A Mulher Portuguesa

As the organ of the Associação de Propaganda Feminista, this magazine aimed to disseminate the principles and the practice of feminism, such as the editors understood them. It was founded after disagreements within the Liga Republicana das Mulheres Portuguesas, which caused the departure of some of its members. Among these was Ana de Castro Osório, who took on the role of director, accompanied by two women she trusted: Joana de Almeida Nogueira and Albertina de Moura Benício. Without rejecting its republican (and even Masonic) affiliation, Osório emphasized the feminist character of the publication, revealing her definition of the term in the first issue. Feminism, far from wanting to substitute the “legendary” male superiority with the exaltation of the feminine being, asserted itself as an integral humanism, striving for balance between both sexes and the mutual collaboration of all branches of human activity. Therefore, to be a feminist was to be a woman who won the right to live off her own work, through her intelligence and self-awareness. In this perspective, nothing separated women from men and, therefore, they were united by a kind of humanism that brought them together in a common project to overcome differences and to create equality in family, civil, and political life.

Based on these ideas, largely presented by Émile Faguet in Le Féminisme, the magazine outlined the path for each of these activities. From the point of view of family, cooperation would be key to the relationship. This would represent the expression of family equality, based on mutual understanding toward a common purpose, in other words, on the shared and unambiguous exercise of authority. As for civil life, the advocated doctrine was based on the equality of aptitude of all citizens, both women and men. There would be no essential distinctions between them, as both women and men could be naturally gifted or acquire the necessary skills. It stated that, with rare exceptions, "all women are equal in intelligence to all men". Therefore, they could exercise the same civil functions that men had access to. Civil equality stemmed from equal aptitudes and these depended not only on personal attributes, but also on equal education.

Education was often mentioned as fundamental for women not only because it “creates” equality between the sexes, but also because it is a condition for their dignity, both in family life and social relationships. The directors expressed their thoughts on the matter: “Our desire is to prepare the Portuguese woman to be a good professional (…) a conscientious and well-learned educator (…) a housewife of healthy and enlightened intelligence”. In this way, the ideal of integral humanism was realized, completed with the statement that women would only be true companions of men when they shared their interests, both in the family and in the homeland.

In this context, suffragism occupied an essential place in women's lives. If their right to vote was not recognized, they would not be granted citizenship or its respective rights. In Portugal, at the time, the right to vote was a matter of the utmost importance, since the new electoral law was being debated and it was essential that it be contemplated there. But this wasn’t the only reason. By promoting it, the magazine’s directors allied themselves with an international movement headed by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, which was joined by the Associação de Propaganda Feminista. Accentuating its suffragist tendency, the periodical published a table by Ferdinand Buisson that listed the countries in which women were voters and candidates, sometimes in the same circumstances as men, and “without distinction of sexes, races, languages, ​​or lands”. In addition, it emphasized the fact that an article of the Electoral Law was approved in the Senate which stated: “Women over the age of 25 who have a higher, secondary, or special course are also voters”. Until the last issue, the magazine fought for women’s right to vote, which it considered to be an expression of their political rights, mostly defended by the editorial staff, but which also had the support of male collaborators such as Jacinto Nunes, Ezequiel de Campos, Fazenda Júnior, Bernardino Machado, Abílio Barreto, etc., to mention just a few who publicly expressed their opinion.

The female vote would be the expression of feminism, as the directors of A Mulher Portuguesa understood it. It would place Portugal in European society, it would give political meaning to the education of women, it would encourage them to cultural betterment, it would imply that they were builders of a new society by contributing to the respublica, and by being placed alongside men they would also become promoters of progress. The society of the future would be the result of equal accountability of women and men, of male and female citizens. In this sense, the contribution of feminism would be indispensable.

Zília Osório de Castro