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Amazons, Wives, Nuns, and Witches

Women and the Catholic Church in Colonial Brazil, 1500-1822

By Carole A. Myscofski

Publication Year: 2013

Writing Brazilian women back into history, this book presents the first comprehensive study in English of how women experienced and understood their lives within the society created by the Portuguese imperial government and the colonial era Roman Catholic Church.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

My work on the history of women’s religious lives in colonial Brazil, first conceived as a series of independent research projects, has proceeded deliberately over a number of years, and the support of grants, foundations, colleagues, and friends has finally...

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Introduction. Amazons and Others

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pp. 1-18

Padre Brás Lourenço, the putative author of the report, confidently declared that the young women had abandoned their former heathen customs so that they might serve the Jesuits, the Portuguese empire, and God. With their new womanly skills, they created modest clothing and thus...

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1. Amazons and Cannibals: Imagining Brazilian Women in the Colonial Period

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pp. 19-54

Here Nóbrega presented the primary information for his readers, that the land had some familiar characteristics (it was coastal, albeit excessively so) and one truly alien feature: the inhabitants were naked. His emphasis on the nudity of women was the first of many such powerful constructions...

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2. The Body of Virtues: The Christian Ideal for Brazilian Women

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pp. 55-83

In the early 1600s, the Jesuit Antônio Vieira preached to Catholics in Brazil that the failings of women began with their ancestral mother, Eve. After Eve’s great sin, women had repeatedly abandoned the virtuous life that had been mandated for them, and exemplary women...

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3. Reading, Writing, and Sewing: Education for Brazilian Women

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pp. 84-106

Writing in 1587, historian Gabriel Soares de Sousa noted with approval the transformations of indigenous cultures in northeastern Brazil through the praiseworthy efforts of Franciscan missionaries. The conversion of indigenous Tupinambá women...

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4. Before the Church Doors: Women as Wives and Concubines

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pp. 107-142

In Bahia in 1591, Antonia de Bairos confessed to the visiting Tribunal of the Portuguese Inquisition that she had been living in a bigamous marriage for decades following her exile from Portugal for adultery. Anrique Barbas, her second husband, had arranged false witnesses...

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5. Freiras and Recolhidas: The Reclusive Life for Brazilian Women

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pp. 143-182

In Rio de Janeiro in 1756, Thiodara Francisca Evangelista formally petitioned the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Ajuda to admit her daughter, Thereza Rosa, as a pupil “until she reaches the age to decide whether to profess as a nun.” To support her case, Dona...

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6. Women and Magic: Religious Dissidents in Colonial Brazil

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pp. 183-227

On August 20, 1591, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, Paula de Siqueira confessed that she had learned a small repertoire of prayers and rituals for obtaining and securing the love of her husband. Among them was a spell using the Latin words of consecration from the...

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Conclusion. Closing the Colonial Era

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pp. 228-238

Over the course of Brazil’s colonial history, women faced numerous and sometimes insuperable barriers to their full expression as religious persons. In the earliest conception of the colonial enterprise, women’s presence was portrayed in otherness, representing the otherness of America itself. The alien continents nurtured alien...


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pp. 239-270


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pp. 271-290


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pp. 291-308

E-ISBN-13: 9780292748545
E-ISBN-10: 029274854X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292748538
Print-ISBN-10: 0292748531

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series