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Bárbara Heliodora Guilhermina da Silveira

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

Bárbara Heliodora, as she is most often known, was born in 1758 in São João del Rei in Minas Gerais, the daughter of José da Silveira e Sousa, a lawyer, and Maria Josefa Bueno da Cunha (Muzart, 60). She was the muse and partner of the poet Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto, with whom she had a daughter and three sons. They married in 1781 when their daughter was three years old. Alvarenga Peixoto was involved in the unsuccessful Inconfidência Mineira and was captured and imprisoned in 1789. In 1792 he was sentenced to death, but this sentence was commuted to one of exile the following year and he was sent to Angola, where he remained until his death in 1792. His children and grandchildren were declared illegitimate (Muzart, 61).

As a result of his arrest the couple’s wealth and goods were seized, but Bárbara successfully petitioned for the return of half of it. In 1812 she was declared insane, although the reality behind her supposed madness is unclear. It has been suggested that the authorities may have declared her insane for financial reasons in order to negate a legal transaction which she had made. However, she may also have suffered from depression. (Muzart, 62). She died in May 1819.

Bárbara Heliodora has been celebrated as a heroine of the Inconfidência Mineira but in truth her role was indirect and secondary. At the time the authorities attempted to accuse her of involvement alongside her husband but were unable to bring charges against her (Silva, 188). However, she is also known as a poet although only two surviving poems have been attributed to her, one of which is contested by some scholars. The first of these poems, which is widely conceded to be of her authorship, is entitled “Conselhos de Bárbara Heliodora a seus filhos” and consists of twelve verses of advice on how to live well and some telling warnings regarding walls having ears and obeying authority. The second, which many believe was written by her husband, is addressed to their daughter on her seventh birthday. Both were first published in Januário da Cunha Barbosa’s Parnaso Brasileiro in 1829 and 1831 respectively. Eliane Vasconcellos notes the extensive bibliography to be found on Bárbara Heliodora despite her very limited literary output, and suggests that it is her association with a recognised national poet and a significant historical moment which have earned her and her poetry so much attention (Muzart, 64-5).

Life Events

Born 1758
Married 1781She married the poet Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto.
Died 1819


Silva, Joaquim Norberto de Sousa e, (1862), Brasileiras Celebres

Muzart, Zahidé Lupinacci, (2000), Escritoras Brasileiras do Século XIX

Sabino, Ignez, (1899), Mulheres Illustres do Brazil


There is no writing by this subject in the database.


Resource id #29 (36)

Resource id #33 (15)

Resource id #37 (2)

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