Birth Date: 20 May 1878
Date of Death: 3 October 1911
Place of Birth: Guarda
Place of Death: Lisbon
Nationality: Portuguese
Occupation/Field of Study A gynaecologist and a surgeon, also a feminist activist and the first woman to vote in Portugal.


KEYWORDS: doctor, surgeon, women’s suffrage, feminism, Portuguese first republic



Carolina Beatriz Ângelo defended women’s education and the revision of laws which did not recognise women or children as full citizens. She was a supporter of votes for women and the first woman to vote in Portugal, not because it was legal for women to vote in 1911, but because she challenged the institutions by pointing out a loophole in the system in place. Her vote was an act of reasonable rebellion supported by a court of law but one which caused a backlash that led to the added specified information that only male citizens could vote. Ângelo was also involved in campaigns in favour of the legalisation of divorce, the possibility of women holding public positions and the still relevant idea of equal pay for equal work. She believed that women should also be able to own and manage their own property, which would provide them with a great deal of fundamental and necessary autonomy. Ângelo was also an advocate for public welfare with a focus on women’s and children’s protection. She defended the compulsory military service for women, not with a gun but assisting the injured as nurses, in ambulances, kitchens or doing administration jobs.



Carolina Beatriz Ângelo

Born and educated in Guarda, Beatriz Ângelo moved to Lisbon where she studied Medicine. She finished her degree in 1902 and specialised in Gynaecology at the Lisbon Medical-surgical School, an institution that later became the Faculty of Medicine. She was the first woman to perform surgery at the São José Hospital in Lisbon. She married her cousin Januário Barreto, also a doctor and a republican activist. In 1906, she became part of the Portuguese Committee of the French Association La Paix et le Désarmement par les Femmes, which proposed a peaceful solution for international conflicts. In 1907, Ângelo became part of the Portuguese Group of Feminist Studiesfounded that same year by Ana de Castro Osório, her close friend and well-known feminist and republican. Adelaide Cabete and Maria Veleda, two other renowned figures of Portuguese first wave feminism, belonged to the same association. All these women met and worked together in the same circles in the capital city of Portugal. Ângelo joined the freemasonry that year, a common move at the beginning of the 20thcentury for well-educated women who wished to have a pro-active role in society, as the organisation was open to them and supportive of their ideas. She had the status of “venerable” at the Lodge of Humanity, a female-only Lodge. Her friends and fellow social activists Ana de Castro Osório, Adelaide Cabete and Maria Veleda were also freemasons. In 1908, she took part in the First National Conference of Free Thinking and participated in the founding of The Republican League of Portuguese Women, an organisation she went on to lead. In 1909, the Leagueheld their first General Assembly and had their first issue of “Women and Children” published, in which themes relevant to these two groups were discussed. In 1911, the Leaguegives the President of the Republic, Teófilo Braga, a document in which the precarious situation of women is described, including the prohibition to vote. She resigned from the Leaguein 1911 for differences to do with women’s suffrage and how universal it should be, and also religious freedom within the organisation.

In 1910, a group of influential republicans asked Carolina Beatriz Ângelo and her friend, Adelaide Cabete, to secretly sew numerous official flags to be unfolded on 5 October 1910, the day of the proclamation of the first republican regime in Portugal. It is maybe ironic that such a homely activity should be left to the women to do, but still they were asked to participate in a revolution. There are accounts of long evenings of companionship and dedication of committed female activists producing the physical symbols of the political system they believed would bring great improvements to society in general, including the status of women they had long been campaigning for. She founded the Portuguese Association of Feminist Propagandawith Ana de Castro Osório in 1911, one of the many groups she participated in to promote the rights of women and children in Portuguese society.

Carolina Beatriz Ângelo

In 1910 Ângelo’s husband died and she was left left with a young daughter. As the election approached and the new electoral law was
printed on March 1911, she decided, with the support of the League, to request permission to vote from the local authority. Her rationale was logical: the new legislation stated that only Portuguese citizens who could read and write and were heads of family could vote – the text did not mention the sex of the potential voters. Her husband having died, she was the head of her family, she was undoubtedly literate as a qualified doctor and surgeon, and was a Portuguese citizen. However, the spirit of the law did not contemplate the fact that some women could and did fit this description and her request was denied. Women were not expected to vote or even to want to vote. She took her case to the Home Office, who also rejected her demand. Not accepting of these decisions, Ângelo took her case to court and the judge, the father of Ana de Castro Osório, granted her the right to vote. She voted on 28 May 1911, causing a great commotion in the ballot room and its vicinities, and also a scandal in the national and international press, some articles showing clear approval, others revealing criticism. “Portuguese Woman”, the Portuguese Association of Feminist Propagandapublication refers to articles describing the event in England; A Vanguarda, a Portuguese newspaper, includes an interview given by Ângelo to De Amsterdammer Weekblad woor Nederland, a Dutch newspaper; the Leaguementions in several documents having received telegrams from France congratulating Ângelo on her daring action. She defended her position in the press and in the organisations she belonged to, as had been her custom, and in June she publicly demanded from the republican parliament that the vote be given to women. The strongest opposition to Ângelo’s vote came after her death when the legislation was revised in 1913 and clearly specified that only men were entitled to the vote, making the argument Ângelo used to challenge the law impossible to repeat. Carolina Beatriz Ângelo collapsed and died at the age of 33 in October 1911, as she returned home from an evening meeting with her fellow republican feminists. A public Hospital was named after her in 2012.



I would demand all the measures I believe necessary to change the depressing status of women.

O Tempo, 3 May 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 21.


I am convinced that women, through carefully organised associations where their dignity and character prevail, will be able to attain their freedom.

A Capital,  22 February 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 23.


The women’s vote is absolutely fundamental in a well-formed society and especially in a country where the principles of democracy rule.

A Capital, 25 March 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 27.


The electoral law, while it does not open the door for us, it does not shut it in our faces either. Read it and see for yourself.

A Capital, 25 March 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 65.


Education will be our weapon.

O Século, 5 April 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 34.


It is feared that if Portuguese women invade the political sphere, they will bring that great deal of fanaticism which is attributed to them.

O Século, 5 April 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 34.


It was a great triumph for us.

A Vanguarda, 18 July 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 67.


Oh! How I wish I had more time and money! I would spend them all on propaganda!

A Vanguarda, 18 July 1911, cited in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 67.



 She was a practical feminist.

Afonso Costa, quoted in Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa, 2005. p. 23.

Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, broke with the routine and had the courage to declare herself as a suffragist, as she understood that it is in the suffrage that lies the basis of all feminist demands.

A Mulher Portuguesa, n.º 4, Outubro 1912.


It is a fact that [Beatriz Ângelo’s vote] was not a feminist victory, but it was a great act of rebellion against the prejudice of the superiority of the male sex.

Alma Feminina, n.º 1-2 Janeiro-Fevereiro 1922.



Costa, Jorge Paixão da (2015), ‘Beatriz Ângelo – À Porta da História – Documentários – História – RTP’. RTP.

Exhibition And Yet, They Move! Women and Science [E contudo, elas movem-se! Mulheres e Ciência], Rectorate of the University of Porto, Portugal, 10-29 september, 2019. [an illustration of Carolina Beatriz Ângelo by Miguel Praça is displayed at the exhibition].

E contudo, elas movem-se! Mulheres e Ciência (com poemas) (2019), Org. Ana Luísa Amaral e Marinela Freitas. Porto: U.Porto Edições [the book contains a short bio on Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, as well as an illustration by Miguel Praça].



Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. 1903. Prolapsos Genitais. Apontamentos. Dissertação de Licenciatura. Lisboa.



Borges, Dulce Helena Pires (org.). 2010. Catálogo da Exposição de Homenagem a Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, Intersecções dos sentidos, palavras, actos e imagens. Museu da Guarda. IMC.



‘Ângelo, Carolina Beatriz (1878-1911)’. n.d. In . Accessed 1 September 2019.

‘Carolina Beatriz Ângelo’. n.d. Accessed 1 September 2019.

Costa, Jorge Paixão da. 2015. ‘Beatriz Ângelo – À Porta da História – Documentários – História – RTP’. RTP.

Goucha Soares, Manuela. n.d. ‘Carolina votou em 1911. Foi a primeira e a República mudou a lei para impedir o voto feminino’. Jornal Expresso. Accessed 1 September 2019.

Silva, Maria Regina Tavares da. 2005. Carolina Beatriz Ângelo. Lisboa.

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