallest proportions in the world.71

Yet although the number of women in elected offices has remained low, policies to empower women under leftist regimes have led to some significant gains. Unprecedented numbers of women were named to ministerial offices under presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003–2011) and Rousseff, including a ministry created to promote gender equality.72 Affirmative-action programs, introduced timidly during the presidency of the centrist President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995–2002), then implemented on a broader scale under the subsequent leftist governments headed by President Lula, have included measures that have empowered women, such as income transfer and other social programs favoring mothers and racial, ethnic, and class-based quota programs, implemented most prominently in federal universities. By provoking public debate regarding racism and discrimination, affirmative action has opened space for women to discuss the intersection of class, racial, and gender discrimination and specifically challenge racialized sexual stereotypes.73

Another legal change that addressed intersecting class, racial, and gender discrimination involved domestic service. Many observers note that domestic service still represents one of the most tenacious legacies of Brazil’s slave society.74 Between 2003 and 2014, it employed from about 12 to 15 percent of the female labor force, constituting one of the largest and lowest-paid occupations for women. Almost all (95 percent) are female, 61 percent are black, and most work informally.75 These characteristics have made it extremely difficult for domestic workers to organize, although efforts by the indefatigable Laudelina de Campos Mello in Campinas helped inspire the formation of several associations of domestic servants in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s, the first domestic-workers’ union, in 1988, and a national federation in 1997 (Mello herself passed away in 1991).76 In the new century, the federation expanded rapidly at both the grass-roots and international levels, incorporating twenty-six local unions and drawing financial support and legitimization from several NGOs and IGOs, including the United Nations Millennial Fund and the International Labor Organization (ILO).77 From 2003 to 2013, economic growth and state redistributive and employment policies led to a sharp drop in the offer of domestic work, contributing to a remarkable 69.9 percent rise in wages, by far the highest of any group in Brazil.78 Domestic workers’ enhanced negotiating position was reflected in the political realm in 2013, when legislators amended the 1988 Constitution to guarantee domestic workers the same standards of rights enjoyed by other recognized professions. The near-unanimous vote was welcomed by most observers, although many note that its impact will be limited, as the economic and political crisis since 2013 has had a disproportionate negative impact on working-class women, pushing many more back into unregulated domestic work.79

Similar attempts by sex-worker organizations to gain equal rights as workers have followed an uneven trajectory. Prostitute groups began to form during the period of “new social movements,” in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Like many others, they established contacts with similar organizations around the world and formulated their demands within a human-rights framework. By 1987, they had organized the national Brazilian Prostitutes Network, which successfully lobbied for government support for educational and health initiatives such as HIV-AIDS prevention and anti-stigma campaigns and in 2002 won state recognition of the profession. This was similar to the recognition domestic servants had won in 1972, which brought access to benefits such as social security but not the full range of constitutionally guaranteed labor rights.80 Since the late 1970s, many feminists have applauded these accomplishments, and prostitute associations have received support from a variety of NGOs, particularly for their anti-AIDS work. Others, however, voiced concern that support for prostitutes’ labor rights obscures what they argue is the essentially sexist and exploitative nature of prostitution and facilitates human trafficking and abuse of minors.81

These divergent perspectives have shaped public discourse and state policies regarding “sex tourism” and the “traffic in women and children”—issues that gained enormous national and international attention beginning in the 1990s.82 The image of exoticized and infantilized mulatas for sale to white foreigners on northeastern beaches has predominated in media accounts that implicitly or explicitly invoke cultural and sexual imperialism. According to anthropologists who have studied various sites of supposed sex tourism, these images frequently conflate sex tourism with child prostitution and migration with traffic, obscuring conditions of actual abuse while restricting women’s freedom of movement and individual rights. In contrast to accounts that portray all women involved in sex work as victims, their research reveals vast diversity among sex workers and women migrants and the various strategies they use to shape their work and affective relationships.83 Other social scientists studying missing children in a region of São Paulo state in 2011 reached similar conclusions: poverty and domestic sexual and other violence lead large numbers of children toward commercial sex and exploitation, most of whom were not victims of kidnapping or trafficking. The authors emphasize that more research is needed to assess the form and scale of these crimes around the country, but that policy must take into account the diverse conditions under which children offer sex.84

Global attention to human trafficking in Brazil over the past decade heightened the debates among feminists and lawmakers, producing conflicting state policies. On one side is a security- or crime-based approach that focuses on repressive measures, including a 2009 law that reinforced Brazil’s long-standing “abolitionist” position (criminalizing the “facilitation of prostitution” and considering prostitutes to be victims) and increased police vigilance of prostitutes, particularly during international events such as the 2014 soccer World Cup. On the other side is the human-rights approach, supported by several prominent officials within the federal Labor Ministry and Public Ministry during the Silva and Rousseff regimes, which seeks to punish exploitation of minors, coercion, or force, while supporting adult prostitutes’ equal rights as workers.85

Another debate that initially divided feminists of the post-dictatorship generation was over whether to support the struggle for LGBT rights, but this was largely resolved by the early 2000s. LGBT rights groups had succeeded in establishing alliances with at least some feminist groups by the time of the 1987 Constituent Assembly. Proposals to explicitly recognize gay and lesbian rights were defeated during the drafting of the 1988 constitution, but these well-publicized efforts resulted in unprecedented visibility for the LGBT banner under the broad human-rights umbrella. In the years that followed, the AIDS crisis devastated the newly legitimated movement, but over the 1990s, new forms of advocacy and new alliances with women’s and other social movements placed both LGBT equality and the struggle against HIV-AIDS more firmly within a human-rights framework. Several NGOs successfully sued the state, arguing that failure to provide drug therapy to all victims violated the right to health guaranteed by the 1988 constitution. In compliance with court rulings, the state defied international financial institutions and the United States by producing and distributing low-cost drugs, ultimately forcing international drug prices down and providing a model of successful incorporation of civil society in the creation of public policy.86

With increasingly positive responses to the AIDS crisis in the 2000s came growing visibility for gays and lesbians and renewed mobilization, frequently under the internationally recognized banner “gay rights are human rights.” Some advocates for “sexual diversity” argued that “identity politics” and categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer were not appropriate in Brazil, where sexuality was often more fluid. A variety of positions in this debate were expressed in the annual gay-pride parades that grew and multiplied, beginning in 1995 in Rio de Janeiro. Over the subsequent two decades, as the parades gained mass appeal and increasing state support, particularly since 2003, the international “GLBT” or “GLBTT” acronym took hold. More recently, attention has focused on “TT”—travesti (transvestites) and transgender people—as activists recognize that these groups are particular targets for stigmatization and violence, even as acceptance of more “conventional” gay women and men has expanded.87

Growing public visibility and mobilization of LGBT activists was boosted by positive portrayals of respectable middle-class gay couples in the media, most famously in several prime-time novelas (soap operas) aired by TV Globo, Brazil’s largest communications network. In real life, more and more same-sex couples gained the confidence to approach the courts seeking to legitimate their relationships or resolve joint property and family issues, including custody of children. Substantial jurisprudence favoring rights for partners in same-sex unions accumulated over the two decades leading up to 2011, when the Federal Supreme Court ordered the state to recognize same-sex civil unions as “family entities,” equal to those of heterosexuals. Two years later, the National Judicial Council decided that this meant that the state must also allow same-sex marriage. The decision reflected the effectiveness of the strategy to tie LGBT rights to broader human-rights movements since the 1970s, as the court’s decision centered on equal family rights as essential to human dignity.88


Since the dawn of the 21st century, achievements such as marriage equality, recognition of sex work as labor, the expansion of labor rights for domestic workers, and criminalization of domestic violence underscore the ways a collective commitment to ideals of equality and human dignity in the late 20th century worked against the legacies of the nation’s patriarchal and slavocratic past. Yet although women and sexual minorities have made remarkable gains in the space of a few decades, the gains have been uneven. Signs of persistent inequality—such as a gender gap in earnings and political representation and high levels of violence against women and sexual minorities that disproportionately affect poor black women—indicate that the new ideals and laws still express collective aspirations rather than a universal reality. As the economy was expanding up until about 2013, both civil-society organizations and the state were able to implement multipronged strategies to reduce inequality, with some tangible results: reduction of poverty or racism led to women’s empowerment, and vice versa. More recently, an economic and political crisis fueled both an anti-feminist backlash and, particularly after Rousseff’s impeachment, the reversal of policies aimed at social inclusion and wealth redistribution, eroding many of these gains and demonstrating that the struggle is far from over.

Discussion of the Literature and Primary Sources

The large number of historiographical essays, special issues of journals, and anthologies published over the past three decades attest to the large quantity of works on the history of women, gender, and sexuality produced during this period.89 Carla Bassanezi Pinsky’s 2009 essay is especially useful in pinpointing specific aspects of Brazilian scholarship, particularly the intricate relationship between developments in social history and the history of gender and sexuality. The mutual influence of the two subfields has played a major role in the regeneration of historical scholarship since the 1980s, opening new perspectives on traditional debates in each period of Brazil’s modern history.90

The historiography on gender and sexuality bears the mark of a generation of social historians who came of age at the moment of political democratization. As the twenty-one-year dictatorship drew to an end in the late 1970s, the reemergence of social movements, including feminist movements, reinvigorated historical scholarship.

Scholar-activists such as sociologists Eva Blay and Heleith Saffiotti produced important studies of women, class, urban labor, and other areas of gender inequality in the 1970s, helping pave the way for a flurry of works by women’s historians in the late 1980s and early 1990s.91 Some of these and other historians’ readings of Michel Foucault helped to stimulate and legitimate the rising interest in sexuality, and the engagement by many feminist scholars with French and U.S. feminist and post-structuralist theory generated lively (if at times polarizing) debates while creating new spaces for discussion and publication of scholarship focused on women and gender.92 Meanwhile, the field of social history was turning away from the “grand theory,” which characterized the historiography of the military era and toward a strong emphasis on uncovering primary sources that could illuminate “popular culture” and everyday life. Inspired by micro-historical methods and cultural anthropology, the social history of slavery in the United States, and British Marxist social history, particularly the work of E. P. Thompson, historians formed research groups and graduate programs in the “social history of culture.”93 For some of these social historians, the direction of much “gender history” seemed insufficiently grounded in the “real lives” of the poor women and men of Brazil’s past and present.94

Maria Odila Leite da Silva Dias’s seminal study of the everyday experiences and survival strategies of poor women in São Paulo at the start of the 19th century, first published in 1984, addressed this critique while demonstrating how to extract women’s experiences from sources created by men.95 Her work formed part of the commitment of the post-dictatorship generation of social historians to “marginalized” groups, and her call for a “social history of women” was articulated in these terms. By approaching different groups of poor women as entrepreneurs in what she described as an informal labor market, Dias placed greater emphasis on a common “feminine condition” than on racial and social differences. Her research, however, inspired a great number of subsequent studies that focused on specific experiences of different groups of women. Historical consideration of women’s experiences gained increasing depth over time as scholars excavated local notarial, judicial, and other archives, cross-referencing a variety of sources in an effort to reveal everyday practices hidden beneath, and in tension with, normative discourses. The term “gender” was rejected by some of these social historians, who wanted to emphasize differences among women and distance their work from studies of elite discourses or representations of women. By the early 2000s, however, the usefulness of the term was widely recognized, a trend Dias supported in an influential essay on feminist theory in 1992.96

Whether or not they used the term “gender,” social historians’ attention to family and women’s experiences played a major role in the regeneration of the historiography of colonial and imperial Brazil, particularly in its emphasis on slavery. Dias’s influence dovetailed with that of Robert Slenes, whose research in the 1970s and 1980s on demography and family among slaves in the southeast helped to inspire numerous studies that highlight the significance of gender and sexuality to specific features of slavery, racial formation, and economic development, while documenting the complex gender dynamics of individual households and social worlds.97 Also in the 1980s, studies of colonial sexualities that analyzed Inquisition records, including Luiz Mott’s pioneering work on homosexuality, developed thematic and methodological models that subsequent scholars applied to the imperial and republican periods.98 In the 1990s and early 2000s, a cluster of studies on Minas Gerais during the mining boom set the stage for research on other urban/urbanizing areas in the 18th and 19th centuries by documenting the development of commercial and social networks in which freed women were especially significant. Richard Graham’s 2010 book on the provisioning of the city of Salvador, 1780–1860, provides an excellent example, echoing earlier scholars’ emphasis on black women’s commercial activities, particularly as street vendors, and the conditions that permitted social mobility for a significant minority of black women and men.99 Zephyr Frank and João Reis offer examples of somewhat distinct strategies for economic advancement followed by individual black men in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, respectively, whereas Juliana Barreto Farias’s and Fabiane Popinigis’s respective studies of black vendors and market women provide additional case studies that demonstrate these women’s integration into municipal economic and political networks through the end of the 19th century.100 Black women’s reproductive labor and conjugal relationships, including marriage and divorce, maternity, and wet nursing, as well as their struggles for freedom and contributions to abolitionism at the end of the empire, have been explored by social historians using trial records and other documents, with notable recent works by Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Maria Helena Machado, and Camilla Cowling.101 The excellent collection edited by Farias, Gomes, and Xavier includes several other examples of the direction of new empirically driven research on black women in slavery and post-abolition society, as well as a useful historiographical essay by Gomes and Paixão, while Dias’s 2012 essay offers a brief synthesis.102

Another new direction in historical scholarship that builds on the social history of the 1980s, particularly the work of Sandra Lauderdale Graham, is the study of domestic workers. Reinvigorated by present-day debates over domestic workers’ labor rights, recent scholarship has continued to focus on everyday experiences and life histories while giving greater attention to efforts to regulate domestic work and to the ambiguous nature of many household arrangements involving domestic work and affective relationships.103

The influence of trends begun in the post-dictatorship period helps to explain the historiographical emphasis on poor women and the relative lack of attention to women from other social groups, especially elite women. Yet following Nazzari’s important work on the centrality of elite women’s relationships in understanding family dynamics and the circulation of property in the 19th century, a few historians have focused on elite women’s roles in the that century.104 Analyses of 19th-century novels, short stories, and essays show that these literary works are rich sources of social history that offer insight into the gendered dynamics of relationships of dependency.105

Judicial documents, including testimony of ordinary people in trial records and various sources of legal thought regarding women’s morality and sexual behavior, have been used extensively by historians of both the 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of scholars of the First Republic (1889–1930) have focused on the tensions between legal concern with family honor and women’s morality and the survival strategies, moral values, and cultural universe of the people who appear in republican courtrooms. Following works by Rachel Soihet and Martha Abreu, other historians used legal records and other documents to explore the transformation of gendered concepts of honor and the interwoven concerns with gender, sexuality, and modernization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a number of studies of prostitution.106 Until recently, the feminist movement of the First Republic and Vargas periods received relatively little historical attention, despite pioneering studies by Soihet and Moreira Alves in 1974 and 1980, respectively.107

In addition to legal sources, especially those related to policing, the fields of medicine, public health, and psychiatry provide rich source materials that have been tapped by anthropologist and historians of non-normative sexualities throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jurandir Freire Costa’s work on the ways the medical and psychiatric fields imposed bourgeois family norms was followed by several studies of the medicalization and regulation of women’s sexuality in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ranging from campaigns against wet nurses to regulation of domestic servants and prostitutes, as well as the myriad ways women navigated these campaigns to pursue their own objectives.108 More recently, scholars have tapped similar sources, as well as political tracts, media outlets, literature, and oral histories, to write histories of the construction of masculinity and homosexuality in the 20th century.109

In comparison to the rich historiography that specifically focuses on gender and sexuality in the 19th and early 20th centuries, comparatively little attention has been paid to the mid-20th century.110 Over the past few years, however, there has been a small surge of interest in the period of the dictatorship, with the publication of memoirs as well as historical research on heteronormative ideologies espoused by left- and right-wing groups as well as gendered and sexualized forms of repression and resistance.111 Surprisingly few historians have studied women activists and feminist movements of the post-dictatorship period, however, and most of the existing literature was written by participants or social scientists.112 Possibly the newest area of historical interest is the construction of non-normative sexual identities and LGBT political movements since the end of the dictatorship in 1985. This area has also been dominated by social scientists, including a great number of studies of HIV-AIDS by scholars in the public-health field. This literature provides a wealth of primary source materials that historians have just begun to tap.113

Finally, the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education (CAPES), a Ministry of Education agency responsible for evaluating all of Brazil’s graduate programs, offers a searchable online catalogue and database that provides public access to the full text of master’s and doctoral theses defended anywhere in Brazil since 2013, in full text, and abstracts of theses defended since 1987.114


The authors thank Paulina Alberto for her careful reading and insightful suggestions on an earlier version of this text, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for Oxford University Press, whose suggestions helped us improve the final version. Keila Grinberg, Sidney Chalhoub, and Maria Helena Machado also provided helpful feedback and bibliographical references.


(1.) Vinicios Sassine, “Jean Wyllys admite que cospiu ‘na cara’ de Bolsonaro,” Globo, April 17, 2016, Pâmela Caroline Stocker and Silvana Copetti Dalmaso, “Uma questão de gênero: ofensas de leitores à Dilma Rousseff no Facebook da Folha,” Revista Estudo Feministas 24.3 (December 2016): 679–690; “#IstoÉMachismo: feministas repudiam capa da revista IstoÉ sobre Dilma,” Sul 21, January 26, 2017, Retrieved from; Ana Flávia Cernic Ramos and Glaucia Fraccaro, “O golpe de 2016 na vida das mulheres,” in Historiadores pela democracia. O golpe de 2016: a força do passado, eds. Beatriz Mamigonian, Hebe Mattos, and Tânia Bessone (São Paulo: Alameda Casa Editorial, 2016), 2251–2256.

(2.) See news reports listed in “Repercussão sobre o ‘gabinete dos homens brancos,’” Sexual Policy Watch—Português, June 3, 2016, Retrieved from

(3.) Jacqueline Pitanguy and L. L. Barsted, O progresso das mulheres no Basil, 2003–2011 (Rio de Janeiro: CEPIA and UNWomen, 2011); and Hildete Pereira de Melo and Lourdes Bandeira, Tempos e memórias: movimento feminista no Brasil (Brasília: Secretaria de Políticas para as Mulheres da Presidência da República, 2010), 28–43.

(4.) Protests include a manifesto signed by over a hundred academic and civil-rights organizations. Asociação Brasileira de Antropologia, “Manifesto pela igualdade de gênero na educação,” n.d.,

(5.) The classic work on the “traditional” plantation household is Gilberto Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves: A Study in the Development of Brazilian Civilization (New York: Knopf, 1964). Nazzari provides empirical evidence regarding economic calculations of marriage, showing significant changes with the increased dynamism and modernization of commercial capitalism in 19th-century São Paulo: Muriel Nazzari, Disappearance of the Dowry: Women, Families, and Social Change in São Paulo, Brazil (1600–1900) (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991). Among the few studies of elite women in the 19th century, see Miriam Moreira Leite, Retratos de família (São Paulo: EDUSP, 1993); Eni de Mesquita Samara, As mulheres, o poder e a família: São Paulo, século XIX (São Paulo: Marco Zero, 1989); Mariana Muaze, As memórias da viscondessa: família e poder no Brasil Império (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2008); Miridan Britto Knox Falci and Hildete Pereira de Melo, A sinhazinha emancipada: a paixão e os negócios na vida de uma ousada mulher do século XIX, Eufrásia Teixeira Leite (1850–1930) (Rio de Janeiro: Vieira & Lent, 2012); Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Caetana Says No: Women’s Stories from a Brazilian Slave Society (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), part 2; and June Hahner, “Mulheres da elite: honra e distinção das famílias,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012), 43–64.

(6.) Arguably the best example is Machado de Assis, Dom Casmurro: A Novel, trans. Helen Caldwell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966). See Chalhoub, “Interpreting Machado de Assis: Paternalism, Slavery, and the Free Womb Law,” in Honor, Status, and Law in Modern Latin America, eds. Sueann Caulfield, Sarah C Chambers, and Lara Putnam (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 87–108. Silveira argues that some of Machado’s work was inspired by arguments for women’s rights published in 19th-century women’s magazines. See Daniela Magalhães da Silveira, Fábrica de contos: ciência e literatura em Machado de Assis (Campinas, Brazil: Editora Unicamp, 2010).

(7.) Martha Abreu, “Slave Mothers and Freed Children: Emancipation and Female Space in Debates on the ‘Free Womb’ Law, Rio de Janeiro, 1871,” Journal of Latin American Studies 28.3 (1996): 567–580.

(8.) Chalhoub, “Interpreting Machado de Assis.”

(9.) Muriel Nazzari, “Concubinage in Colonial Brazil: The Inequalities of Race, Class, and Gender,” Journal of Family History 21.2 (1996): 107–124; Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof, Household Economy and Urban Development: São Paulo, 1765 to 1836 (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1986); Richard Graham, Patronage and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990); Muriel Nazzari, “Widows as Obstacles to Business: British Objections to Brazilian Marriage and Inheritance Laws,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 37.4 (1995): 781–802, 793n47. See also the studies cited in note 5. Mariza Corrêa anticipated the findings of later scholarship by arguing that the Freyrian-type patriarchal family was an archetype that never encompassed the majority of the Brazilian population: Mariza Corrêa, “Repensando a família patriarcal brasileira,” Cadernos de Pesquisa no. 37 (May 1981): 5–16.

(10.) Sheila Siqueira de Castro Faria, “História da família e demografia histórica,” in Domínios da história - ensaios de teoria e metodologia, eds. Ciro Cardoso and Ronald Vainfas (Rio de Janeiro: Campus, 1997), 241–258; and Robert W Slenes, “Brazil,” in The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas, eds. Robert L. Paquette and Mark M. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 111–133, 117–118.

(11.) Keila Grinberg, “The Two Enslavements of Rufina: Slavery and International Relations on the Southern Border of Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” in Hispanic American Historical Review, 96.2 (2016): 259–290.

(12.) Robert W. Slenes, Na senzala, uma flor: esperanças e recordações na formação da família escrava: Brasil Sudeste, século XIX (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1999); Manolo Florentino and José Roberto Góes, A paz das senzalas: famílias escravas e tráfico atlântico, Rio de Janeiro, c. 1790–c. 1850 (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1997); and Graham, Caetana Says No, part 1; Slenes, “Brazil,” 117, 128n16.

(13.) Slenes, Na senzala, uma flor; Sandra Lauderdale Graham, “Being Yoruba in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro,” Slavery and Abolition 32.1 (2011): 1–26; and Juliana Barreto Farias, “Sob o governo das mulheres: casamento e divórcio entre Africanas e Africanos minas no Rio de Janeiro no século XIX,” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (São Paulo: Selo Negro Edições, 2012), 112–133.

(14.) Divergent research findings suggest that the degree of endogamy among the African-descended population varied according to the local context. See the review by Sheila Siqueira de Castro Faria, “Identidade e comunidade escrava: um ensaio,” Tempo, Universidade Federal Fluminense 11.22 (January 1, 2007): 1413–7704.

(15.) Hebe Maria Mattos de Castro, Das cores do silêncio: os significados da liberdade no sudeste escravista, Brasil século XIX (Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, 1995); and Sheila Siqueira de Castro Faria, A colônia em movimento: fortuna e a família no cotidiano colonial (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 1998); Slenes, 118.

(16.) Sandra Lauderdale Graham, “Honor among Slaves,” in The Faces of Honor: Sex, Shame, and Violence in Colonial Latin America, eds. Lyman L Johnson and Sonya Lipsett-Rivera (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 201–228.

(17.) Hendrick Kraay, Race, State, and Armed Forces in Independence-Era Brazil: Bahia, 1790's–1840's (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001).

(18.) Any estimate of manumission rates is rough, because manumission was frequently a private act not recorded in public registries. The proportions cited are taken from case studies based on samples of notarial or ecclesiastical records. Slenes, “Brazil,” 119–120; and Keila Grinberg, “Manumission,” in The Princeton Companion to Atlantic History, ed. Joseph Calder Miller (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 319–322, 320.

(19.) Camilla Cowling, Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

(20.) Keila Grinberg, “Reescravização, direitos e justiças no Brasil do século XIX,” in Direitos e justiças no Brasil, eds. Joseli Mendonça and Silvia Hunolt Lara (Campinas: Unicamp, 2006), 101–128.

(21.) Zephyr L Frank, Dutra’s World: Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004); João José Reis, “De escravo rico a liberto: a história do africano Manoel Joaquim Ricardo na Bahia oitocentista,” Revista de História no. 174 (June 30, 2016): 15–68; and Parés, “Militiamen, Barbers and Slave-Traders: Mina and Jeje Africans in a Catholic Brotherhood (Bahia, 1770–1830),” Tempo 20 (2014): 1–32.

(22.) Júnia Ferreira Furtado, Chica Da Silva: A Brazilian Slave of the Eighteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Sheila Siqueira de Castro Faria, “Damas Mercadoras: as ‘pretas minas’ no Rio de Janeiro, século XVIII–1850,” in Rotas Atlânticas da diáspora africana: da baía do Benin ao Rio de Janeiro, ed. Mariza de Carvalho Soares (Rio de Janeiro: EDUFF, 2006), 219–232; Sheila Siqueira de Castro Faria, “Sinhás pretas: acumulação de pecúlio e transmissão de bens de mulheres forras no sudeste escravista (séculos XVIII e XIX),” in Ensaios sobre História e Educação eds. Francisco Carlos Teixeira da Silva, Hebe Maria Mattos de Castro, and João Fragosa (Rio de Janeiro: Mauad/Faperj, 2001), 289–329; and Adriana Dantas Reis, “Mulheres ‘Afro-Ascendentes’ na Bahia: gênero, cor e mobilidade social (1780–1830),” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós- emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (São Paulo: Selo Negro Edições, 2012), 24–34.

(23.) Eduardo França Paiva, Escravos e libertos nas Minas Gerais do século XVIII: estratégias de resistência através dos testamentos (São Paulo: Annablume: Faculdades Integradas Newton Paiva, 1995); Luciano Raposo de Almeida Figueiredo, Barrocas famílias: vida familiar em Minas Gerais no século XVIII (São Paulo: Editora Hucitec, 1997); Kathleen J. Higgins, “Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Sabará, Minas Gerais (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999); and Faria, “Sinhás pretas”; Furtado, Chica Da Silva.

(24.) Faria, “Sinhás pretas”; Faria, “Damas mercadoras”; Reis, “Mulheres ‘afro-ascendentes’”; Richard Graham, Feeding the City: From Street Market to Liberal Reform in Salvador, Brazil, 1780–1860 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010); Juliana Barreto Farias, Mercados minas: africanos ocidentais na Praça do Mercado do Rio de Janeiro (1830–1890) (Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 2015); and Fabiane Popinigis, “Trabajo, libertad y esclavitud: estrategias y negociaciones en el sur de Brasil, siglo XIX,” Trashumante. Revista Americana de Historia Social no. 6 (July 1, 2015).

(25.) Slenes, “Brazil,” 118–119.

(26.) Mariza de Carvalho Soares, People of Faith: Slavery and African Catholics in Eighteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); and Mary C. Karasch, “Rainhas e juízas: as negras nas irmandades dos pretos no Brasil central (1772–1860),” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (São Paulo: Selo Negro Edições, 2012), 52–66.

(27.) Lisa Earl Castillo and Luis Nicolau Parés, “Marcelina Da Silva: A Nineteenth-Century Candomblé Priestess in Bahia,” Slavery and Abolition 31.1 (March 1, 2010): 1–27. For 20th century contacts between Bahian priestesses and West African priests, mediated by traveler and anthropologist Pierre Verger, see Paulina L. Alberto, Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), ch. 5.

(28.) Sandra Lauderdale Graham, House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

(29.) Lorena Feres da Silva Teles, Libertas entre sobrados. Mulheres negras e trabalho doméstico em São Paulo (1880–1920) (Rio de Janeiro: Alameda, 2014); Flávia Fernandes de Souza, “Para casa de família e mais serviços: o trabalho doméstico na cidade do Rio de Janeiro no final do século XIX” (master’s thesis, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, 2010); Henrique Espada Lima, “Wages of Intimacy: Domestic Workers Disputing Wages in the Higher Courts of Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” International Labor and Working-Class History 88 (2015): 11–29; Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha, “Criadas para servir: domesticidade, intimidade e retribuição,” in Quase cidadão: histórias e antropologias da pós emancipação no Brasil, eds. Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha and Flávio Gomes (Rio de Janeiro: Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2007), 277–418; and the review by Flávia Fernandes de Souza, “Trabalho doméstico: considerações sobre um tema recente de estudos na História Social do Trabalho no Brasil,” Revista Mundos do Trabalho 7.13 (2015): 275–296.

(30.) Sonia Roncador, A doméstica imaginária: literatura, testemunhos e a invenção da empregada doméstica no Brasil (1889–1999) (Brasilia: Ed. UnB, 2008); and Giovana Xavier, “Entre personagens, tipologias e rótulos da ‘diferença’: a mulher escrava na ficção do Rio de Janeiro no século XIX,” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (São Paulo: Selo Negro Edições, 2012), 67–83.

(31.) Sonia Maria Giacomini and Elizabeth K. C. de Magalhães, “A escrava ama-de-leite: anjo ou demônio,” in Mulher, mulheres, eds. Adriana Costa and Carmen Barroso (São Paulo: Cortez/Fundação Carlos Chagas, 1983), 73–88; and Maria Helena P. T. Machado, “Entre dois Beneditos: histórias de amas de leite no ocaso da escravidão,” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (São Paulo: Selo Negro, 2012), 199–213.

(32.) Cristiana Schettini, Que tenhas teu corpo: uma história social da prostituição no Rio de Janeiro das primeiras décadas republicanas (Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, 2006); Sueann Caulfield, “The Birth of Mangue: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Prostitution in Rio de Janeiro, 1850–1942,” in Sex and Sexuality in Latin America, eds. Daniel Balderston and Donna J Guy (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 86–100; James Naylor Green, Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Richard Miskolci, O desejo da nação: masculinidade e branquitude no Brasil de fins do XIX (São Paulo: Fapesp, Annablume, 2012). For similar processes in São Paulo, Margareth Rago, Os Prazeres da Noite: Prostituição e códigos da sexualidade feminina em São Paulo, 1890–1930 (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1991).

(33.) Susan K. Besse, “Crimes of Passion: The Campaign Against Wife Killing in Brazil, 1910–1940,” Journal of Social History 22.4 (Summer 1989): 653–666; and Caulfield, In Defense of Honor, ch. 3.

(34.) Rachel Soihet, “Movimento de mulheres: a conquista do espaço público,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012); Rachel Soihet, O feminismo tático de Bertha Lutz (Florianopolis: Ed. Mulheres, 2006); Branca Moreira Alves, Ideologia e feminismo: a luta da mulher pelo voto no Brasil (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1980); June Edith Hahner, Emancipating the Female Sex: The Struggle for Women’s Rights in Brazil, 1850–1940 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990); Teresa Cristina de Novaes Marques and Hildete Pereira de Melo, “Os direitos civis das mulheres casadas no Brasil entre 1916 e 1962: Ou como são feitas as leis,” Revista Estudos Feministas 16.2 (August 2008): 463–488; Céli Regina J Pinto, Uma história do feminismo no Brasil (São Paulo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2003); and Glaucia Fraccaro, “Os direitos das mulheres—organização social e legislação trabalhista no entreguerras brasileiro, 1917–1937” (PhD diss., Universidade Estadual de Campinas, 2016).

(35.) Susan K. Besse, Restructuring Patriarchy: The Modernization of Gender Inequality in Brazil, 1914–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

(36.) Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Roots of Brazil, trans. G. Harvey Summ (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012).

(37.) Freyre, The Masters and the Slaves.

(38.) Hermano Vianna, The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music & National Identity in Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Mariza Corrêa, “Sobre a invenção da mulata,” Cadernos Pagu no. 6/7 (2010): 35–50; and Martha Abreu, “Mulatas, Crioulos, and Morenas: Racial Hierarchy, Gender Relations, and National Identity in Postabolition Popular Song: Southeastern Brazil, 1890–1920,” in Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World, eds. Pamela Scully and Diana Paton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 267–288.

(39.) Sonia Maria Giacomini, “Mulatas profissionais: raça, gênero e ocupação,” Estudos Feministas 14.1 (2006): 85–101; and Corrêa, “Sobre a invenção da mulata.”

(40.) Alberto, Terms of Inclusion, ch. 1; and Paulina L. Alberto, “Of Sentiment, Science and Myth: Shifting Metaphors of Racial Inclusion in Twentieth-Century Brazil,” Social History 37.3 (August 2012): 261–296.

(41.) Green, Beyond Carnival, 129–131; and João Silvério Trevisan, Devassos no paraíso: a homossexualidade no Brasil, da colônia à atualidade, 5th ed. (Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Record, 2002), 192.

(42.) Among the few accounts of lesbian relationships is Nadia Nogueira, Invenções de si em histórias de amor: Lota Macedo Soares e Elizabeth Bishop (Rio de Janeiro: Apicuri, 2008). The relationship between Soares and Bishop, in the 1950s and 1960s, was also the subject of a 2013 film, Flores raras (Reaching for the Moon), directed by Bruno Barreto.

(43.) Green, Beyond Carnival; Sérgio Carrara and Mario Felipe Lima Carvalho, “Em direção a um futuro trans? Contribuição para a história do movimento de travestis e transexuais no Brasil,” Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedade 14 (2013): 319–351; and Jaqueline Gomes de Jesus, Transfeminismo: teorias & práticas (Rio de Janiero: Metanoia, 2014).

(44.) Green, Beyond Carnival.

(45.) See, for example, Luiz Bernardo Pericás and Lincoln Secco, Intérpretes do Brasil: clássicos, rebeldes e renegados (São Paulo: Boitempo Editorial, 2014), which pays tribute to twenty-five men, or the three-volume work by Silviano Santiago, Intérpretes do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Aguilar, 2000).

(46.) Barbara Weinstein, “Inventing the Mulher Paulista: Politics, Rebellion, and the Gendering of Brazilian Regional Identities,” Journal of Women’s History 18.1 (Winter 2006): 22–49; Barbara Weinstein, The Color of Modernity: São Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), ch. 4; Petrônio Domingues, “Frentenegrinas: notas de um capítulo da participação feminina na história da luta anti-racista no Brasil,” Cadernos Pagu no. 28 (June 2007): 345–374; and Alberto, Terms of Inclusion, ch. 3. White women were also active in extreme right-wing movements. See Sandra McGee Deutsch, “Spreading Right-Wing Patriotism, Femininity, and Morality: Women in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, 1900–1940,” in Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right, eds. Victoria González-Rivera and Karen Kampwirth (University Park: Pennsylvania State Press, 2001), 223–248; and Sandra McGee Deutsch, “Spartan Mothers: Fascist Women in Brazil in the 1930s,” in Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists Around the World, eds. Paola Bacchetta and Margaret Power (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), 155–168.

(47.) Marques and Melo, “Os direitos civis”; Fraccaro, “Os direitos das mulheres.”

(48.) Marques and Melo, “Os direitos civis”; Fraccaro, “Os direitos das mulheres.”

(49.) Maria Valéria Junho Pena, Mulheres e trabalhadoras: presença feminina na constituição do sistema fabril (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1981); Andrea Borelli and Maria Izilda Matos, “Trabalho: espaço feminino no mercado produtivo,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012), 126–147; and Barbara Weinstein, “Making Workers Masculine: The (Re)Construction of Male Worker Identity in Twentieth-Century Brazil,” in Masculinity in Politics and War: Rewritings of Modern History, eds. K. Hagemann, S. Dudink, and Tosh (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2004), 276–294.

(50.) “Laudelina de Campos Melo,” Fenatrad | Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas, retrieved from; “Laudelina de Campos Melo (1904–1991),” Cursinho Popular Laudelina, retrieved from

(51.) Fúlvia Rosemberg, “Mulheres educadas e a educação de mulheres,” in Nova história das mulheres no Brasil, eds. Carla Basanezi Pinsky and Joana Maria Pedro (São Paulo: Contexto, 2012), 333–359; Borelli and Matos, “Trabalho.”

(52.) Marques and Melo, “Os direitos civis,” 479–480.

(53.) Marques and Melo, “Os direitos civis,” 484.

(54.) Carla Bassanezi Pinsky, Mulheres dos anos dourados (São Paulo: Contexto, 2014).

(55.) Barbara Weinstein, For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in São Paulo, 1920–1964 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), ch. 6.

(56.) Sueann Caulfield, “The Right to a Father’s Name: A Historical Perspective on State Efforts to Combat the Stigma of Illegitimate Birth in Brazil,” Law and History Review 30.1 (February 2012): 1–36, 12–13; and Sueann Caulfield, “From Liberalism to Human Dignity: The Transformation of Marriage and Family Rights in Brazil,” in Ties That Bind: Global Histories of Marriage and Modernity, ed. Julia Moses (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 27–53.

(57.) Benjamin A Cowan, Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

(58.) Moema de Castro Guedes, “A presença feminina nos cursos universitários e nas pós-graduações: desconstruindo a idéia da universidade como espaço masculino,” História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos 15 (2008): 117–132, 199–122; Sonia E Alvarez, Engendering Democracy in Brazil: Women’s Movements in Transition Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 51–52; Victoria Langland, Speaking of Flowers: Student Movements and the Making and Remembering of 1968 in Military Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), 134; and Rosemberg, “Mulheres educadas.”

(59.) Victoria Langland, “Birth Control Pills and Molotov Cocktails: Reading Sex and Revolution in 1968 Brazil,” in In from the Cold: Latin American’s New Encounter with the Cold War, eds. Gilbert Joseph and Daniela Spenser (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 308–349; Cowan, Securing Sex.

(60.) James N. Green, “‘Who Is the Macho Who Wants to Kill Me?’ Male Homosexuality, Revolutionary Masculinity, and the Brazilian Armed Struggle of the 1960s and 1970s,” Hispanic American Historical Review 92.3 (August 1, 2012): 437–469.

(61.) Alvarez, Engendering Democracy; Maria Amélia de Almeida Teles and Rosalina de Santa Cruz Leite, Da guerrilha à imprensa feminista: a construção do feminismo pós- luta armada no Brasil (1975–1980) (São Paulo: Intermeios Casa de Artes e Livros, 2013).

(62.) Nelson Carneiro, A Luta Pelo Divórcio (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria São José, 1973); José Fernando Simão, “Tributo a Nelson Carneiro: a luta e a batalha do divórcio (parte 1),” Consultor Jurídico, May 31, 2015; Marlene de Faveri, “Desquite e divórcio: a polêmica e as repercussões na imprensa,” Caderno Espaço Feminino 17.1 (July 2007): 335–357; and Mala Htun, Sex and the State: Abortion, Divorce, and the Family under Latin American Dictatorships and Democracies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(63.) Cristina Scheibe Wolff and Tamy Amorim da Silva, “Movidas pelo afeto: três mulheres na resistência à ditadura no Brasil, Paraguai e Bolívia (1954–1989),” Revista Internacional Interdisciplinar INTERthesis 10.1 (June 11, 2013): 190–211; Teles and Leite, Da guerrilha à imprensa feminista; and Maria Amélia de Almeida Teles, interviewed by Sueann Caulfield, digital video, August 26, 2016, Global Feminisms Project, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan,

(64.) Teles, interviewed by Sueann Caulfield; Giovana Xavier and Elizabeth Viana, interviewed by Sueann Caulfield, digital video, July 14, 2014, Global Feminisms Project; and Bebel Nepomuceno, “Mulheres negras: protagonismo ignorado,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012), 382–410; Alvarez, Engendering Democracy, 51–53.

(65.) “Laudelina”; Ana Virgínia Gomes and Patrícia Tuma Martins Bertolin, “Regulatory Challenges of Domestic Work: The Case of Brazil,” Labor Law and Development Research Laboratory, McGill University Faculty of Law, Working Paper 3 (2010),

(66.) Donald Sawyer, “Fertility,” in Brazil: A Country Study, ed. Rex A. Hudson (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1997), 111–113.

(67.) Gilda Cabral, “Lobby de batom,” in Constituição 20 anos: Estado, democracia e participação popular: caderno de textos (Câmara dos Deputados, Edições Câmara, 2009), 77–80; and Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil, Diário Oficial da União, Oct. 5, 1988, esp. Título II, art. 5, par. 1; Título VIII, Cápitulo VII.

(68.) The struggle for reproductive rights is another example. Activists have expanded access to legal abortion (in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the mother’s life) by working through federal and state ministries of health and hospitals. Debora Diniz, “Aborto e contracepção: três gerações de mulheres,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro, (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012), 313–332; Anibal Faúndes, Elcylene Leocádio, and Jorge Andalaft, “Making Legal Abortion Accessible in Brazil,” Reproductive Health Matters 10.19 (2002): 120–127; and Htun, Sex and the State.

(69.) “Women’s Police Stations / Units,” UNWomen,; Nadine Jubb, Women’s Police Stations in Latin America: An Entry Point for Stopping Violence and Gaining Access to Justice (Quito, Ecuador: CEPLAES, 2010); Lana Lage da Gama Lima, “As delegacias especializadas de Atendimento à Mulher no Rio de Janeiro: uma análise de suas práticas de administração de conflitos,” in Família, Mulher e Violência, eds. Lana Lage da Gama Lima and Maria Beatriz Nader, vol. 8 (Vitória: PPGHis/Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, 2007), 19–38; Lana Lage da Gama Lima, “Representações de gênero e atendimento policial a mulheres vítimas de violência,” Interthesis 6 (2009): 61–85; and Lana Lage da Gama Lima, “Violência contra a mulher: da legitimação à condenação social,” in Nova História das Mulheres no Brasil, ed. Joana Maria Pedro and Carla Bassanezi Pinsky (São Paulo: Contexto, 2012), 286–312. An example of international NGO attention is Human Rights Watch, “Criminal Injustice: Violence against Women in Brazil: An Americas Watch Report,” October 1991, Texts of the Belém convention, the Maria da Penha case at the IACHR, and the Maria da Penha law are available online: Organization of American States, “Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women ‘Convention of Belem Do Para,’” June 9, 1994,; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “Report N. 54/01, Case 12.051 Maria Da Penha Maia Fernandes, Brazil, April 16, 2001,”; “Lei N. 11.340, de 7 de Agosto de 2006, ‘Lei Maria Da Penha’” (2006), For recent data on the incidence of violence, see Elizaveta Perova and Sarah Reynolds, “Women’s Police Stations and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Brazil” (World Bank, November 17, 2015),; Jackeline Aparecida and Ferreira Romio, “A vitimização de mulheres por agressão física, segundo raça/cor no Brasil,” in Dossiê mulheres negras. Retrato das condições de vida das mulheres negras no Brasil, eds. Mariana Mazzini Marcondes et al. (Brasília: Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada—IPEA, 2013), 133–159; Andrew Jacobs, “Brazil Confronts an Epidemic of Anti-Gay Violence, New York Times, July 6, 2015; and the annual report put out by the Grupo Gay da Bahia, Assassinatos de LGBT no Brasil,

(70.) Carlos Orsi, “Mulheres são maioria com nível superior, mas homens dominam mercado de trabalho—Ensino Superior Unicamp,” Ensino Superior UNICAMP,; Guedes, “A presença feminina nos cursos universitários.” For discussion of the intersection of race and gender in determining access to formal work and income disparities, see Marcelo Paixão and Flávio Gomes, “Histórias das diferenças e das desigualdades revisitadas: notas sobre gênero, escravidão, raca e pós-emancipação,” in Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação, eds. Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes (Rio de Janeiro: Selo Negro Edições, 2012), 297–313, 304–311.

(71.) Teresa Sacchet, “Making Women Count: Campaigns for Gender Quotas in Brazil” (PhD diss., Department of Government, University of Essex, 2002); Inter-Parliamentary Union, “BrazilquotaProject: Global Database of Quotas for Women,” Inter-Parliamentary Union, retrieved from

(72.) Melo and Bandeira, Tempos e memórias, 30–32; and Hildete Pereira de Melo, “A estrategia da transversalidade de gênero: uma década de experiência da Secretária de Políticas para as Mulheres da Presidência da República (2003/2013),” in Políticas e fronteiras: desafios feministas, eds. Luzinete Simões Minella, Galucia de Oliveira Assis, and Susana Bornéo Funck (Santa Catarina: Tubarão, 2014), 131–166.

(73.) João Feres Júnior, Verônica Daflon, and Luiz Augusto Campos, “Ação afirmativa, raça e racismo: uma análise das ações de inclusão racial nos mandatos de Lula e Dilma,” Revista de Ciências Humanas 12.2 (December 2012): 399–414; and Marilene de Paula, “Políticas de ação afirmativa para negros no governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995–2002)” (master’s thesis, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2010); Lúcio Antônio Machado Almeida, “Da necessidade das cotas raciais para mulheres negras no Brasil,” Jornal Estado de Direito 50 (2016): 8.

(74.) See for example comments by congresswoman Benedita da Silva and Minister of the Women’s Policy Secretariat Eleonora Menicuci in Felipe Neri, “PEC das domésticas é aprovada em primeiro turno no senado,” G1, March 19, 2013,

(75.) Departamento Intersindical de Estatística e Estudos Socioeconômicos, “O Emprego Doméstico No Brasil,” Estudos e Pesquisas 68 (August 2013): 1–27, 5, 6; and Gomes and Bertolin, “Regulatory Challenges of Domestic Work: The Case of Brazil”; “Indicadores IBGE, 2003–2014” (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, n.d.), 190–191, retrieved from; Hildete Pereira de Melo, “Trabalhadoras domésticas: eterna ocupação feminina,” in O progresso das mulheres no Brasil, 2003–2010, eds. Jacqueline Pitanguy and L. L. Barsted (Rio de Janiero: CEPIA and UNWomen, 2011), 179–185.

(76.) “Laudelina de Campos Melo”; “Laudelina.”

(77.) United Nations Millennium Development Goals Fund, “Winning Rights for Brazil’s Domestic Workers,” United Nations Millennium Development Goals Fund,

(78.) “Indicadores IBGE, 2003–2014,” 185, 290–292.

(79.) Isabel Versiani, “Com crise, sobe número de domésticas—08/06/2015—Mercado—Folha de S.Paulo,” Folha de São Paulo, June 8, 2015, retrieved from

(80.) “PROSTITUTES NETWORK | A Kiss for Gabriela,”; Cristiana Schettini and Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, “Prostitution in Rio: ‘Not Illegal’ | Red Light Rio,”

(81.) An example of the latter position is Tania Navarro Swain, “Banalizar e naturalizar a prostituição: violência social e histórica,” Revista Unimontes Científica 6.2 (2004): 23–28. For criticism of this position, Adriana Piscitelli, “Transnational Sisterhood? Brazilian Feminisms Facing Prostitution,” Latin American Policy 5.2 (December 1, 2014): 221–235.

(82.) A horrifying account of child sex trafficking by journalist Gilberto Dimenstein played an important role in generating much of this attention. Gilberto Dimenstein, Meninas da noite: a prostituição de meninas-escravas no Brasil (Ática, 1992). The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which Brazil signed in 2000, also played a role. See

(83.) Ana Paula Silva and Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, “Sexual Tourism and Social Panics: Research and Intervention in Rio de Janeiro,” Souls 11.2 (2009): 203–212; Ana Paula da Silva, Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, and Andressa Raylane Bento, “Cinderella Deceived: Analyzing a Brazilian Myth Regarding Trafficking in Persons,” Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology 10.2 (December 2013): 377–419; Adriana Piscitelli, “‘Sexo tropical’: comentários sobre gênero e ‘raça’ em alguns textos da mídia brasileira,” Cadernos Pagu, no. 6/7 (2010): 9–33; and Adriana Piscitelli, “On ‘gringos’ and ‘natives,’” Vibrant: Virtual Brazilian Anthropology 1.1–2 (December 2004), 1–27,

(84.) Gilka Gattás et al., “Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Missing Children in the Coastal Region of São Paulo State, Brazil,” Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk 3.2 (October 3, 2012), 1–21,

(85.) Ela Wiecko V de Castilho, “Interview—Human Trafficking in Brazil: Between Crime-Based and Human Rights-Based Governance,” Anti-Trafficking Review no. 4 (April 1, 2015): 174.

(86.) Luiz Mello, “Da diferença à igualdade: os direitos humanos de gays, lésbicas e travestis,” in Direitos Humanos e Cotidiano, ed. Ricardo Barbosa Lima (Goiânia: Bandeirante, 2001), 159–177; Amy Nunn, The Politics and History of AIDS Treatment in Brazil (New York: Springer, 2009); and Adriana R. B. Vianna and Sérgio Carrara, “Sexual Politics and Sexual Rights in Brazil: A Case Study,” in Sex Politics: Reports from the Frontline, eds. Richard Parker, Rosalind Petchesky, and Robert Sember (Sexual Policy Watch, 2008), 27–51,

(87.) As an example, the theme for the São Paulo gay pride parade in 2016 is transphobia. See also Carrara and Carvalho, “Em direção a um futuro trans?”; and Jesus, Transfeminismo.

(88.) Caulfield, “From Liberalism to Human Dignity”; Omar Encarnación, Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), ch. 5; and Shawn Schulenberg, “Policy Stability without Policy: The Battle for Same-Sex Partnership Recognition in Brazil,” in Same-Sex Marriage in the Americas: Policy Innovation for Same-Sex Relationships, eds. Jason Pierceson, Adriana Piatti-Crocker, and Shawn Schulenberg (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010), 93–127.

(89.) For discussion of the beginnings of women’s and gender history in Brazil and the reception of scholarly discussions in Europe and the United States, see Rachel Soihet and Joana Maria Pedro, “A emergência da pesquisa da história das mulheres e das relações de gênero,” Revista Brasileira de História 27.54 (December 2007): 281–300; Joana Maria Pedro, “Traduzindo o debate: o uso da categoria gênero na pesquisa histórica,” Revista História 24.1 (2005): 77–98. Three influential anthologies that offer syntheses on various topics by respected scholars of gender history are Carmen Barroso and Albertina de Oliveira Costa, eds., Mulher, mulheres (São Paulo: Cortez Editora: Fundação Carlos Chagas, 1983); Priore and Pinsky História das mulheres no Brasil (São Paulo: Contexto, 1997); and Pinsky and Pedro, Nova história das mulheres no Brasil.

(90.) Carla Bassanezi Pinsky, “Estudos de gênero e história social,” Revista Estudos Feministas 17.1 (April 2009): 159–189.

(91.) Heleieth Iara Bongiovani Saffioti, Women in Class Society (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978); Eva Alterman Blay, Trabalho domesticado: a mulher na indústria paulista (São Paulo: Ática, 1978). For a list of important historical monographs focused on women published in this period, see Pedro, “Traduzindo o debate,” 85–86 and 96n34.

(92.) Among the most important are the interdisciplinary journals Cadernos de Pesquisa of the Fundação Carlos Chagas, an educational research institute, Revista Estudos Feministas, and Cadernos Pagu, published since 1971, 1992, and 1993, respectively. For an in-depth discussion of the emergence of the field of women’s history through collaborative work, conferences, and the construction of institutions that supported women’s and gender history, see Soihet and Pedro, “A emergência da pesquisa,” 281–284.

(93.) Examples of the work of the first post-dictatorship generation of social historians include Sidney Chalhoub, Trabalho, lar e botequim: o cotidiano dos trabalhadores no Rio de Janeiro da Belle Epoque (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1986); and Marta Abreu Esteves, Meninas Perdidas: os populares e o cotidiano no amor no Rio de Janeiro da Belle Époque (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1989).

(94.) See for example, Cunha, “De historiadoras, brasileiras e escandinavas.”

(95.) Maria Odila Leite da Silva Dias, Power and Everyday Life: The Lives of Working Women in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1995).

(96.) Maria Odila Leite da Silva Dias, “Teoria e metodo dos estudos feministas: perspectiva histórica e a hermeneutica do quotidiano,” in Uma questão de gênero, eds. Albertina de Oliveira Costa and Maria Cristina A Bruschini (Rio de Janeiro: Rosa dos Tempos, 1992), 39–53.

(97.) Robert W Slenes, “The Demography and Economics of Brazilian Slavery, 1850–1888” (PhD diss., Stanford University, 1975); and Slenes, Na senzala, uma flor. Another extremely influential social history of slavery that recognized the importance of women’s economic roles is Mary C. Karasch, Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987).

(98.) Luiz Mott, Escravidão, homossexualidade e demonologia (São Paulo: Icone Editora, 1988); Luiz Mott, Sexo proibido: virgens, gays e escravos nas garras da inquisição (Campinas: Editora Papirus, 1989); Laura de Mello e Souza, O diabo e a Terra de Santa Cruz: feitiçaria e religiosidade popular no Brasil colonial (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1986); and Ronaldo Vainfas, Trópico dos pecados: moral, sexualidade e Inquisição no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Campus, 1989).

(99.) See notes 22–23.

(100.) Zephyr L Frank, Dutra’s World: Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004); João José Reis, “De escravo rico a liberto: a história do africano Manoel Joaquim Ricardo na Bahia oitocentista,” Revista de História no. 174 (June 30, 2016): 15–68; Farias, Mercados minas; and Popinigis, “Trabajo, libertad y esclavitud.”

(101.) Graham, Caetana Says No; Graham, “Being Yoruba”; Machado, “Entre dois Beneditos”; and Cowling, Conceiving Freedom.

(102.) Giovana Xavier, Juliana Barreto Farias, and Flávio Gomes, eds., Mulheres negras no Brasil escravista e do pós-emancipação (São Paulo: Selo Negro Edições, 2012); Paixão and Gomes, “Histórias das diferenças”; and Maria Odila Leite da Silva Dias, “Escravas: resistir e sobreviver,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Carla Beozzo Bassanezi and Joana Maria Pedro ( São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2012), 360–381.

(103.) In addition to sources cited in note 29 , see discussion of compensation for consensual partners’ domestic work in Caulfield, “From Liberalism to Human Dignity,” 34–35.

(104.) See note 5.

(105.) Roncador, A doméstica imaginária; Xavier, “Entre personagens”; and Silveira, Fábrica de contos.

(106.) Esteves, Meninas perdidas; Rachel Soihet, Condição feminina e formas de violência: mulheres pobres e ordem urbana, 1890–1920 (Rio de Janeiro: Forense Universitária, 1989); Margareth Rago, Do cabaré ao lar. A utopia da cidade disciplinar. Brasil, 1890–1930 (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1985); Besse, Restructuring Patriarchy; Caulfield, In Defense of Honor; Peter Beattie, The Tribute of Blood: Army, Honor, Race, and Nation in Brazil, 1864–1945 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); Schettini, Que tenhas teu corpo; Magali Engel, Meretrizes e doutores: saber médico e prostituição no Rio de Janeiro (1840–1890) (São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1989); and Rago, Os prazeres da noite.

(107.) For the most notable studies of early twentieth-century feminism see note 34; for nonfeminist women’s political mobilization during the 1930s, see note 46.

(108.) Jurandir Freire Costa, Ordem médica e norma familiar (Rio de Janeiro: Graal, 1979); Maria Clementina Pereira Cunha, O espelho do mundo: Juquery, a história de um asilo (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1986); Engel, Meretrizes e doutores; Sérgio Carrara, Tributo a vênus: a luta contra a sífilis no Brasil, da passagem do século aos anos 40 (Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz, 1996); Magali Gouveia Engel, Os delírios da razão: médicos, loucos e hospícios (Rio de Janeiro, 1830–1930) (Rio de Janeiro: Fiocruz, 2001); Schettini, Que tenhas teu corpo, 2006; and Machado, “Entre dois Beneditos.”

(109.) Green, Beyond Carnival; Maria Izilda Santos de Matos, O meu lar é o botequim: alcoolismo e masculinidade (São Paulo: Cia. Editora Nacional, 2001); Weinstein, “Making Workers Masculine.” For other works on masculinity and male homosexuality, see the collection edited by Mary Del Priore and Márcia Amantino, eds., História dos homens no Brasil (São Paulo: UNESP, 2013); and Sérgio Carrara and Júlio Assis Simões, “Sexuality, Culture and Politics: The Journey of Male Homosexuality in Brazilian Anthropology,” Cadernos Pagu no. 28 (2007): 65–99.

(110.) Important exceptions include Pinsky, Mulheres dos anos dourados; and Maria Izilda Santos de Matos, Dolores Duran: experiências boemias em Copacabana dos anos 50 (Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil, 1997).

(111.) Green, “Who Is the Macho Who Wants to Kill Me?”; Joana Maria Pedro, Cristina Scheibe Wolff, and Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, eds., Gênero, feminismos e ditaduras no Cone Sul (Florianópolis: Editora Mulheres, 2010); Joana Maria Pedro, Cristina Scheibe Wolff, and Ana Maria Veiga, eds., Resistências, gênero e feminismos contra as ditaduras no Cone Sul (Florianópolis: Editora Mulheres, 2011); Langland, “Birth Control Pills and Molotov Cocktails”; and Cowan, Securing Sex.

(112.) Joana Maria Pedro, “Corpo, prazer, e trabalho,” in Nova história das mulheres, eds. Joana Maria Pedro and Carla Basanezi Pinsky (São Paulo: Contexto, 2012), 238–259. Examples of studies by social scientists and participants include Alvarez, Engendering Democracy; Pinto, Uma história do feminismo; Moema Toscano and Mirian Goldenberg, A revolução das mulheres: um balanço do feminismo no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Revan, 1992); Melo and Bandeira, Tempos e memórias; and Teles and Leite, Da guerrilha à imprensa feminista.

(113.) Regina Facchini, Sopa de letrinhas?: Movimento homossexual e produção de identidades coletivas nos anos 90 (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Garamond, 2005); Mello, “Da diferença à igualdade”; Encarnación, Out in the Periphery, ch. 5; Green, “Who Is This Macho.” For discussion of legal struggles relating to civil unions and marriage, Caulfield, “From Liberalism to Human Dignity”; Schulenberg, “Policy Stability without Policy.” The most well-known memoir-type accounts of this history are João Antônio de Souza Mascarenhas, A tríplice conexão: Machismo, conservadorismo político e falso moralismo, um ativista guei versus noventa e seis parlamentares (Rio de Janiero: 2AB Editora, 1997); and Trevisan, Devassos no paraíso.

(114.) Banco de teses e dissertações, Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior. , retrieved from