Pintasilgo, Maria de Lurdes (1930—)

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Pintasilgo, Maria de Lurdes (1930—)

Portuguese politician, social activist, and author who served as prime minister and representative to the United Nations. Name variations: Pintassilgo. Born on January 18, 1930, in Abrantes, Portugal; first child of Jaime de Matos Pintasilgo (a textile merchant) and Amélia Ruivo da Silva; graduated from Superior Technical Institute, 1953.

Born on January 18, 1930, in Abrantes, Portugal, Maria de Lurdes Pintasilgo was the first child of Amélia Ruivo da Silva and Jaime de Matos Pintasilgo, a textile merchant. When Maria was seven, her family moved to Lisbon. As a secondary student, she twice won the National Prize for her academic achievements. Torn between the arts and sciences, she eventually decided to study chemical and industrial engineering at the Superior Technical Institute, graduating in 1953. As a scientist, she was part of Portugal's Nuclear Energy Commission's first research team. In 1954, Pintasilgo became the first woman employed in research and development for the Companhia União Fabril (CUF). She worked there until 1960.

Despite these demanding positions, she also devoted great energy to Catholic and political activities, passions acquired during her university years. She served as president of the Catholic Feminine University Youth (1952–56) and then headed Pax Romana, the International Movement of Catholic Students (1956–58). From 1964 to 1969, Pintasilgo lived in France, where

she was international vice-president of a Catholic organization (Graal) intended to modernize the Church in keeping with Vatican II. Pope Paul VI also named her a member of a group representing Catholicism to the World Council of Churches.

When Pintasilgo returned to Portugal in 1969, the country was entering the final stage of the Salazar dictatorship. Too ill to govern any longer, dictator António de Oliveira Salazar had turned over power to Marcello Caetano, who attempted to reform the regime sufficiently to protect it from liberal and socialist pressure. All Portuguese women were given the right to vote. In 1969, Caetano invited Pintasilgo to stand for election as a deputy to the National Assembly, but she declined. She did, however, accept a position as procuradora (attorney) for the Corporative Chamber (1969–74) and produced thoughtful analyses concerning the need for civil freedoms in Portugal and the direction the nation should pursue for economic development. Pintasilgo urged the government to bring an end to Portugal's African colonialism. She also headed a governmental committee that evolved into the Commission of the Feminine Condition, which studied issues related to women in the workplace.

Leaders of the MFA (Armed Forces Movement) that overthrew the reactionary dictatorship on April 25, 1974, brought Pintasilgo into the first provisional government. She held offices in the first three provisional governments after democracy was restored, at one point serving as secretary of state for social security. From 1975 to 1979, she represented Portugal at UNESCO and was elected to its executive council. In 1979, President António Ramalho Eanes named Pintasilgo prime minister of a caretaker government until new elections were held. Following the election, she served as adviser to President Eanes (1981–85). Thereafter, she occupied a post on the University Council of the United Nations and founded the Movement for the Deepening of Democracy in 1983. Pintasilgo continued her activities in Catholic political circles, possessing national and international stature. She was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of Portugal. From 1986 to 1989, Pintasilgo represented her country in the European Parliament.

Her published writings include Sulcos do Nosso Querer Comum (1980), Imaginar a Igreja (1980), Les Nouveaux Féminismes: Question pour le Chrétiens (1980), Dimensões da mudança (1985), and As Minhas Respostas (1985).


Azevedo, Candido de, ed. Classe Política Portuguesa: Estes Políticos que Nos Governam. Lisbon: Pegaso Editores, 1991.

Ferreira, Hugo Gil, and Michael W. Marshall. Portugal's Revolution: Ten Years On. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Kendall W. W. , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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Pintasilgo, Maria de Lurdes (1930—)

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