Home Language & Literature The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates
From 1910 to 1933
At the turn of the century, the increasing dynamism of national and international feminist movements and the ensuing debate about the real role and rights of women boosted not only the publication of doctrinal texts and essays campaigning for women’s rights written by female and male activists, but also of texts advocating the exact opposite. There was a growing availability of a wide range of both conservative and progressive books on the condition of women - womanhood being a fashionable, topical subject -, guides for wives, mothers, brides, daughters, and practical books for housewives.
In 1910, shortly after the proclamation of the First Republic, divorce was legalized in Portugal. In a climate of freedom of the press, a dynamic feminist movement encouraged the publication of books on the condition of women, as well as more practical books dealing with questions of their everyday life (Pimentel and Melo 173-202). 
Until 1933, programmatic texts and essays clearly stand out among the more progressive book publications (on the condition of women). Many of the authors were leaders or outstanding members of Portuguese feminist organizations such as the Liga Republicana das Mulheres Portuguesas [Republican League of Portuguese Women], founded in 1909, or the Conselho National das Mulheres
Portuguesas [National Council of Portuguese Women], founded in 1914. Ana de Castro Osorio (1872-1935), Maria Veleda (1871-1955) and Olga da Silveira (1881-1948) rank among the most well-known names, but there were also male authors, such as Alberto Bramao (1865-1944), Joao Aires de Azevedo (1877-1948) and Jaime Ferreira Dias (1903-1932), who wrote in favour of women’s emancipation, although, rather unexpectedly, most of these books were published before the proclamation of the Republic.
Among the foreign essays in defense of women’s rights that were published in Portugal before 1933, the following should be mentioned:
Table 1: Texts by foreign authors in defense of women’s emancipation published in Portugal before 1933
Although the publication of such texts may seem to reveal more openness towards the discussion of the role of women, the fact is that they are few in number. With the exception of Russomano’s essay (originally written in Portuguese) and Marden’s guide, to which we shall return later, the other titles listed above may be due to the initiative of the translators themselves: Jeanne de Almeida Nogueira (1859-1944), one of the founders of the Associagao de Propaganda Feminista [Feminist Propaganda Association], 1911-1918, Adelino Fortes (1869-1940), Republican activist favourable to women’s emancipation, Sousa Reis (?-?), anarchist sympathizer, and Adelino Tavares de Pinho (1885-?), militant anarchist of Portuguese origin living in Brazil.
A broader overview of women’s guides and books on the situation of women published up to the end of the First Republic clearly shows a predominantly conservative discourse. The prevailing trend continued to be the preservation of the old patriarchal order, still considered by most male and female readers who were perhaps wary of “feminisms”, as the right order at the turn of the century.
Following a more conservative approach, and apart from the guides (for women) by Portuguese authors, which will not be dealt with in this article, there was a large number of foreign guides, mainly translated from the French, which were published for the first time and/or reprinted before 1933, namely those included in this table:
Table 2: Conservative women’s guides by foreign authors published in Portugal before 1933
As can be seen, among the best-selling guides are those by female authors with aristocratic pen names - Baroness of Staffe and Countess of Gence - , who promised skilled advice to elegant women wishing to live “by the book”. Also Tambu- rini’s guide, intended for upper class housewives and adapted to Portuguese reality by the translator, had several reprints. Equally successful were Les quatres livres de la femme written by the French pedagogue Paul Combes, an open supporter of the old gender roles, who marketed his tetralogy as the first “complete” guide for married women in their fourfold condition of wives, housewives, mothers and educators. Among the titles shown in the table, less practical guides, such as the letters of Monseigneur Dupanloup, which offer a Catholic-formed view of women, and Lamy’s academic essays clearly had fewer interested readers.
Mention must also be made that most of the books listed above were editions by important Portuguese publishing houses with a distinctly different status from the ones indicated in table 2. And although it is most likely that some translators, such as the teacher and publicist Jose Agostinho (1866-1938), the philologist and educator Candido de Figueiredo (1846-1925) and the writer Virginia Castro and Almeida (1878-1945) may have had a word in espousing publishing proposals and decisions, in the other cases it seems more likely that the initiative came from the publishers.
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