Ethnic origen: White
|1810||-||Rio Grande do Norte||-||Not applicable||-||She was born here.|
|1822-1822||-||Rio de Janeiro||-||Royalist||-||She stayed in Rio de Janeiro until march 1822|
|1823||-||Recife||-||Unknown||-||She lived here.|
|1832-1837||-||Porto Alegre||-||Unknown||-||She lived here from 1832 to 1837.|
|1837-1856||-||Rio de Janeiro||-||Unknown||-||She lived here from 1837 to 1856 and ran a school for girls.|
|1849||-||Rio de Janeiro||-||Patriot||-||Published "A lágriam de um Caeté"|
|1849||-||Paris||-||Unknown||-||She lived and published here.|
|1856?||-||Italy||-||Unknown||-||She travelled and published here.|
|1856-1885||-||France||-||Unknown||-||She lived here from 1856 until her death.|
Connections:Education for girls (Brazil)
Dionísia Gonçalves Pinto was born in Papari in Rio Grande do Norte on 12 October 1810, the eldest daughter of Dionísio Gonçalves Pinto Lisboa and Antônia Clara Freire. From the publication of her first text in 1832 she used the pseudonym Nísia Floresta Brasileira Augusta, not only as a nome-de-plume, but as the public name by which she was known. What formal education Floresta received is unclear but it seems likely that she was largely self-taught, apparently with the support of her father. She was fluent in French and Italian and her work suggests an extensive knowledge of classical and European history, literature and philosophy.
Floresta’s childhood was a turbulent one: in 1817, and again in 1824, the family was forced to leave their home due to the persecution of the Portuguese-born, including Floresta’s father, which accompanied the separatist revolutions that swept through the Northeast of Brazil. Before their definitive move to Recife, Floresta was married to a young, landowning neighbour, Manuel Alexandre Seabra de Melo in 1823. Whether she entered into this union willingly is not known, but it was evidently unsuccessful and she returned to live with her parents shortly after (Duarte (1995), 20). This unhappy event may also have contributed to the family’s departure, but the hint of scandal was to pursue Floresta for much of her life in Brazil.
In Recife, in 1828, her father was assassinated and she began to live with a young law student Manuel Augusto de Faria Rocha. If and how her first marriage was legally dissolved and whether she was able to marry her chosen partner is unclear. The couple had a daughter in 1830, and in 1832 Floresta published her first work, Direitos das Mulheres e Injustiça dos Homens. For many years this text was believed to be inspired by and a ‘free’ translation of Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman because Floresta herself credits the text to “Mistriss Godwin” even though the English and Brazilian texts have very little in common (eg. Câmara, 85; Duarte (1995), 167). However, more recently research has revealed the text to be a direct translation from the French of Woman Not Inferior to Man, an anonymous feminist tract published in London in 1739 (Pallares-Burke). Much of Floresta’s reputation as Brazil’s founding feminist is based on this, her first publication, and the revelation that it is a direct translation has inevitable repercussions for the position she is afforded in the historiography of women’s writing. However, because Pallares-Burke’s research has not been widely disseminated in Brazil, references to Floresta continue to erroneously state that she translated Wollsonecraft.
In 1832 the family moved to Porto Alegre, where a son was born, and only seven months later Floresta’s partner died unexpectedly. Some time after this she began to operate a school for girls, although it is possible that she had also taught in Recife (Duarte (1995), 24). 1835 saw the start of the Farroupilha War, which gripped the southern province for a decade and this is likely to have been a factor in Floresta’s decision to move to Rio de Janeiro, with her children, mother and sister in 1837.
There Floresta established the Collegio Augusto school for girls, which she herself ran for more than a decade. She also began writing in earnest, publishing several didactic texts and a pro-federalist poem about the Praieira Revolt (a federal republican uprising in Pernambuco, 1848-9) under the alternative pseudonym Tellesilla. In November 1849 Floresta travelled with her two children to Europe, where she stayed for two years, primarily in Paris. The family returned to Brazil in 1852 and the following year she published Opúsculo Humanitário, her most significant Brazilian text in which she constructs a lengthy and detailed critique of Brazil’s education system but also address a number of other social issues of her day, including slavery and the status of the Brazilian Indian. Several short essays and pieces of fiction also appeared in the periodical O Brasil Illustrado in 1855 and 1856, including a piece of prose fiction about a devout Christian slave modelled on Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In April of 1856 Floresta left once more for Europe, accompanied only by her daughter. Setting up residence in Paris, she formed a friendship with the founder of Positivism, Auguste Comte, whose lectures she had attended during her previous visit. She also met and interacted with a number of other writers and intellectuals of the day. Floresta returned to Brazil only once more in her lifetime, spending little more than two years there between 1872 and 1875. In Europe she travelled extensively in Italy, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and England, living for a while in Florence, and possibly also in Berlin, and published a number of essays and travel journals in French and Italian. She died and was buried in Bonsecours, near Rouen, on 24 April 1885. In 1954 her remains were returned to Brazil and buried in her birthplace Papari, which had been renamed “Nísia Floresta” six years earlier (Duarte (1995), 69-70).
Almost all Floresta’s writing was non-fiction prose and she turned her attention to a number of social and discursive issues of her day, including slavery, the status of the Brazilian indigenous population, federal republicanism and national identity formation. However, her greatest concern was always the position of women, and in particular the question of women’s education, and she considered herself first and foremost an educator.
A full list of her published works follows:
Direitos das Mulheres e Injustiça dos Homens, por Mistriss Godwin. Tradusido livremente do Francez para Portuguez e offerecido às brasileiras e académicos brasileiros, Recife: Typ. Fidedigna, 1832 (subsequently reprinted in Porto Alegre (1833) and Rio (1839)).
Conselhos a Minha Filha, Rio de Janeiro: Typ. De J E S Cabral, 1842
Conselhos a Minha Filha, com 40 Pensamentos em Versos, 2nd ed., Rio de Janeiro: Typ. De F de Paula Brito, 1845
Fany, ou o Modelo das Donzelas, Rio de Janeiro: Collegio Augusto, 1847
Discurso que as suas educandas dirigio N F B Augusta, em 18 de dezembro de 1847, Rio de Janeiro: Typographia Imparcial de F. de Paula Brito, 1847
A Lagrima de um Caheté, por Tellesilla, Rio de Janeiro: Typ. de L. A. F. de Menezes, 1849
Opúsculo Humanitário, Rio de Janeiro: Typ. de M A da Silva Lima, 1853
‘Passeio ao Aqueducto da Carioca’, O Brasil Ilustrado, Rio de Janeiro, 15 July 1855
‘Paginas de uma vida obscura’, O Brasil Ilustrado, Rio de Janeiro, 14 & 31 March, 15 & 30 April, 15 & 31 May, 15 & 30 June 1855
‘Um improviso, na manhã de 1° do corrente, ao distincto literato e grande poeta Antonio Feliciano de Castilho’, O Brasil Ilustrado, Rio de Janeiro, 30 April 1855
‘O Pranto Filial’, O Brasil Ilustrado, Rio de Janeiro, 31 March 1856
Itineraire d’un Voyage en Allemagne, Paris: Firmin Diderot Frères et Cie, 1857
Scintille d’un’Anima Brasiliana, Florence: Typ. Barbera, Bianchi & C, 1859. (A collection of five essays: ‘Il Brasile’, ‘L’Abisso sotto i Fiori della Civiltà’, ‘La Donna’, ‘Viaggio Magnetico’ and ‘Una Passeggiata al Giardino di Lussemburgo’)
Trois Ans en Italie, Suivis d’un Voyage en Grèce, Vol. 1, Paris: Libraire E Dentu, 1864
Le Brésil, Paris : Libraire André Sagnier, 1871
Trois Ans en Italie, Suivis d’un Voyage en Grèce, Vol. 2, Paris: E. Dentu Libraire-Éditeur et Jeffes, Libraire A. Londres, 1871
Fragments d’un Ouvrage Inédit: Notes Biographiques, Paris: A Chérié, 1878
She is also believed to have published three further texts which are now lost :
Daciz, ou a Jovem Completa, Rio de Janeiro: Typ. De F de Paula Brito, 1847, Dedicação de uma Amiga, Niterói: Typ. Fluminense de Lopes & Cia, 1850 and Parsis, Paris, 1867.
More recently a number of Floresta’s works have been translated into Portuguese and/or republished in Brazil:
Itinerário de uma Viagem à Alemanha, trans. Francisco das Chagas Pereira, Natal: Editora Universitária, 1982
Direitos das mulheres e injustiça dos homens, São Paulo: Cortez Editora, 1989
Opúsculo Humanitário, 2nd ed., São Paulo: Cortez Editora, 1989
A lágrima de um caeté, Natal: Fundação José Augusto, 1997
Cintilações de uma Alma Brasileira, trans. Michele A Vartulli, Florianópolis: Editora Mulheres; Santa Cruz do Sul: EDUNISC, 1997
Três anos na Itália seguidos de uma viagem à Grécia, trans. Francisco das Chagas Pereira, Natal: EDUFRN, 1998
Fragmentos de uma obra inédita: Notas biográficos trans. Nathalie Bernardo da Câmara, Brasília: Editora da UnB, 2001.
(1929) Auguste Comte et Mme Nisia Brasileira (Correspondence)
Blake, A V A Sacramento (1900) Diccionario Bibliographico Brazileiro
Câmara, Adauto da (1997) História de Nísia Floresta
Duarte, Constância Lima (1995) Nísia Floresta: Vida e Obra
Duarte, Constância Lima Gotlib, Nádia Battella (editor). (1990) Nos primórdios do feminismo Brasileiro: Direitos das Mulheres e Injustiça dos Homens
Duarte, Constância Lima Ramalho, Christina (editor). (1999) Nísia Floresta e Mary Wollstonecraft: Diálogo e Apropriação
Liddell, Charlotte (2005) Brazil’s First Feminist? Gender and Patriotism in the Works of Nísia Floresta
Pallares-Burke, Maria Lúcia Garcia (1996) A Mary Wollstonecraft que o Brasil conheceu, ou a travessura literária de Nísia Floresta
Seidl, Roberto (1933) Nisia Floresta, 1810-1885
Silva, Innocencio F da (1862) Diccionario Bibliographico Portuguez