Women’s Right to Vote in Brazil
July 16, (1934)

Number of female heads of state to date: 1

› Legislação Informatizada – DECRETO Nº 21.076, DE 24 DE FEVEREIRO DE 1932

O voto feminino no Brasil

Special Edition – International Women’s Day – 06/03/2009
Rodrigo Rodrigues Pereira and Teofilo Tostes Daniel

75 years ago the female vote, one of the pillars of women’s struggle for their rights, won in Brazil an important boost. In 1934, the Electoral Code was consolidated, which reformed another milestone in the fight for women’s rights. It removed the requirements of the Provisional Electoral Code of 1932, which allowed women to vote with the imposition that only those married to the husband’s approval or widows and unmarried women with their own income would be allowed to exercise the right to vote and to be voted. The Code of 34 withdrew these determinations and left as only restriction the obligation of voting, only foreseen for men. It was only in 1946 that the female vote became compulsory for women.

The struggle for equality of rights and treatment, however, is much earlier and refers directly to International Women’s Day. The date resembles a strike at a textile factory on March 8, 1857, in New York, led by workers. Their main demands were to reduce the working day to 10 hours, to equalize wages with men (women could receive up to a third of a man’s salary for the same service) and decent treatment within the work environment.

The demonstration was brutally repressed by the police. The workers tried to take refuge in the factory. Police finally locked the doors of the factory, which was burned down, killing the 129 women there.

In 1910, during the Second International Conference of Women held in Denmark, it was proposed that 8 March be declared International Women’s Day in honor of the workers of New York. However, only in 1975, by a decree, the date was made official by the United Nations (UN).

Therefore, International Women’s Day is directly linked to this struggle for equal rights between the sexes. There are many fronts in this battle. It is worth remembering, for example, that women only had the right to attend higher education in Brazil from 1879, and even then, the first women who did so were heavily criticized. It is thus a struggle to win rights, to assert them and to impose themselves against entrenched practices and prejudices.

Among the different aspects of this struggle, this Special Bulletin is dedicated to the achievement of women’s political participation by voting. It also brings an interview with the Regional Attorney of the 3rd Region Alice Kanaan, regional electoral procurator in São Paulo for two consecutive biennia (July 1998 to August 2002).


Berta Lutz in 1925, leading figure of the feminist movement in Brazil

Bertha Maria Júlia Lutz (August 2, 1894 in São Paulo – September 16, 1976 in Rio de Janeiro) was a Brazilian zoologist, politician, and diplomat. Lutz became a leading figure in both the Pan American feminist movement and human rights movement.

5th Constitution of 1934

Appointed by the Provisional Government in 1933 to draft the first page of the new Constitution, Berta Lutz included various provisions to promote equal rights between men and women. Not only were women granted the equal right to hold government office and earn equal pay for equal work, but also were given preference over men in all government jobs dealing with the home, motherhood, children, and working conditions for women. The preferential treatment afforded to women in regard to certain government positions was controversial at the time.

Berta Lutz in 1925, leading figure of the feminist movement in Brazil

Transnational Pan-American Feminism: The Friendship of Bertha Lutz and Mary Wilhelmine Williams, 1926-1944 (Journal of Women’s History)

Katherine M. Marino
This paper explores Bertha Lutz and Mary Wilhelmine Williams’s trans-national, Pan-American friendship in the interwar years. Lutz was the leader of Brazil’s suffrage movement and Williams was a U.S. historian and member of the National Woman’s Party and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. They collaborated together to advance Pan-American feminism, a belief that the Western Hemisphere shared a common history and that, through unity, women of the Western Hemi-sphere could bring about greater equality for women and world peace, which they saw as two inextricably linked goals. The women’s influence
over each other’s feminist activism was mutual; in turn, each utilized ideas forged through their friendship to shape the feminist movement in her respective country. The case revealed in this paper thus prompts a reconsideration of interwar international and Pan-American feminism, so often described as a hegemonic, one-way ideological project of North American and European women.

Feminism, Woman Suffrage, and National Politics in Brazil: 1922-1937

Ilan Rachum
Luso-Brazilian Review
Vol. 14, No. 1 (Summer, 1977), pp. 118-134

Facts and figures

Leadership and political participation – [UN Women]
Women in Parliaments: World Classification – [IPU]