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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Bertha Lutz

b. 1894, São Paulo; d. 1976, Rio de Janeiro

Bertha Lutz established the leading suffrage organization in Brazil in 1922. Within a decade of its formation, the Brazilian Federation for the Advancement of Women (BFAW) had achieved its goal. The daughter of a pioneer in tropical medicine, Lutz received a degree in biology at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, she had followed the progress of the English women’s movement and, upon her return to Rio de Janeiro in 1918, published a feminist manifesto of sorts in the Revista da Semana. Lutz called for a suffrage campaign led by educated, professional women. The cadre of middle-class women who would organize under Lutz’s leadership were neither militant nor radical—their goal was not to revolutionize society; the franchise was granted to women in 1932 with the same literacy requirements as applied to men. Lutz remained active in the international women’s movement for the rest of her life. Professionally, she followed the path of her father, becoming a researcher at the National Museum in Rio. As Brazil’s delegate to the fledgling United Nations, she was among the small group of women who waged a three-month struggle to have “sex” included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Thus, Article 2 reads: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”