Feminist Grassroots Print Media and Resistance in Brazil’s "Second Republic"

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:20 AM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Cari W. Maes, Oregon State University
From 1947-1956 a small cadre of Communist feminists published a homespun women’s journal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, called Momento Feminino (The Feminine Moment). Its publication began humbly during a brief resurgence of democracy following the collapse of the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1945. Printed using donated materials and circulated among local elite women, its subject matter initially pertained to feminine, rather than explicitly feminist, interests. However, within a few years, the authors transformed the journal’s purpose and impact in unprecedented fashion, ultimately establishing a nationwide footprint and expanding the possibilities for women’s engagement in both local and national politics. This paper analyzes the novel mechanisms of circulation and networking used to disseminate the journal into even remote areas of Brazil by the late forties. This endeavor relied upon a remarkable web of community-based socias, or affiliates charged with selling subscriptions, delivering issues, and recruiting local women into the journal’s network. Likewise, this paper examines the shift in content from feminine and domestic concerns to expressly feminist politics, focused primarily on germinating grassroots leftist activism and cross-class solidarity among Brazilian women. In addition to its impressive incitement of feminist activism at multiple levels of society, the journal’s editors also organized protests, hosted international feminist luminaries, investigated government corruption and waste, and provided a storytelling platform for poor rural and urban women. This analysis illuminates a critical example of women’s ‘backchannel’ political citizenship in twentieth-century Brazil that centered feminist, cross-class (and cross-racial) organizing and resistance powered by print media and person-to-person networking. It ultimately contends that print media offered an important space for women to activate their political subjectivity and integrate themselves and their gendered interests into public political life.