Rebellious Women – how did they become icons?

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My next step after returning to Birmingham in August was to begin looking at the specific women Courtney had identified as iconic in Brazilian culture, whether of Brazilian nationality or not. These women were:

  • Xica da Silva, known as ‘the slave who became a queen’
  • Dandara, wife of Zumbi dos Palmares, a leader of a colony of former slaves
  • Princess Isabel, the woman who signed the Golden Act emancipating slaves in Brazil when her father the King was away in 1888
  • Iracema, a fictional indigenous woman who gives birth to the first Brazilian
  • Maria Bonita, the wife of infamous bandit Lampião
  • Dadá, the wife of Corisco, one of Lampião’s most famous band members
  • Olga Benário Prestes, a German-Jewish communist militant who married Brazilian communist leader Luís Carlos Prestes and was deported to be sent to a concentration camp where she later died after giving birth to their daughter
  • Jacobina Mentz Maurer, the religious church leader who led the Revolt of the Muckers
  • Leila Diniz, movie star and sex symbol of the late 1960s and early 1970s
  • Carmen Miranda, iconic movie and radio star
  • and Dilma Rousseff, former guerrilla fighter and the first female President of Brazil

Clearly these women all hold important places in Brazilian culture, and in my research I was able to find many interesting sources on these women, for example interviews with the director of several Leila Diniz films, a book with writing by Olga Benário Prestes’ daughter, and personal letters from Princess Isabel talking about her views on slavery in Brazil. These women became icons by doing the unthinkable – they completely broke out of the mould for women of their social status and time. These women defied all  expectations placed upon them, and thereby placed themselves into the forefront of iconic figures of Brazil.

This research gave me a hugely varied knowledge of Brazilian history, as well as an appreciation of the different ways in which women have shaped Brazilian history. This research will form the basis of Courtney’s next project, and I’m so grateful to have been able to conduct some of the research for her – the experience was unlike anything I’ve ever done and gave me a great interest in not only Latin American, but wider global history too. I hope others enjoyed reading about my research and will look for more on these women – specifically Courtney’s writing, which I myself can’t wait to read.


1 thought on “Rebellious Women – how did they become icons?”

  1. I am grateful for the work you did on this project, Rebecca! You set me up to sit down, read, and get started! Thank you!

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