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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

. . . . . . . •

L. B. Schwellenbach, Secretary
Frieda S. Miller, Director



Washington, Sept. 25, 1945.
Srn: I have the honor to transmit a report on women workers in
Brazil. It is a product of the project of cooperation with the other
American Republics which is part of the program of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation' of the State
The surv~y was made and the report written by Mary M. Cannon,
Inter-American specialist of the Women's Bureau, who spent three
months in Brazil in 1942- 43.
Respectfully submitted.



Hon. L.


Secretary of Labor.

1. Girls examine eggs of si,lkworm moth to insure freedom from disease.

(Seep. 19.)

2. Silkworm moth eggs are weighed and prepared by girls for shipment to cooperative

farmers. (See p. 19.)
3. Women in a reeling mill scour cocoons to remove gummy sericin and to find master
filaments which are brought together and twisted on reels. (See p. 19.)
4. Woman worker in a textile mill. (Seep. 11.)
5. First-aid and medical clinic. (See p. 6.)
6. A retail trade worker at the Lojas Brasileiras in Rio de Janeiro--"the Woolworth
of Brazil." (S ee p. 20.)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The Inter-American specialist of the U. S. Women's
Bureau spent 3 months in Brazil in 1942- 43 to obtain an
over-all picture of the employment of women, of their social
and economic position , of labor legislation and its administration, and to establish contacts for the exchange of information and publications and for sharing assistance in mutual
problems. Special attention was given to industrial employment and working conditions of women. It was also
proposed to learn about the programs of women's organizations as they touch wage-earning women.
A r eport, Women Workers in Argentina, Chile, and
Uruguay (Women's Bureau Bulletin 195), was issued after
a visit to those countries in 1941.
Other publications about women in South America available in the Women's Bureau are (1) Women's Organizations
in Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru- Reprint from Bulletin of
the Pan American Union, November 1943, and (2) Women
in Brazil Today, 1943 (multilithed), (3) Social and Labor
Problems of Peru and Uruguay (mimeographed).
Bulletins on women workers in Paraguay, P eru, and
Ecuador , based on the survey made in 1943, are in preparation .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Letter of TransmittaL ______ _______ _________ ___ __ ____ ___ ___·_ _ _ _ _ __ _
Introduction _______________________________ __ ___________________ __
·Women in Manufacturing___ ________________ _______ ___ ____ ___ __ ___ _
Number of Women in Manufacturing _______________ ______ __.., ___ _
Jobs on Which Women Are E mployed __ __ ___ _________ ____ ____ ___
Working Conditions____ __ ___________ ____ __________ ___ ________ _
Absenteeism and Turn-over __ __________ ______________________ ___
Wages ____ ___ ______ _____ ________ _____ ____ _______________ ____ _
Individual Plant D escriptions ___ ________ _________ ~ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _
Industrial Home Work _______ __________ ______________ _______ __ _
Women in Other Employment_ __ ___ _____________________ __________ _
R etail Trade__ ____________________ _____ __ ___ ________ ____ __ ___ _
Government Printing Office __________ ____ ____________ _._ ________ _
Telephone E xchange __ _____ ______ ____ ________ ________ ________ __
Office E mployees_ _________ __________ ____ _________________ ___ __
Labor Legislat ion Affecting Women Workers __~-- - ---------------- ---Wages ___ ___ _______________ ____________ __________ ______ ______
Hours ___________ ___________ ____________ _____ • ___ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _
Rest P eriods ___ ____ __ __ __ __ _ _ __ __ __ _ _ _ _ __ __ __ _ _ ___ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ _
Vacations with Pay ____________________________________________
Maternity L egislation ________________________________ __________
Sanitation and Safet y_ _________________ __ _____________________ _
Legislation Affecting Minors in Industry _____ ___________________ _
Labor Depart m ents and Divisions of Women and Children _ ___________ _
Social Welfare Provisions _____________________________ __ ______ _____ _
Social Security Systems _____ _______________________________ ___ _
Low-cost Restaurants ___ _____________ ___ _____ __________________
Low-rent Housing ___ ____________________ _____________________ _
Apprenticeship ________________ _____ _______ ___ ___ _______ __ ___ ___ ___
Vocational Education_ _________________ ___ ____ ______ ___ ____ __ ______
Organizations of Industrial Workers ___ __ __ __ ______________________ __.
Syndicates (Trade Unions) ___ ____ _____ __ ___ ___ _______ __ ________ __
Other Organizations of Workers_ ______ _____ _____ _____ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _
Women in Government Service___ _________ ________ _________________ _
Professional Women_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _
Women's Clubs and Organizations_ ______ _____ __ _______ ______________
Special Wart ime Activit ies _______________ __ ___ __ ____ ________________
Political and Future Status of Women ____ ______ _______________._____ _
Illustrations :
Girl examining quartz by submersing the crystals in mineral oil bath __
Stenographer , Rio de Janeiro ___ ________________ ___ ______________
Rest room at coffee time ___ _________ ____ ____ ____________ ___ ____
Machine repair mechanics _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ __ _ _ __ __ _ _ __ _ _ _
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





change in the position of women in
Brazil is well described by a leading Brazilian
woman. "Before 1914," she said, "women and
girls did not go on the streets unaccompanied, even
during the day. Now all go out alone in the daytime and it is all right for adults to be on the street
alone at night. Formerly it was considered a disgrace for women to be employed outside their
homes; there might be 8 or 10 women and girls in
one family, with one poor man trying to support
all of them. That is changed now. It is no
longer a disgrace for women to work outside their

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women Workers
in Brazil


~RIEF survey bf the development of manufacturing in Brazil,
of its beginning years, its growth after the First World War, and its
more recent expansion, affords a background for the picture of women
workers in Brazil. It is significant that the important and more
highly developed manufactures in Brazil are those producing consumer
goods, i. e., textiles, food products, clothing, pharmaceuticals__:_industries that are traditionally woman-employing.
Two wars-World War I and World War II- have had marked
effect on industry in Brazil, and the trend is reflected in the widening
opportunities for women's employment. Brazilian women say that
· after the First World War women began to work outside their homes
and the number has increased as manufacturing has developed, as
opportunities in other employment have increased, and as pre1udices
against women working outside their homes have tended to disappear.
Women comprised 15 percent of the total population gainfully em, ployed in 1920, according to the census of that year. Unfortunately,
no similar statistics are available for more recent years, but it can be
safely assumed that the proportion is higher, for according to general
·observation the number of women in all employment has increased
considerably. This is especially true of teaching, office work, and
government service, and statistics on employment in manufacturing
show that women comprise 30 percent and more of the total employment in the most important industries.
During the First World War and in subsequent years the outstanding industries of Brazil were evolved. They produced cotton,
woolen, and other textiles, frozen and preserved meats, jerked beef,
vegetable oils, :flour, sugar, lard, beverages, wool, and ceramics- the
articles that Brazil found itself unable to obtain abroad during the
war. World War II again restricted imports from both Axis and
Allied Nations, and while some industries which imported raw
materials and machinery were handicapped, the shortage in consumer
goods from abroad stimulated domestic manufacture in this field.
Even before the middle of the 19th century some factories had been
established. By 1850 the country had more than 50 industrial es,/
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

tablishments (including some 2 dozen saltworks), and references in
reports are made to 2 textile mills, 10 food industries, 2 box factories,
5 small m etallurgical plants, and 7 concerns engaged in making
chemical products. A 1907 industrial census of Brazil showed 3,250
industrial establishments with 150,841 workers employed. The 1920
census, which covered the development after the First World War,
showed a considerable increase: 13,336 industrial establishments with
275,512 workers employed. 1 According to 1943 statistics, there were
78,012 factories and 900,000 industrial employees.
New foreign markets in this hemispher e have been secured by
Brazil owing to World War II, in addition to h er own enlarged domestic market fot goods not imported at the present time. Foremost
among the industries benefited is the cotton t extile, which b etween
1939 and 1941 increased its percentage contribution to the value of
total exports from 0.5 to 3.1 percent. 2 In the next year, 1942, t extiles
more than trebled this percentage and reach ed second place in the
value of Brazil's exports.
Textiles, food products, clothing, chemical products-four of the
leading industries of Brazil today- are also the major woman-employing industries. Further, women are employed in more than half
of the smaller but expanding industries of Brazil. The new aircraft
indust.ry and the plastics industry employ an increasing number of
women, a new dehydrating plant in Santos that plans to expand has
women employees, and women are at work in the ceramics industry.
Silk cultivation and silk manufacture are largely woman-employing,
and more women will be needed if the silk industry continues to develop. At the present time women are not employed to any appreciable extent in the other main industries of the country-machinery
manufacture (coffee- and rice-processing machinery and other farm
machinery), machine tool, railroad car, paper products, wood and
furniture, building materials.

Women in Brazil have worked in factories for years and, while they
were few in number in the early years, the following illustrations will
be of interest in pointing out the long-time employment of women:
A woman still employed in the Government Printing Office in Rio de
Janeiro has been there since 1892; in a textile plant in Sao Paulo a
wo~an holds a 30-year employment record; the owner of a cotton
t extile mill in Juiz rle Fora (a textile center of Brazil) said women had
1 Simonsen, Roberto C.
Brazil's Industrial E volution. Sao Paulo, Brazil, Escola Livre de Sociologia
E P olitica, 1939, pp . 22, 25, 26, 30.
2 Zink, Sidney .
Brazil's Industry-War's Emergen cies Spur Unprecedented Activity. U. S. Department of Commerce. F oreign Commerce W eekly XII, 11 :4, 9, Sept. 11, 1943.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women Worker~ in /Jrazi/


been employed since factory started production about 50 years ago.
In Brazil, as in all countries, women work in paid employment
because they need to- to support themselves, to help their families,
or, as in the case of many mothers, for the entire support of their
homes and their children.

Number of Women in Manufacturing
In discussing the importance of women in the manufacturing
industries, various sources of information have been·utilized, since the
1940 population census of Brazil is not yet publish!:'d.
Women comprised 30 percent of the total number of manufacturing
employees registered at the end of 1942. in the Industrial Social .Security System of Brazil. According to the National D epartment of
Labor, the number of women employed in industry in 1942, with the
exception of the State of Sao Paulo, is as follows:
Total women employed ____ __________ _________ ___ __ ___• 114, 876
Textiles (spinning and weaving) ________ _____ _________ _
Food products ___ __________ ___ _________ ·__ _______ ___ _
Chemical products _____ __ ______ __________ ____ _______ _
Clothing ___ __ ____ ____________ __________ ____ __ ___ ___ _
Electrical equipment_ ___ ___ _________________________ _
Paper and paper products _ ___ __________ ________ _____ _
Glass and pottery ______________________ ___ ___ _____ __ _
Furniture ___ __ __ ____ ___ ____ _____ ______ ___ ________ __ _
Printing ___ ___ ____ __ ___ ___________ ______ ___ _______ _ _
Extraction of minerals ___ ___ ____ ___ ____________ __ ___ _
Leather products ___ _____ ___ ____ _____ ___ ______ ___ ___ _
Jewelry and precious stones __________________________ _
Miscellaneous ___ ___ ____ ______ ____ ____ ___ ________ ___ _

61, 117

· 8,818



In Sao Paulo, Brazil's most important industrial area, women
workers made up 33 percent of the total factory employment in 1939,
36 percent in 1942, and 42 percent in 1943. Women's employment 3
in factories more than doubled between 1939 and 1943, and their
jump in numbers between 1942 and 1943 was almost four times that
of men during the same period, as shown by the following table,
based on data from the Sao Paulo Department of Labor:
Number Number

1939 ___ -- __ -- ____ -- _____ --- -- -- __-- -- ________ -- _-- _-1942 ____ _____ -- __ -- -- --- _- - -- -- -- _--- __ -- --- -- --- --- _
1943 ___ __ -- --- ___ -- ____ -- __ -- --- ___ -- ------ ------ _-- _





26, 619 . 264, 144
30, 339
415, 928
35, 391
507, 315



86, 745
213, 586

32. 8
35. 8

1 It is significant that wherever consumer goods are produced, women comprise from one-third to onehalf of all those employed. According to the 1939 Census of Manufactures 'in tho United States, women
comprised 43 percent of the total number employed in textile manufacture; in food and kindred products,
26 percent; in wearing apparel, 70 percent; in tobacco manufacture, 63 percent; in printing, publishing and
9.llied industries, 23 percent; in chemicals and allied products, 17 percent.

670338 °- 46- -2
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women's Bureau Survey in 1942-43.- The Women's Bureau representative visited work establishments in the important industrial
areas of Brazil: The Federal District (city of Rio de Janeiro), and the
three States of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Geraes. The
factories were selected by the National and St~te Labor D epartments
as typical of woman-employing industries. It was not thought
necessary to extend the survey to other areas, where there is less·
development of manufacturing industries.
T he 33 manufacturing establishments visited included 15 textile
mills (including 1 hosiery plant), 4 plants making wearing apparel,
3 food-processing plants, 3 pharmaceutical plants, and 1 each making
ceramics, cigarettes, electrical equipment, plastic containers, metal
and aircraft, sanitary goods, hand-made rugs. The Government
P rinting Office was also visited.
Employment in 33 manufacturing plants visited by Women's Bureau representative
1942- 43, by industry

Rayon thread ________ _______ _________ _______ ____ ___________ __ __
Cotton and rayon cloth ______________ ___ _____ ____ _____ ____ _____ _
Cotton cloth, Plant L _________________ ___ ____ ___ __ ____ ________ _
Cotton cloth, Plant 2 ________________ ___ __ ____ ____ ____ ___ : _____ _
Cotton cloth, Plant 3 ____ _____ _______ ____ ______________________ _
Cotton cloth, Plant 4 ___ ______ -·· _____ .. _______________________ __
Cotton cloth, Plant 5 __________________________________________ _
Cotton cloth, Plant 6 .. _________________________________________ _
Canvas cloth and slippers __ _____ _______ __________________ ______ _
Thread and yarn ___________________________________ __ _________ _
Cotton and wool cloth __ ___ ___ ______ ___ _______ _____ __________ __ _
Cotton cloth and knit goods __ ----- - ------------ ------------ --- Cotton blankets __ ------------------------------------ --- ------ .
Hosiery mill ___ _________________ _____ _______ _______________ ____ _
Silk reeling mill ___________________ ___ __________________________ _
Plant I-Drugs and medicines _______________________ __________ _
Plant 2-Drugs and medicines . _______ --.--- · ______ _____ _______ _
Plant 3-Drugs and toilet goods ____________ ____________________ _
Food Processing:
Fruits; preserves ___ ____________________ _______ ___ ___ "-- _______ . _
Macaroni and vermicelli. __ ________ ___ ___ ____ ____ ______________ _
Banana flakes _______________________________________•__________ _
Wearing Apparel :
.-- ----- ----------------- --------- ------------------Women's
___ ______
_____ __ _____- _
Cotton dresses ___ ___ ____ ________ ___ _____ ___ ________ ________ __ ___
Men's clothing ________ ____ _________ _________ _________________ ___
Ceramics ___ ___ --·· ______________________________ -- --~- ---- _____ .
Cigarettes _____ ___ _________ ______________ ___ ___ ____________ ____ _
Electric-light bulbs and electrical equipment_ ______ ____ ______ __ _
Hand-made rugs ______ ___________________________________ ___ ___ _
Metal and aircraft_ _____ _____ ________ __________ _____ _____ _____ _
Plastic and metal articles ___ ____ _____________ __________________ _
Printing (Government) ________________________________________ _
Sanitary goods __ ~---- ______ _____ __ ____________________________ _

Not reported.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Percent of


4, 000
3, 500
1, 850
1, 200
I, 152

2, 400
l, 650
1, 200




· 160


31. 3
50. 0





1, 600
2, 630


7. 0
43. 8
4. 9
15. 5
57. 7


37. 5
66. 7
47. 1
17. 2
55. 0
30. 0
46. 8
66. 7
64. 9
75. 0

-- -------

73. 9

95. 9


Women Worker:$ in Brazil


Jobs on Which Women Are Employed
For the most part, women are in factory jobs requiring only a short
learning period, but they are jobs that require nimble fingers, patience,
concentration. In only a small proportion of the plants visited were
women encouraged to work toward promotion, that is, to become
supervisors or to move on to work that is better paid. Women are
trained to be supervisors in a few plants. In many cases the more
experienced workers who teach learners are compensated' in wages for
any decrease in their own production records. Women perform all the
operations generally performed by women in other countries in textile
mills; also they are, in Brazil, in the textile laboratories, testing
length and strength of cotton fibers. In metal-working plants women
are at work on punch presses and shapers. In an electrical-equipment
plant, they inspect the electric-light bulbs and the filaments used in
them. In pharmaceutical plants they fill, seal, and inspect glass
ampoules. In the Government Printing Office some women work at
machines. They work at power sewing machines in shops making
wearing· apparel.
Effects of the War on Industrial Employment of Women. - At the
time of visiting Brazil in December 1942 and the first 2 months of
1943, a few instances of new employment of women, owing to the war,
were observed.
In an aircraft plant women were working at turret lathes and at
soldering. This company planned to make motors and intended to
use women also as riveters in the new plant. The new Brazilian
Government Airplane Engine Company expected to employ women
when they started production. 4
One textile mill was using young women as machine-repair mechanics after 4 months' training, and paid them the same wages as
In another textile mill, girls were put on shop clerical jobs, taking
the places of men as fast as the men left. A few girls already had been
trained and were working in the drafting room, as well as in the
machine shop on lathes, soldering, welding, filing.
In an electrical-equipment plant, two women were assembling
transformers. At that time these were the only jobs that had been
taken over by women in that plant.
The Central Railroad of Rio de Janeiro trained 752 women for
jobs held by men, such as ticket selling, radio and telegraph operating,
key cribbing, carpentry, lock repairing, soldering, and ,velding. It
had not been .necessary to employ any of these trainees at the time of
4 In order to utilize women most effectively, the youn1¥woman selected to be the woman personnel counselor was sent to the United States to observe and study women workers in airplane-engine plants- their
training, types of jobs, working conditions.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

the visit. It was reported, however, that in some interior cities women
were employed to replace men in transportation work.
General opinion as to the war's impact on employment of women
was that larger numbers of them would not be needed to any great
extent unless the war continued for a number of years and as a result
more men were called into active service. Contrary opinion was
based on the fact that since a government decree required employers
to pay men called into service 50 percent of their wages, some plants
were trying not to replace men with other men of draft age but were
employing women wherever possible.

Working Conditions
Physical conditions of the plants varied considerably. The cotton
mills, where measures must always be taken to free the air from excessive dust and lint, offer a special illustration: In a few of the plants,
ventilation or cleaning apparatus had been installed, or machinery
was cleaned frequently by hand, with the result that the air was
fairly free of dust and lint; in others there was a great deal of lint,
with cotton not only on the floor but on the machinery and overhead.
The floors and walls generally were clean in all textile factories visited.
In other industries, such as pharmaceutical, clothing, cigarette,
hosiery, and food processing, the workrooms visited were spotlessly
The natural lighting and ventilation were uniformly good, made
possible by ample window space and, in some cases, c~iling windows.
Artificial lighting was deficient in some instances where overhead
lights were too high, particularly for night work, and where special
lighting for close work W3s not provided.
Chairs or other seats in the textile mills were almost completely
lacking, unless the work required sitting. Girls and women leaned
against the wall, sat on 'boxes when they could. One mill was trying out seats with backs. In the other plants there were chairs with .
backs, and also stools. One manager had the girls change from standing to sitting jobs every hour.
Dressing-room facilities were not generally provided, particularly
in the textile plants. Toilet and washroom facilities were not seen
on all the visits. Of those observed, some were modern, clean, with
an attendant; others were inadequate.
First-aid and medical-care units were exceptionally good in the
majority of the plants. In 12 of the 33 plants visited, one or two
nurses were on constant duty. In 20, there was some kind of free or
inexpensive medical service; in a number of instances members of the
employees' families also were covered by the medical service, and
home visits were made. Preemployment examinations were given in

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





•.. ' ' - \ .,· t

Women WorkerJ in r/Jrazi/


the plant or a medical certificate was required, and periodic check-ups
were made in some establishments. Follow-up treatment was not
always provided or recommended. The preemployment examination
often proved useful in cases of aecident or illness. In addition to
medical examinations and assistance, some companies had insurance
plans for illness and death in which workers and management shared
the cost; others made provision for buying drugs and medicines at
Rest periods were not the rule at the time of survey but were given
in some factories. In one instance, moreover, a company started
serving buttered rolls and milk in the afternoon, with the result that
production increased; in other plants rolls · and coffee were provided,
or coffee and hot milk, either during a short rest period or at work.
A few plants had a 10- or 15-minute rest period in the morning also.
One hour was the usual time allowed for lunch in all factories.
New regulations on safety and health giving attention to the above
matters have been included in the national labor legislation, and enforcement is the responsibility of a recently organized division of health
and safety in the National Labor Department.
Creches. 5- At the time of the survey, employers of 30 or more
women above 16 years of age were obliged by law to provide a nursery
(creche) where mothers might leave their babies during the nursing
age. The proper facilities and an attendant also were required. At
the factories visited, nine creches were seen, and two were under construction; there may have been others. The creches visited were
very attractive; in one, the maximum age of the children accepted
was 3 years, in another 7 years. · In most of them the babies were
bathed and given supplementary feedings by the attendant in charge.
The Division of Women and Children of the Sao Paulo Department
of Labor succeeded in getting nurseries installed in 28 factories in
In Rio de Janeiro, 18 of 100 work establishments inspected by the
National Department of Labor had nurseries, according to a report
received recently. The report states further that the large industrial
firms are much more cooperative in providing- the nurseries required
by law than are commercial establishments, such as the largest department store and the 5-and-10-cent stores in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Eating Facil-ities .- Appropriate places for workers to eat lunch are
required by law in plants having 300 or more employees. This does
not mean that food must, be served, but, some employers were providing
complete meals at cost to their employees. One company gave its
employees (free of charge) morning coffee, an ample lunch, and
afternoon coffee, and said it was considered · a good investment.

For provisions of law seep. 26 of this report,

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

This is one of the companies that have a periodic check-up on medical
examinations,. and it has had but r,wo cases of tuberculosis in the past
5 years- a good record. In several plants where employees bring
their lunches, facjlities were provided for keeping them wa:rm; one
served a rich nutritious soup at cost.
Report on Inspections in Rio de Janeiro by N atio nal D epartment o f Labor,
Industry, and Commerce

The following report on inspections made recently of 100 work
establishments (79 factories and 21 business places) in the Federal
District by inspectors of the National D epartment of Labor covers
8,123 employed women: 6
Hours of work : In 97 plants the workday was 8 hours, in 2 less
than 8, while in one, more than 8 hours were worked. One hour for
lunch and midday rest was given in 75 firms; more than 1 hour was
allowed in 25 firms . No woman -..vorked between the hours of 10
o'clock at night and 5 in the morning.
S eats :· The wo-rk was preferably done standing in 25 plants, seated·
in 22, while in 53 standing and sitting posjtions were alternated.
None of the plants had adequate seating; in 33 there were benches
without backs, in 67 there were chairs.
Uniforms: In 33 firms the women workers wore uniforms; overalls
were used in 1 plant, aprons in 15, head coverings in 24, gloves in 2.
Health: Of the 100 firms, 27 had doctors on· call for their workers,
wrule 17 provided daily medical assistance; 24 gave preemployment
examinations, 17 gave periodic medical examinations, 10 had nurses.
There were 4 establis);tments where women . wer e engaged in work
injurious to their health (exposed to benzol, mercury, or ammonja
or engaged in too-heavy work).
Plant f acilities: Individual lock ers were provided by 58 of t h e
firms; rest rooms by 30 ; washing facilities were found in 56; towels
were furnished in 45 and soap in 49.

Absenteeism and Turn-over
'A bsenteeism and high turn-over, frequently complained of by
some managers, were more prevalent among the younger workers.
One company reported an 80-percent turn-over in a year, but it was
even worse before a company-worker sick-insurance plan was instituted. It was interesting to note that invariably less absenteeism
and turn-over were reported where the wages and working conditions
were above average.
G Age range: 1,171 were 14 to 18 years of age; 4,188 were 19 to 30 ; 1,425 were 31 to 40; 514 were 41 to 50, and
225 were more th an 50 years old .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women Worker~ in Brazil



In an effort to improve wages for workers, a decree was 'i ssued in
1936 stating that in payment of service rendered every worker has
the right to a minimum wage sufficient to satisfy his normal necessities of food, housing, clothing, hygiene, and transportation in the
area in which he lives during a specified period of time. In order to
arrive at minimum wages, committees composed of an equal number
of representatives of employers and employees and a chairman appointed by the President of Brazil were named in the various regions
of the country to study cost of living and wages, and to recommend
the minimum wage that would satisfy the basic needs stated in the
original decree. It is understood that the minimum wage is based on
the "normal necessities" of one person; and is not intended to be
sufficient for a family.
The May 1940 decree that finally set minimum wages for . the
different regions of Brazil included the phrase" every worker without
distinction to sex" and thus established the same minimum for men
and women. . Later in the same year this was made ineffective by a
Presidential decree that allowed women's wages to be reduced 10
percent by employers who complied with the law requiring certain
health and sanitary facilities for women workers. Today, however,
no such provision exists, since in the 1943 consolidation of labor
laws the offending clause was eliminated. The establishment of this
principal of equal minimum ra~es is of interest, since women's economic
status in a country is discussed more often in terms of the relative
progress between women and m en in employment, and especially
in wage rates.
The minimum wages established in May 1940 were to remain in
force for 3 years, though provision was made to modify them during
that period by vote of three-fourths of the wage-committee members.
In January 1943 an increase of 25 percent was granted jn the capitals
of all the States, in the Federal District, and in the Terrjtory of Arce·;
elsewhere the increase was 30 percent. This was ordered by the
Coordinator of Economic Mobilization because of the sudden and
sharp increase in the cost of living as a result of the war.
Further additions to the minimum wage ordered later in 1943
advanced the range of entrance rates in the different regions, so that
the rates of 90 to 240 cruzeiros a month became 150 to 310 cruzeiros a
month. This was an increase of 29 percent in the highest rate and
of 67 p ercent in the lowest rate.
Wages in Plants Visited.- Pay rolls were not examined in the plants
visited, but wage information was obtained wherever possible. Fol7

F or provisions of law see p . 24 of t his report.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

lowing are some of the data on wages given to the Women's Bureau
representative. The picture is complicated by the fact that final
adjustments based on the increase ordered in minimum wages in
January 1943 had not been made in some plants, and the rates paid
in these plants therefore understate the full effects of the order.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, minjmum-wage monthly rates 8 m
any employment for both men and women werecruzeiro,

May 1940 ___ ____ __ __ _________ ______ __________________ __ 240

January 1943 ____ _____ _____ _______ ______________________ 300

May 1943 ____________ -·- _______ ·____ ___ ______ ______ ____ ___ 310

In one pharmaceutical plant the 1940 rate of 240 cruzeiros a month
was still in effect. During the learning period minors were paid the
minimum hourly rate of 60 centavos and adults _the minimum of 1
cruzeiro 20 centavos. After the learning period, the piece rate was
paid. Adults' earnings (including learners') were averaging -280 to 400
cruzeiros a month; minors, 180 to 280.
A few textile mills reported both basic minimum wage a.rid piece
rate. One manager said that weavers- both men and women- could
earn 500 cruzeiros. Several textile plants started minors at 70 centavos an hour instead of 60, the minimum allowed.
In a cigarette factGry the report on the wage system was "basic
minimum wage- some piece work"; in an electrical-appliance company, "wages according to the law- some extra piece rate ."
In Belo Horizonte and Juiz de Fora (State of Minas Geraes), minimum monthly wages established by law wereCruzeiros

May 1940 _________ __ ______________ _______ ______ ___ __ 170
January 1943 ______ _______ ___________________ ~ __ __ __ _ 212. 50
May 1943 _______ __ ___ __________ ___________ _-.- __ __ __ _ 230

Reports received on wages in factories visited in those cities state :
" :Minimum wage paid; if productjon is over the amount required for
the minimum, a piece rate is paid."
In Sao Paulo, capital of the State, minimum monthly wages wereCruzeiros

May 1940 _____ _____ ____________________________ ________ 220
January 1943 ____ _____ _____ _______ ____ ____ ______ ________ 275
May 1943 ___ _______ __ _________________________________ _ 285

A plastics and metal-working plant reported that the entrance rate
was the minimum wage and that piece rates were paid after the learning period was .o ver with a bpnus in addition for production. The
average earnings were 500 to 600 cruzeiros, and a few workers received
1,000 cruzeiros.
s In all cases minors who were apprentices or learners could be paid 50 percent of adult wages.
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Women Worker:J in /Jrazi/
In textjle mills, the following wage data were obtained: .The manager of one textjle mill sajd the law permitted one-third of the employees to be paid less than the minimum if they could not produce the
output required. Some in this mm earned less than the minimum
(285) and others as much as 345 . cruzeiros 60 centavos a month;
minors were paid the same as adults. In a rayon-thread mill, women
working at the machines earned 300 to 380 cruzeiros a month, while
those on -inspection work, examining skeins of floss, earned more. In
another textile plant one woman working at a weaving machine earned ·
1,000 cruzeiros a month. In this plant also, minors were paid
the same as adults, i. e., basic minimum with a fair piece rate.
In the plant making sanjtary goods, beginners were paid 300
cruzeiros a month .during the 6-week learning period. Then if they
could not produce enough to earn 400 cruzeiros, they were djsmissed.
Women's earnings averaged around 400, 500, 600 cruzeiros a month.
A few earned 1,000 cruzeiros.
In a pharmaceutical laboratory, beginners were paid the minimum
rate, and earnings for experienced women workers were from 600 to
700 cruzeiros a month.
In the hand-made rug industry, girls were paid the minimum during
the 2-year learning period. Experienced girls earned 400 to 500
cruzeiros a month.

Individual Plant Descriptions
Rayon Thread.- A plant, in the State of Sao Paulo, where rayon
thread is spun had 4,000 employees, 1,500 of them women. The
machinery itself had been made and installed by a United States
manufacturer. Women were working at the spinning and twisting
machines and were inspecting the skeins of rayon floss. The manag~r
said they were better on all those jobs than the men, and more women
would be employed if they could be used on the third . as well as the
two earlier shifts. In the department where women were inspecting,
w_age rates and earnings were higher; workers were promoted from
the spinning room to this section, where they were trained by experienced employees. The general appearance of the women and their
surroundings were evidence of the higher rating given work in this
department. The women wore white uniforms with their initials
embroidered on the pockets. They had requested and had been
given straw carpeting for the aisles, and they had placed ferns at the
doorways. They were dignified and were efficient at their work.
Cotton and Rayon Cloth.-A mill manufacturing cotton and rayon
cloth in separate departments had the greatest number of women of
any plant visited by the Women's Bureau representative~2,400 of a
670338 °-46-
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Women Workerj in /Jrazi/

total of 3,600 employees. A large number of minors (both girls and
boys) were working here, and girls under 18 as well as adults were
weaving on looms.
At this plant a nursery and kindergarten for children of the workers
had been established in a beautiful and modern building by the
wife of one of the owners. Here 200 children, from infants up to
children 7 years of age, were cared for by Catholic sisters. When the
babies were brought in at 7:30 a. m. , they were bathed and dressed in
garments provided by the nursery. There was a regular schedule on
which children were fed and had their naps. Mothers in the factories
were allowed time, in accordance with provisions of the maternity
law, to go to the nursery to nurse their babies. Bottled milk for the
babies was given to the mothers to take home.
Cotton Oloth.-In another plant making cotton cloth, near Rio• de
Janeiro, 1,650 women of a total of 3,500 workers were employed.
Cotton materials in attractive designs for dresses and beach costumes
were made here. This plant, like many others, had received increased
orders from Argentina, other South American countries, and Africa,
because of the war, and was operating on a 60-hour week. (Special
permission must be secured for more than 48 hours.) Some sections
worked two shifts a day, but no women worked after 10 o'clock at
night. A few girls were being trained for work in the machinery
repair shop-for lathe work, soldering, welding, filing. They were
seen also in the drafting room. Young women were used on clerical
jobs in the production rooms, taking the places of men called to the
armed forces. Girls were working in the textile laboratory, testing
the Jength and strength of the cotton fiber, calculating the efficiency
of the boilers. Women were being trained also as supervisors. (This
plant had a good apprenticeship school, as far as could be observed,
which is described on p. 30.)
As to living accommodations, 80 houses for the employees had been
built by the plant some time ago, and at the time of the Women's
Bureau visit, 320 very attractive houses were under construction.
Medical service for the employees was furnished by four doctors who
came to the plant and made home visits as well. The clinics for the
workers were in the center of the town, but plans were under way for
constructing a clinic, nursery, and kindergarten on the factory site.
Meals were not served in the dining room at the time of the visit,
but there were facilities for heating food, and plans had been made
for food service.
Cotton Cloth and Knit Goods.- In a textile mill visited in the State
of Minas Ge_raes, 427 women and 350 men were employed; these
numbers include 79 girls and 69 boys 14 to 18 years of age. In addition to cotton material for men's shirts, this plant was making material
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

for uniforms for the armed forces. In a separate section of the plant,
men's socks were knit, and large orders for these from the army and
navy were on hand. Cotton for the medical unit of the army also
was prepared here.
This was one of the few plants with a ventilation- and temperaturecontrol system. Bubblers of filtered, cooled drinking water had been
installed throughout.
All employees in this plant were given preemployment examinations,
and minors had periodic check-ups, especially for nutrition deficiencies.
Splendid medical and dental clinics were available to the workers;
doctors came from 4:00 to 7:00 p. m. each day, and a nurse was on
duty constantly.
Canvas Oloth.-A plant in Sao Paulo employing 1,200 women and
650 men made canvas cloth;· hemp-soled, canvas-top slippers; and
canvas bags. The management had a realistic program dealing with
turn-over and absenteeism_and awarded a bonus for good attendance.
Measures had been taken to prevent accidents. All overhead belts
had been put under the floor, new flooring put in, new toilet and
dressing-room facilities installed. In the sections working at night
there was fluorescent lighting, and this was to be provided throughout
the plant. Dust and lint were reduced by vacuum-cleaning the
machinery. 'A special campaign with the employees to reduce accidents had been effective in lowering their frequency. A bonus was
given to a number of women ·each month for neatness and cleanliness.
There was a self-service dining room-plain but attractive-where
ample meals were served at low prices. In the first-aid and CQnsultation rooms, a nurse was in constant attendance, a doctor came twice
a day, and assistance in hospitalization was given. Twelve looms
were designated for learners, and opportunities were given girls for
advancement. Eight girls who had trained for four months to become
loom fixers were paid the same wages as the men on the same jobs.
Girls were also employed as foreladies.
Fruit and P reserves Cannery.~In addition to canning fruit, one of
the food-processing plants visited (the brand is one of the best and
most popular) processed preserves and candied fruits. One-half of
the 250 workers were women. They prepared the fruit by hand for
canning, packaged the finished products, and packed them for
shipping. On the day of the visit, the women were p eeling pineapples and bananas.
The plant was clean and light, having walls and stairways of white
tile and marble.
The management provjded morning and afternoon coffee and an
ample lunch, without charge. Such food service was considered a
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good investment in terms of reduced mness, absenteeism, and turnover. Uniforms for the women were furnished by the company.
Preemployment examinations were given, followed by periodic
check-ups. In 5 years .they had had only two cases of tuberculosis,
which was considered a good record. Free medical seryjce was provided. The dressing rooms and sanjtary facilitjes were good.
Pharmaceutical.-The working conditjons in the pharmaceutical
plants were very pleasant; the plants were spotlessly clean, and the
women workers wore white uniforms and caps. In one plant yjsited,
300 to 350 of the 500 employees were women. About 100 women had
been dismissed recently because of th e lack of gas needed for finishing
the glass ampoules. Women were making the tiny glass ampoules,
cutting, shaping, and sealing them over gas jets; they filled, sealed, inspected, and stamped them. They packed sulphanilamide in an
air-conditioned room. They were assistants in the laboratory; a
few in one plant were graduate chemists.
Not .all workers had chafrs with backs; some were using stools.
Fifteen-minute rest periods morning and afternoon were generally
One of the plants had a club room with ping-pong tables and the
beginning of a lending library. Movies occasionally were shown at
night, when between 200 and 300 atte.aded. The company had a
farm that furnished vegetables t~ the workers at low cost. Later the
farm was to afford a place for the workers to go for vacations.
Electrical Supplies.-This plant has a beautiful location outside the
city of Rio de Janeiro. The production rooms, the administration
offices, and the dining rooms are all in separate buildings in park-like
Light bulbs, fluorescent-light tubes, and transformers were being
made at the time of visit. There were 450 women and 730 men employed in production, and there were 500 girls in the downtown offices.
Women worked at winding machines and at inspection of the bulbs
through all the various processes and of the filaments before they
were put into glass bulbs. They were on clerical jobs in the shop;
three in the office formerly were employed on production. Two girls
were assembling transformers, the only jobs on which women were
replacing men because of the war.
Working conditions were good. The plant was clean; light and
ventilation were good; most of the work could be done seated, and
chairs with backs were in use. The workers mad_e a nice appearance
in their uniforms.
Two nurses were on duty constantly in the medical clinic. Dental
facilities also were available. Complete preemployment medical
examinations were given, with occasional check-ups.
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Women Worker:J in /Jrazi/


Employees could use either the cafeteria or the dining room with
service. Meals were quite inexpensive and some choice in food was
An apprentice course to train boys to become skilled mechanics had
been started recently.
After Brazil entered the war, a first-aid or nurse's-assistant course
at the plant was offered to the employees. A large number had
finished the course and received their diplomas at a public ceremony.
The plant had a creche, but it had never been used. One reason
given was that girls were discouraged by management from continuing
at work after marriage. They were given a substantial gift of money,
which was practically a dismissal wage.
Hosiery M ill.- A hosiery mill making fine and other grades of puresilk, vegetable-silk, and cotton hosiery in Juiz de Fora in the State of
Minas Geraes was in many ways a striking contrast to other plants
visited. The factory was spotlessly clean. The young women
throughout the plant wore dark skirts and white blouses, shoes, and
stockings. Material for the uniforms was purchased in large quantities and sold to the girls at cost and on monthly installments. In the
winter, smocks were worn over the skirts and blouses. The owners
were appealing to the girls' pride and were educating the workers on
personal appearance and hygiene.
Each section had its own toilet facilities, which were kept locked.
Each employee was e~pected to do her part in keeping these facilities
clean. The dressing rooms were clean and well ventilated. Drinking
fountains were conveniently located.
Of the 230 employees, 170 were women. They were doing all the
work except running the large knitting machines and tending some
of the form dryers where boys were workjng. Women were paid
the basic minimum rate and increased their earnings by piece rates.
They were promoted from the simpler lower-paid jobs to those with a
higher rate of pay. This company also had received additional orders
for export because of the war.
Rug Factory.-A shop where beautiful rugs were made by hand
employed 17 5 girls. The rugs varied in design and quality; there were
some in oriental designs, others jn flower patterns in pastel shades,
and still others in modern geometric designs. The pile was extremely
close and deep in the more expensive rugs. Girls started as learners
at 14 years of age and for 2 years worked (at the minimum wage) with
skilled workers. The weavers sat on backless benches at the upright
looms and followed the pattern, on a roll above eye level, with fingers
unbelievably swift and sure. After the rugs were taken from the
looms, they were stretched on the floor or on racks and clipped by
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Women WorkerJ in Brazil

hand with scissors. Designs that stood out in relief were made by
clipping off the rest of the rug and carefully shaping the design.
Light and alr were good; everything, including the toilets and washrooms, was clean. Employees were young, attractive, and wore
uniforms furnished by the company. A rest period was given in the
afternoon for tea.
Wages paid did not seem high considering the skill, concentration,
and hard work required of the employees.
Wearing Apparel.-Clothing in Brazil, as in other South American
countries, has been largely custom-made, and there was general
skepticism several years ago when one company started making cotton
and silk dresses in quantities. However, the number of employees
had increased from 20 to 200, and a new building was under construction that would house all the scattered workshops. Good conditions prevailed in the shops; they were not crowded; there was good
natural ventilation and light, though no individual lighting. The
machines were new. Chairs with backs were provided.
Girls had to know how to sew before t4ey were hired; then they
were given ~ trial period of a month before being put on the regular
pay roll. Monthly wages rather than piece rates were paid, and no
deductions were made for reasonable absences. The rate of absenteeism had been bad but was improving.
The company supplemented the government social security with
a voluntary mutual-benefit plan. Sick leave with pay was granted
immediately and there was assistance for hospitalization and operations.
Hat Factory.-A company manufacturing hats well-known in
Brazil and other South American countries had a fine new plant in
attractive gr01,m ds at the edge of a smaller city in the State of Sao
Paulo. Most of the hats were felt, made of rabbit hair and wool.
Summer hats were made to some extent.
Women comprised 50 percent of the 800 employees. Working
conditions were good; there were dressing rooms with individual
lockers, good sanitary facilities, bubblers with filtered and cooled
water. Both daily and piece rates were paid.
Two hours were given at lunchtime because, the community being
small, everyone went home. The workday was lengthened so that
48 hours a. week could be worked without working on Saturday afternoon.
Plastics.-In a plant making plastic articles and tubes for toothpaste, creams, and so forth, 160 women and 300 men were employed.
Women were working at the machines making the tubes, where swift
complicated movements of the hand were necessary. Concentration
was essential, and there were many bandaged fingers. Young women
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

were working at the machines finishjng articles such as plastic lipstick
holders, and tops for tubes. They were also at the machines where
the tubes were painted, and were finishing and inspectjng the tubes.
The plant closed for 2 weeks' vacation at Christmas time. The
company had a mutual-aid plan that provided for such family emergencies as illnesses and deaths.
The plant was clean, with good light and air. There was a leadfume-extracting apparatus, and workers exposed to the fumes were
given milk.
The company owned a farm, and vegetables and milk were sold
at low cost to the employees. There was very little turn-over; some
of the women had been with the company for ~ore than 10 years.
Metalworking and Aircrajt.-A large metal and afrplane factory
vjsited, still under' construction, was typical of expanding industry in
Brazil. This plant was making parts of bullets and cartridges; aluminum utensils for the army such as water canteens, cooking utensils;
parts of macrune tools; and two-seated training planes for the air force.
Women were inspecting the metal disks for the bullets and cartridges and were operating automatic punch presses and shaping
machines. On the trainer planes, a number were working at automatic turret lathes and three were soldering. Women were constructing the plywood parts of the wings, cutting and fitting together the
small pieces; they were sewing the fabric, gluing it on the wooden
frames, painting and polisrung it.
There were 130 women in a total of 2,630 employees. A few
mon tbs earlier there had been no women on macrunes, and the present
employees were for the most part relatives of the men workers. About
2 months were required for learning. The company expected to
employ many more women for work in the production of airplane
engines, which was to start in a few months.
The buildings were still under construction but conditions were good.
Preemployment examinations were given and a nurse and doctor
were in attendance in the first-aid rooms.
Sanitary Goods.--This plant, was making a wide variety of sanitary
goods and employed 300 women and 220 men.
The plant was modern and spotlessly clean. There was little dust
and lint. The machines were cleaned constantly and ventilation was
good. The women workers were attractive in thefr uniforms, which
were furnished by the company.
All the cotton goods needed for th'e products, including gauze and
adhesive tape, were made at the plant, so the textile section was large.
A full-time nurse was in charge of the first-aid rooms, and a doctor
came at certain hours. Tuberculosis and Wassermann tests were
given before employment. Treatment was urged when necessary,

, for FRASER
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

and follow-up examinations were given. The company offered
medical assistance, and in cases of hospitalization it paid the bm,
which could be repaid in small amounts.
Good meals at low prices were provided in the restaurants for plant
and office employees.
Opportunity was given a few production workers to attend classes
in preparation for office jobs in the company. These classes, like
those for upgrading of office employees, were attended on company
The beginning wage was above the minimum, and average earnings
were higher than wages generally paid. There was little absenteeism.
Cigarette Factory.----:One of the plants of a cigarette company was
visited. It employed 700 women and 900 men. Women were supervisors in some sections and were keeping shop records as well as
tending the various machines.
Large op_en windows in walls and ceiling made good ventilation
possible. Dressing rooms, the nursery, and other facilities were good.
Meals were not served in the dining room but facilities were available
for keeping food warm. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon there was a
15-minute rest period, when rolls and coffee were served wjthout
Banana-Flake Factory.-In a small plant in Santos making banana
flakes, women were peeling bananas for the dehydrating process (which
required only 5 minutes). In a temperature-controlled room, they
weighed the banana flakes, put them in packages, sealed the packages
and then packed them for shipping. Plans had been made for a new
and larger building and for dehydrating additional foods. Of the 80
persons employed, 40 were women. Most of the product was exported
to the United States, a large part to the armed forces.
Macaroni Factory.-Women made up more than a third of the
number employed in this factory in Belo Horizonte. The plant was
fairly new, had good light and air and was clean. The dressing rooms
were well-ventilated, and there were individual lockers. The women
wore white aprons and caps which they made from material furnished
at cost by the company.
Employees were given a medical examination before employment
and at 6-month intervals.
Measures had been taken to check fatigue; coffee and rolls were
served in the afternoon and seats suitable to the jobs were being tried
out. Hot nourishing soup was served at low cost in the plant lunch
room to supplement lunches which the workers brought.
Silk Industry.-No figures were secured on the number-of women in
Brazil in the silk industry, but for Sao Paulo a report for 1942 (available
in the American Consulate) gave 1,800 as the total number of persons
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Women Workerd in Brazil


employed, "most of them: girls and women." Any statistics on the
expansion of the silk industry in Brazil would indicate an increasing
number of women, since they comprise the majority of employees in
the industry. The major part of the work in the Sericultural Ins itute
in the State of Sao Paulo at the time of visit was done by 103 girls
employed under the direction of technicians.
Another 1942 report gives the following figures:
By 1940, 3 reeling mills or filatures, with a total of 273 reeling basins, were
in operation in the State of Sao Paulo. By the end of 1942 there were 25
filatures in operation, with a total of 619 reeling basins. In the same years,
1940-42, the production of silkworm eggs increased from about 400 to 880
pounds; and in 1943 production is expected to be in the neighborhood of 2,350
pounds . That represents a tremendous number of eggs, at an estimated
500-700 thousand to the pound.
Regional stations have been set up to serve as centers for experiments in .
breeding and for diffusion of information. At these, interested parties can
obtain silkworm eggs and slips of mulberry, free of charge, upon presentation
of evidence of responsibility. 9

Eggs are furnished to producers and cocoons to reeling mills by the
Sericultural Institute. The selection of cocoons for reproduction is
made by girls. Girls check eggs as they hatch in trays at 70° Fahrenheit. They work in the laboratories where eggs and cultures of the
female moth are microscopically examined to insure freedom from
disease. The slides are checked finally by a woman supervisor. Girls
pack the eggs for shipping. They do the clerical work involved in
receiving the orders and in keeping the records of shipments and of
The institute has a few reeling basins where workers are trained for
work in the mills. A small reeling mill employing only 25 girls was
visited. The work done in such a mill is as follows: 10
The cocoons in which the pupa has been killed, ·e ither by the
breeders or at the mill, are first scoured to remove the gummy sericin
on the outside and to enable the operator to discover the master
·filament. From 4 to 14 cocoons thus prepared are placed in a basin of
warm water; the number ordinarily is about 6. The filaments are
brought together, passed over various supports, aI).d twisted on a
square reel. Simple machinery causes the cocoons to unwind, pro- •
ducing 1,000 to 1,500 yards of silk, only about 750 yards of which is of
first quality. The resulting skein of yarn is marketed as raw silk.
The reeling demands constant concentration as well as quick continuous m~vement of hands and fingers in order to work with the fine silk
filaments. Young girls_scour the cocoons and keep the reeling basins
v Adames, George E. Brazil Expands Its Silk Culture. U .S. Department of Agriculture. Agriculture
In the Americas III, 8: 146-149. August 1943.
10 Ibid.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

supplied. Hands are in and out of hot water all the time and the odor
from the cocoons in the mills (and at the institute) is unavoidably
disagreeable. The girls are interested, diligent, and reliable.

Industrial Home Work
Industrial home work is common in Brazil, as in other countries.
Two clauses in the labor legislation recognize its existence. In the first
chapter of the labor code appears: "No distinction shall be made
between work done in the establishment of the employer and that done
in the home of the employee, once an employer-employee relationship
is established." I n the chapter on minimum wage it is stated: "The
minimum wage shall be paid to the home worker; home work is considered as that done in the home of the worker or in the family shop
for an employer who pays a wage for the work." Orders and regulations had not been issued for the enforcement of these provisions.
The Government in Brazil employs home workers almost entirely
for making uniforms for the armed forces. The following report on a
visit to the quartermaster depot in Rio de Janeiro has been received:
Approximately 2,800 seamstresse are registered for this work, which is much
sought after. Preference is given to widows or unmarried daughters of low-ranking officers or of enli ted men; a reliable guarantor is necessary .
When the woman is registered she receives a number by which she is notified
of her turn to receive work. Work is given out once a week, but each number is
called only once a month. The seamstress is given the pieces of the garments and
the accessories necessary, with directions for making. The wage paid is on the
basis of 100 cruzeiros a month; the number of garments to be made depends on
the type arid size. For example, 25 soldiers' coats might make up one lot paid at
the rate of 4 cruzeiros a coat. The sewing machines and thread are furnished by
the seamstresses. There is no inspection of the homes.

Informatio.q. was not available on the number of workers employed

by commercial firms nor on wages paid by them.

Retail Trade
Stores and shops of all kinds employ l~rge numbers of women a.nd
girls as clerks, cashiers, stockroom clerks-that is, for all such jobs
usually held by women in t,he United States.' Some women own and
manage small busjnesses.
Two large and important department stores were visited. One
of these is operated by a comp.any that started in 1899 with one small
shop and now has stores jn six cities. In this store, 300 girls and
women and '7 men were employed. The woman who is manager also
serves as personnel director. Young women are heads of depart- •
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

ments and are in charge of all the accounts and of the stockrooms.
Some women have been with the company from 12 to 19 years.
The hours of work are from 9 to 6, with an hour for lunch and 15 ~o
20 minutes in the afternoon for tea. The company has its own dining
room in a building about a block from the store, where lunch and tea
are served to employees at a low cost deducted from wages.
· Employees are carefully chosen and are very attractive in their
uniform costumes-black skirts and white blouses in the summer, and
black dresses in the winter.
Minors are employed as messengers (i. e., to take sales slips and
cash to the cashier), and as assistant salesgirls. They are paid according to ability, not age.
This company, following the general custom of South American
department stores, has its own workshops where merchandise is
made; work is given out also to home workers. Two workshops were
visited, one making lingerie and accessories, the other making dresses.
A plan of assistance, established a number of years ago, supplements
the social security benefits. Complete salary is paid during the first
month of illness and, in cases of continued illness, a sum sufficient to
make up the amount of salary is added to the Social Security Fund

Government Printing Office
The Government Printing Office is housed in a new modern bwlding,
exceptionally clean inside and out, and good working conditions were
noted throughout. Ventilation and lighting seemed very satisfactory; fluorescent lighting was used in one section. Machinery was
well protected. Different colors of paint used throughout the plant
made an attractive workplace-work tables a dark green, light fixtures
a lighter green, drinking fountains varicolored.
Women comprised 260 of the 1,700 employees. One woman had
worked in the plant since 1892, another 20 years; others too have long
work records. A f w women were working at machines-monotype,
linotype, folding. Others were at hand work in the book binding sec'!:iion. As men were called into the army, some of their jobs were
filled by women. All employees wore a work uniform.
Medical and dental examinations were given before employment
and follow-up examinations every 6 months. The necessary dental ·
and medical service were given without charge.
Inexpensive lunches were served in an attractive restaurant, and
. there was ample space around the buildings for relaxation.
The women employees bad a room for rest a,nd recreation, equipped
with pleasant furnishings, a library, and a small kitchenette.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Telephone Exchange
The t elephone company in one city employed 600 women ; there
were 375 women worlcing in the central exchange on the afternoon
shift at the time of the visit.
N ew employees attended training classes for 21 days, then worked
in the dial exchange, and later were transferred to the main exchange
as vacancies occurred. Operators advanced to supervisors and clerks,
to assistant chief and chief. The t urn-over was slight, and was due .
chiefly to employees' securing better jobs as telephone operators in
private concerns.
In the company-maintained r estaurant, meals were served at
reasonable prices from morning until early evening to accommodate
the different shifts. (Women work on the night shift also.) Tea was
served in the afternoon. Employees could spend rest periods (15
minutes) in the restaurant1 reading, or sewing. Rest rooms and
dressing rooms were comfortable.
A medical certificate was required for employment. There was a
well-equipped first-aid and emergency room with a nurse on duty.
A mutual aid society, supported by the company and the employees,
paid a daily benefit in case of illness and gave assistance for hospitalization.

Office Employees
"The typewriter has emancipated as many women in Brazil as in
other countries," one of Brazil's outstanding women leaders has said.
Complete statistics about the employment of women in white-collar
jobs were not available, but they comprise approximately one-third
of the total 350,000 commercial employees registered in 1943 in the
Sodal Security Institute for Commercial Emplo:fees.
Business and professional firms, banks, and offices in general employ
large numbers of women for office work. They are typists, stenographers, secretaries, bookkeepers, cashiers, file clerks.
According to unofficial reports, wages range from 240 to 400, 800,
1,000 cruzeiros a month; 800 cruzeiros is considered a good salary.
Girls with English or some other foreign language, and of course
Portuguese, can earn 1,000 cruzeiros a month.
It was learned from conversations that the average education for
office employees is primary school of 6 ·or 7 years, followed by the
5-year commercial course. This is the standard for public· schools;
private schools may vary.
The general opinion was that- the large majority of young women
employed in offices .live with their families and contribute to the
family budget. It is estimated that 60 percent work after they are
married. •
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In normal times office employees work 8 hours on 5 days and onehalf day on Saturday.
The same labor laws apply to commercial and industrial employees.
There is one clause that applies to both men and women in commercial
jobs only: After 90 minutes' consecutive work at stenography, bookkeeping, calculating, a IO-minute rest period on worktime must be
Commercial employees, that is, office and store employees, also
have their associations and syndicates. Some of them have very


attractive buildings with recreation and classroom facilities, medical
clinics, and legal advisory service. Women are members of these
organizations and_find them useful for handling grievances.

In November 1943 a consolidation of labor laws was effected,
including legislation of many years' standing, amendments thereto,
and labor decrees recently issued.
Officials in the Brazilian Labor D epartment, and BraziHans in
general, are proud of their labor and social legislation and of their
protective legislation for women workers, much of which is in accord
with conventions and recommendations adopted at various conferences of the International Labor Organization, · of which Brazil is a
member nation.
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The first article of the section of labor legislation concerned with
the employment of women states that all regulations that apply to
men apply _equally to women except in instances in which special
legislation for women applies. A worker's identification card, secured from the National Labor
Department or from the regional offices of the Ministry of Labor,
Industry, and Commerce or authorized State departments, is required
for all workers.

The minimum-wage regulation requires payment of the same minimum wage to women over 18 years of age as to men.
Article 5 of the first section of the Labor Code states that "equal
wages shall be paid for all work of eq tial value without discrimination
because of sex." The labor courts had numerous cases before them
to determine whether the work of the female employee was similar in
kind to that of the male employee, entitling her to equal pay.
Hours for men and women are limited to 8 ·a day. (However, in
banks, telephone, telegraph, cable, and radiogram companies, the
regulations provide for a 6-hour day and 36-hour week. When telephone and telegraph operators are asked to work additional hours,
they must be paid time and a half. Exceptions made in other
industries that do not employ women are not included in this discussion.) The workday for women may be extended 2 additional
hours in the collective agreement, provided the workweek does not
exceed 48 hours and a minimum of 20 percent more is paid for hours
over 8. No woman can have her workday extended without a
doctor's certificate.
Only in instances of jorce majeure may the day be extended to
12 hours, and here the hourly wage must be increased by at least
25 percent. The labor office or other designated authority must be
notified within 48 hours of such an extension.
Night work for women between 10 at night and 5 in the morning is
prohibited. There are some exceptions, such as employees (over 18)
in the telephone or telegraph companies, nurses, and employees over
21 in restaurants, hotels, and so forth. Women in executive positions
who do not work continuously are exempt also. The wages for night
work must be 20 percent above the day work wages.
Rest Periods
During a workday, not less than one hour must be allowed for lunch.
Between 2 days or 2 periods of work, there must be a minimum of
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Women Workerd in Brazil



11 hours for rest. Twenty-four consecutive hours of rest weekly
are required.
For both men and women an interval of at least an hour must be
allowed after a maximum of 6 hours of continuous work. If the work
period does not exceed 6 hours, there must be an interval of 15 minutes
after 4 hours of work.

Vacations With Pay
Every employee shall have the right to an annual paid vacation
in each work year of 12 months. Fifteen workdays are allowed if
the employee has been on the pay roll 12 months; 11 workdays if he
has worked _200 days but less than 12 months; and 7 workdays for
150 but less than 200 days on the pay roll.

Maternity Legislation
Neither marriage nor pregnancy can be a basis for discharging a
woman worker, nor can collective or individual agreements include
either as a basis for cancelling work contracts.
A woman is not allowed to work during 6 weeks before and 6 weeks
after childbirth. In exceptional cases these periods may be increased
by 2 weeks. Medical certificates must be presented.
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Women WorkerJ in /Jrazif

Her former position is guaranteed a woman. During her absence,
she has the right to her full salary based on her average earnings in
the last 6 months. Maternity benefits from a social insurance institution do not exempt the employer from the obligation to pay the
full wage.
Until the child is 6 months old, or during the nursing period, the
woman is allowed 2 half-hour periods daily in order to nurse the baby.
The new law provides that the Industrial Social Security System
must construct and maintain creches in their low-cost housing projects
of more than 100 houses and in residential centers where a number of
participants in the Industrial Social Security System live. Where
such creches do not exist, then establishments that employ 30 or more
women over 16 years of age must provide an appropriate place with
attendants where working mothers may leave their babies during the
nursing months.

Sanitation and Safety
The new legislation includes ample health and safety regulation$
and the usual clauses prohibiting women from ·working ~n mines and
on public construction and from doing work that is dangerous or unhealthy.
Employment of women is prohibited on work that requires the use
of muscular strength of more than 20 kilos (44 pounds) for continuous
workor 25 kilos (55 pounds) at intervals.
Employers are obliged to provide work establishments with ventilation and illumination considered necessary to the safety and comfort
of women by a competent authority; to install drinking fountains,
lavatories, toilets, and a dressing room with individual lockers; to
furnish chairs or b enches in sufficient number so that women can work
without great physical exhaustion.
The employer must furnish individual safety apparatus such as
goggles, respirators, masks, gloves, and special clothing according to
the judgment of a competent authority.

Legislation Affecting Minors in Industry


Boys and girls 14 to 18 years of age may w·o rk in industrial plants
on jobs not dangerous or unhealthy, provided they have working certificates. Night work and certain occupations are prohibited. A certificate is called a "carteira" and is a small folder which, in addition to the
proper identification, carries the full work record of the minor. These
certificates are kept by the employer until the minor changes jobs.
UBecause large num bers of working girls are minors, this section on legislation affecting them is included.
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Women Workerj in /Jrazi/


The certificate is issued for specific employment; if tb.e minor changes
jobs, the certificate must be changed in the Department of Labor, and
if the new job is of a different nature, a new health examination is
In order to secure the certificate, the boy or girl must have (1) a
birth certificate or a legal substitute, (2) authorization to work of
father, mother, or legal guardian, (3) 9-octor's certificate testifying
to physical and mental ability, (4) vaccination certificate, (5) proof of
ability to read, write, and count, (6) statement of employer concerning work for which minor will be ,employed, (7) two photographs.
If the applicant cannot read and write, a provisional certificate for
one year is given, provided that proof of enrollment and attendance
at a suitable place of elementary instruction is supplied.
The firm that employs minors must give them time for classes, and
plants that are distant from a school must provide in their own buildings facilities for primary-school instruction. Provisions for attendance at classes are also made for apprentices.

At the time of the visit of the Women's Bureau representative there
were separate divisions for women and child workers in the National
Department of Labor of the Ministry of Labor, Industry and Commerce and in the State Labor Department of Sao Paulo. The chief
of each division was a woman. In Rio de Janeiro the division, which
had recently been made part of the Industrial Health and Safety
Section of the Labor Department, had jurisdiction over the Federal .
District. In Sao Paulo the Division for Women and Children was
part of the Inspection Section of the State Departme1:1t of Labor
and had enforcement authority throughout the State. Along with
the work involved in granting employment permits to minors and inspecting work establishments employing minors, the Divisions for
Women and Children carried responsibility for the enforcement of
the special legislation relating to women workers.
Standard forms have been prepared in detail for inspectors to use
in visiting work establishments employing women and children. The
information secured concerning women workers covers hours of
work, fatigue, conditions in the plant that affect health and safety,
medical facilities, instruction for orientation of new workers, plant
facilities such as drinking fountains, rest rooms and dressing rooms,
and personal information about the health of the individual woman
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Women Worker:J in /Jrazif

Only a brief statement concerning social security prov1sions under
the law is made here, in addition to an outline of the social welfare
projects, such as low-cost restaurants. Welfare institutions under
government and private agencies should be mentioned, in passing, as
there are many that are doing very effective work in Brazil.

Social Security Systems
Social security legislation covering certain occupations has been in
existence in Brazil for a number of years. Pension insurance, comprising invalidity, old-age, and widows' and orphans' pensions, has
recently been extended to additional occupational groups until vir- .
tually all gainfully employed persons except those in agriculture and
domestic service are covered. There are separate social security systems dealing with industry, commerce, transportation, banking,
work in ports and in merchant shipping, as well as separate systems
for teachers and ·government employees. Insurance benefits and conditions on which they are paid vary accordingly. Medical services
exist in several of the systems and are being instituted in others.

Low-cost Restaurants
Restaurants serving well-balanced, nutritive meals at low cost
have been established in several cities for industrial and white-collar
workers who are members of the .corresponding social security systems. Meals are also furnished by these restaurants to work establishments and institutions and to school-age children of workers.
This is part of the wider program of a national nutrition service that,
in addition to the restaurants, includes research in nutrition problems,
adult education on eating habits, popularization of certain foods of
high nutritive value, and development of standards for adequate and
. economical meals for workers in industry.
On the day of the visit to the central building and restaurant in
Rio 'de Janeiro, 3,600 lunches were served at midday to workers, and
during the morning, meals were served to 290 school children. On
the street floor of this building a consumers cooperative of foodstuffs
was functioning; an attractive library, reading room, and clas's rooms
were located on other floors above the restaurant.

Low-Rent Housing
Various social security systems have invested funds in low-rent
housing projects in different localities for their members. Employers
and small cooperative groups also establisbed low-rent housing
projects as long as 20 years ago.
A housing project called "Vila Industrial", belonging to the Social
Security System for industrial workers, was visited in December
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Women Workerj in r/Jrazi/


1942, when some of the buildings were still under construction. This
community had 2,300 family dwellings, and it was estimated that it
would accommodate between 10,000 and 12,000 persons. A shopping cent~r, nursery, kindergarten, clubhouse, recreation center, and
swimming pool were included in the plans. If a family paid rent
for twenty consecutive years, it would have permanent right of
oc~upancy, rent-free but without title of ownership_.

Industrial establishments are obliged to employ and to matriculate
minors jn the appren.ticeship courses under the direction of the
National Service of Industrial Apprenticeship (called SENAI):
Each industrial establishment must have a number of apprentices
equal to 5 · percent of t~e minimum number of operators whose work
demands technical training, and an additional number of workers
who are minors to be fixed by the National Council of SENAI and
which will not exceed 3 percent of the total number of employees in
all categories of work in each establishment. Time for the classes
is paid worktime.
Apprenticeship schools and classes are financed by a tax of 2
cruzeiros a month per employee, paid by the company to the Industrial Social Security System . . The SEN AI program is directed by the
National Confederation of Industry (an organization of management).
The SEN AI program is established to meet the need for trained
and skilled workers. In addition to the regular 3- and 4-year apprentice programs, emergency courses for adults have been set up in
national vocational schools, and other workers will be trained within
the plants. The program will be carried out in all industrial areas.
Employment offices will function as an integral part of SEN AI.
In Sao Paulo two vocation experts on the staff work especially with
boys and girls who cannot find suitable jobs. The program is geared
chiefly to boys, though theoretically there are opportunities for girls.
Even before this more recent apprenticeship legislation was_enacted,
large industrial establishments employing minors were required to
make it possible for them to attend classes on their 'Yorktime.
Two of the textile plants visited had interesting school and
apprenticeship programs. In the first, minors 14 and under 18 were
given two years of training and classes. The last working hour was·
used for academic classes two or three -times a week, when Portuguese,
arithmetic, history, and geography were taught. In addition, the
young people were given ins~ruction at the different machines in the
plant. On the day of the visit there were 180 girls and boys registered
in the school.
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Women Workerj in /Jrazif

In the other plant the syst em was more elaborate.

The course of

2 y ears for those who .had finished primary school and of 3 y ears for

others included m echanics, a complet e knowledge of the different
machines in the plant, engraving, printing (cloth) , design, and science,
as well as the gen eral courses. Children and r elatives of workers
were given prefer ence as apprentices.
Other plants had training proj ects also. One textile factory had
a block of weaving looms sep arated from the others and designated as
the school, wher e ther e wer e constantly 12 girl learners.
In a rayon plant girls wer e promoted from the spinning and twisting
machines to sk ein inspection, wher e they learned with experienced
Sometimes older girls who worked in production were given the
opportunity to attend classes on company time in order to qualify
for office jobs.

In addition to the apprenticeship classes and small private trades or
vocational schools, there are public vocational schools- Federal,
State, and municipal. The natiol}al t echnical school 11t Rio de
Janeiro is· splendidly equipped. Most of the courses, such as m etal
working, industrial mechanics, construction, electrical techniques are
for boys, but girls may enter if they wish. Girls are in the industrial
arts courses, which include ceramics, jewelry, leather work, dre smaking and design, millinery, and so forth. To enter, students must
have completed the primary school and passed entrance examin~tions. The industrial courses extend over 4 y ears, and 2 y ears are
added for teachers or specialists in one of the trades. General education courses are part of the curricula.
There is one public vocational school for girls and women, called
the "Instituto Profissional F eminino," in the city of Sao Paulo. Six
hundred are enrolled in night classes and 800 in the day school. The
night classes are attended by employed girls and women from 12 to
40 or more y ears of age. At one time a grandmother and her granddaughter wer e enrolled. Some of the students work in offices, some
are salesgirls, others worlr in factories, in dressmaking shops. The
night classes ar e h eld from 7 to 9:30 three nights a week. The courses
include commercial subj ects, dressmaking, manual arts, commercial
art. Some of the graduates of the commercial-art courses are employed in t extile and ceramic companies.
In the more complete day courses students may specialize in home
economics, diet etics, baby care and feeding, dressmaking, commercial
art; a baby clinic in one section of the building gives the students
practical work.
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Women Workerd in /Jrazi/



The day students are a younger group in general, and the majority
are of industrial families. They are given careful physical examinations, and cases of undernourishment are cared for. Psychological
and aptitude tests help the students to choose their vocation; however, all are required to take some home economics work and the care
and feeding of babies.

Syiidicates (Trade Unions}
According to information secured, and from general observation,
women are not very active in the trade unions (called "sindicatos"
in Brazil), and a comparatively small number are members. The
membership of men also was said to be low in proportion to total
employment. However, a total membership of approximately 300,000
in 1943 was increasing steadily. At the time the h eadquarters of
the textile workers' syndicate in Rio was visited, there were 6,000
m embers, about one-fourth of them women. Approximately 600
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members attended m eetings, about 100 of them women. Officers
of the syndicate said, "We protect the women, they don't need to
struggle for their rights as workers.'' The indifference of some women
workers in many factories would indicate an acceptance of this
Women . are, nevertheless, active workers in some syndicates. In
Sao Paulo a woman is on the executive board of one of the textile
syndicates, and there are several active and large syndicates of women
with 300 and 400 members. In these syndicates women do the organizing and are officers.
The early history of trade unions in the United States shows much
the same pattern as to the participation of women workers. Often
their membership and participation were not encouraged by the men
in the unions, and at times women were denied membership privileges.
On the other hand, women were often indifferent to, or resisted,
organization. More women were union members and were active in
those industries employing large numbers of women, such as clothing
and textiles. Women employees of the telephone companies also
have a long history of active organization. So it is in Brazil.
Plans have been made by the Division of Syndical Guidance and
Assistance in the Labor Department for educating workers for fuller
participation in the syndicates and for training leaders. As these
and ·other programs of education are developed, as women build up a
backlog of longer years of experience in all kinds of industry and
improve their economic position, they will, as in other countries,
understand the value of organization for themselves and for their
A summary of the labor legislation in Brazil related to the syndicates follows:
The workers' organizations are regulated by national labor legislation, the special provisions b eing administered by a separate division in the Labor Department called the Division of Syndical Guidance
and Assistance. This legislation provides also for the creation and
regulation of employer associations. A syndicate must be recognized
by the Labor Department before it can operate and before it can
represent the workers in that industry. Prior to the legal recognition
of syndicates, employees in any classification may organize into a
professional association and petition for registration of their association. When the professional assJciation represents at least one-third
of the establishments in their classification, or a third of the employees
exercising their profession or working in the classification, it may
petition the Labor D epartment for recognition as a syndicate.
After recognition, a syndicate has the right to represent the entire
professional class and to receive a fixed contribution (tax) from the
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Women Worker:J in Brazil


wages of all members of that profession. This tax is deducted from
all workers' wages whether they are members of a syndicate or not.
Actual mem~ership is voluntary, and membership dues (in addition
to the tax) may be paid by a check-off if the syndicate so wishes.
Usually the dues are collected by a business agent.
When accorded recognition, _the syndicate has the following prerogatives and rights: (a) To represent, before the administration and
judiciary, the interests of 'the workers in an -i ndustry or trade; (b) to
represent, before the authorities mentioned, the individual interests
of the associates (members) as related to their jobs; (c) to create and
maintain employment agencies; (d) to sign collective labor contracts;
(e) to elect or designate the workers' representatives; (f) to collaborate with the State, as technical and consultative organs, in the study
and solution of problems relating to the industry or trade.
The law likewise prescribes certain specific obligations: (a) To collaborate with tbe public powers in order to develop the solidarity of
the producing classes and to conciliate their interests; (b) to maintain
services for legal assistance to their associates; (c) to promote the
founding of credit and consumer cooperatives; (d) to create and maintain schools, especially apprenticeship schools, hospitals and other
institutions of social assistance; (e) to promote the conciliation of
labor disputes.
All disputes that cannot be settled between the syndicate and management are referred to the government; strikes are prohibited by law.
(This regulation was not a wartime measure.)

Other Organizations of Workers
Mixed Workers' Club of lpiranga (Oirculo Operario do lpiranga).These clubs or "circulos" are under the direction of the Catholic clergy
and are part of a Sao Paulo Federation and a National Confederation.
The one visited is in an industrial district of Sao Paulo and has
approximately 12,000 members, about one-third of them women.
The building that is the center of. activities for the club houses the
administration offices; a large dining room where good inexpensivPmeals are served to men and women; classrooms where night
are offered in dressmaking, cooking, hygiene, and child care; medical
and dental clinics; and a cooperative drug store. The dining room is
used also as an auditorium and social hall; at one end are ping-pong
and billiard tables. Next to the main building there is a cooperative
grocery and meat market. The club owns several movie houses in
order to have control over the kind of movies shown. Picnics and
excursions are organized for the members. A new hospital was
opened in the community in 1942:
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The Federation has defended the rights of the workers several times:
Once it protested against the exportation of thread and yarn to such
an extent that employees of weaving and knitting mills were without
work, and on another occasion it petitioned the Minister of Labor for
an increase in workers' wages. In May 1941 the National Confederation was named Technical and Consultative Organ of the Minister
of Labor.
Educational and welfare projects for women workers offered by
women's organizations are described under "Women's Clubs and
Organizations," page 38.

A large number of women are working in government service, 12 some
of them occupying prominent executive positions. The director of the
National Museum is a woman, and her administration is considered
one of the most successful on record. A woman engineer is chief
of a section in the water and drainage inspection division in the
Ministry of Education and Health; another is a member of a roadbuilding commission. These positions were secured through competitive examinations.
Women have responsible administrative jobs in Federal and State
Departments of Labo.r as chiefs of divisions for women and children
and as inspectors; and, in the State of Sao Paulo; in the governmental
Social Welfare Department. A young woman lawyer was named
recently to the staff of the Federal Attorney General, and others have
served in similar capacities in some of the States. The national
Director of Secondary Education is one of many women educators to
gain well-earned recognition. Women doctors, chemists, and pharmacists work in health and education departments, helping to develop
the government's hygiene, nutrition, and child-welfare programs.
Until recently, women were officers in the diplomatic or consular
service of Brazil, in Liverpool, Buenos Aires, Rome, and Paris.
The numerous young women in clerical jobs in government agencies
enjoy in general shorter working hours and higher rates of pay than
those with private firms.
Government employees secure their jobs in three different ways
through an agency that corresponds to the United States Civil Service
Comrr;iission: (1) By competitive examination, (2) by meeting certain
academic and work-experience requirements; (3) by appointment.
Promotions are made according to seniority and by merit; examinations
12 For a repor t on women in the F ederal Government ser vice in the United States, see Women's Bureau
Bulletin No. 182, Employment of Women in the Federal Government, 1923 to 1939. Washington,
Government Printing Office, 1941.
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may be required. After a 2-year probation period, employees are
Opportunities under a government civil service system are legally
the same for men and women. Some young women said they are kept
out of the competition for certain higher-paid positions; and several
years ago the foreign consular service of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, the Police Department, the War and Navy Ministries, and
the Office of the Inspection of Sales· Taxes were closed to the future
employment of women.
Vacations and Workweek. - Twenty days (not workdays) of vacation a year are allowed, but vacations were _discouraged during the
war. In normal times the minimum workweek is 33 hours, 6 hours a
day, 3 hours on Saturday. Agencies may require one more hour a day
without giving extra pay.
Retirement and Pensions.- Federal employees may retire with full
pay after 30 years of service if unable to work. They are compelled
to retire at 68, or before that age if they are not able to discharge
their duties.
The DASP.- Government employees are under the jurisdiction of
the Department for the Administration of Public Service, popularly
called the "DASP" (D epartamento Aruninistrativo do Servic;o
Publico). The personnel division of this department is similar in
function to the United States Civil Service Commission and has
responsibility for (1) recruiting and selecting personnel for the federal
public service, (2) orienting and supervising personnel practices in
federal agencies, (3) carrying on studies relating to social insurance
plans for federal employees and studies to establish job classifications,
and (4) providing for the training, specialization, and advancement of
federal employees. This service also assists in the training of candidates for public positions other than federal.
There are training courses for permanent employees so they can
increase their efficiency and secure promotion to higher positions as
well as for employees newly hired. · Some of these courses are basic
and compulsory, some are elective, and they last from 4 months to l
year. Among the courses offered are: The administration of personnel,
fundamentals of government administration, budgets, filing, psychology, Portuguese and its official use.
For several years the DASP, at the expense of the Brazilian Government, has sent a number of government employees to the United
States for a year or more of study and observation. Candidates must
meet certain requirements and pass examinations. In 1943, four young
women were among those chosen.
Women make up a high percentage of the 500 employees of the
DASP, a!1d some of them are in important positions.
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The professional colleges of the universities have admitted women
for a number of years. No doubt more women have taken professional degrees than might have been the case had the national or
State universities offered a general course sjmilar to the liberal arts
college jn the United States. The establishing of a school of philoso- •
phy and letters (liberal arts college) in the universities is a somewhat
recent development, though of course private schools of higher
education have offered general cultural courses.
University-trained women evidently encounter no unusual obstacles
in practicing their professions, and the number of successful profes.s ional women is surprising. It was estiip_ated that there are 21
women lawyers in Rio de Janeiro who maintain themselves by practicing their profession. Women engineers, doctors, lawyers, chemists,
teachers in all parts of the country have made places for themselves
in private as well as in government service.
An eminent woman physician, who is a specialist in hematology
and head of the laboratory of the pediatric clinic, Sao Paulo University School of Medicine, was elected to the National Academy of
Medicine two years ago. · A young woman in Sao Paulo, who is one
of three members of a law firm, the other two of whom are men, is
not unique; nor are the three women lawyers in Rio who share offices
and form a triumvirate of specialists in criminal, civil, and labor law.
A young woman trained in medicine and psychopathy shares with
her husband the direction and work of their own hospital for mental
patients; another is a gynecologist who directs her own clinic.
Brazilian women have achieved national and international fame
as writers, journalists, artists, and musicians.
The first school of social work in Brazil was inaugurated in Sao Paulo
in 1936, and the first in Rio in 1937. Social-work courses are given
also in educat,ional and social-we1fare institutions. Social-work graduates have been employed largely in hospitals, health centers, cl;rildwelfare institutions, charity associations, and the State Department
of Social Welfare. A few graduates have been placed in factories,
special courses having been included in the social-work curricula to
prepare students for this work. L eading persons in this field are
trying to raise the professional status of social work, especially in
terms of better salaries.
Nursing has yet to achieve the. genuine professional standing it
occupies in the United States, but definite progress in this direction ·
is being made in spite of barriers similar to those overcome elsewhere.
A school of nursing in Rio de Janeiro is honored with the name Ana
Nery, a heroine of the time of the Lopez war fought with Paraguay.
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The director of a school for nurses that opened last year in the School
of Medjcine of the University of Sao Paulo is a woman of high professional standing. Some hospitals, as in the United States, have
their own nurses' training courses.
The more rigid entrance requirements a.rid standards of instruc6on
recently adopted by schools of nursing should do- much toward improving the professional status of nursing.
Teaching.- As in many countries, women began to earn their living
outside their homes as primary school teachers; and teaching is still
the profession most accessible to women. Besides making up the
majority of teaohers in the primary schools, women in Brazil are
instructors and professors of civil law, sociology, psychology, and in
schools of medicine in the universities. Women are directors of primary and vocational schools, and they own and direct private schools.
Young women who have graduated from colleges of physical education are doing splendid jobs in playgrounds, schools, clubs. Others,
who are graduates from the Health Hygiene Institute, part of the
medical school of the University of Sao Paulo, are health educators.
They work in the playgrounds,. in maternal and child-health centers, in
schools, and make home visits.
Many young women continue to teach after marriage. They are
given 3 months' maternity leave, and if it is necessary they are allowed
to change to schools nearer their homes until the child is a year old.
According to information secured from a primary-school principal
in 1943, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, the primary teachers start as
assistants or practice teachers and are paid 500 cruzeiros a month.
They are soon promoted to permanent positions and receive 750
cruzeiros. Their top salary is 950. Principals of small schools are
paid up to 1,000 cruzeiros. For each 24 teachers a principal is allowed
1 assistant.
Teachers' Organizations.- The Brazilian Education Association is
said to be the most important organization of teachers in Brazil. It
was founded in 1904 and is made up of primary and high school
teachers and university profe_ssors. Courses for primary and secondary teachers have been organized at intervals. Until 1942, summer
courses were conducted; in 1942 a conference was held to study rural
. education in Goias, an interior State. A magazine called "Educa9ao"
is published.
An association of Catholic teachers, organized in 1930, has branches
in various cities .
. The Association of Primary Teachers has worked for benefits for
teachers; another association has supported the "new school'' and
new methods of teaching.
There are various associations of private-school teachers.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women's organizations in Brazil, like those of other South American
countries, have been largely charitable and educational. In these,
women have carried heavy responsibilities and have shown great
efficiency and administrative ability. It is not possible to describe
fully the work of all the women's associations in the charitable and
educational fields, but those whose programs include wage-earning
girls and women are described b elow. There are also associations of
professional women, and club groups among clerical workers.
However, some women have b een active in other organizations
and had worked for their political and civil rights long b efore 1934
when a new constitution was adopted giving them the right to vote.
Uniao Social Feminina (Young Business and Professional Women).The 900 members of this club are office employees, t eachers, clerks.
The club was started in 1934 under the auspices of the Catholic
Church and it is based on the program of Catholic Action. The
club now is autonomous, its own m embers carrying the responsibility
for program and finances. They maintain clubrooms in a new building in the business district of Rio , wher e m eetings and educational
classes such as shorthand, English, French, and dressmaking are
held. There is a small library, a radio, and m embers use the rooms
at the noon hour and after work. In the b eautiful mountain city of
Petropolis, not far from Rio, the club owns a vacation house where
from 40 to 50 girls can be accommodated at one time. Rates are
r easonable and the house is open during the entire y ear. The club
serves as an employment exchange and orients young beginners in
new jobs.
Uniao Universitaria Feminina (University Women ).---=-Women who
are graduates of professional schools of the universities and who are
practicing their professions are m embers of these clubs in a few of the
larger cities in Brazil. Students may be associate members. The
association in Rio has 80 m embers; that in Sao Paulo, 40. Both
have their own clubrooms. The organization was formed to promote
the interests of professional women and to .orient young women
graduating from the professional schools of the universities.
B efore 1937 the club in Rio was active in politics; since the legislature was dissolved they have given up political action.
Federar;ao Brasileira pelo Progresso Feminino (Bra zilian Federati0'/1,
for the Advancement of Women).- This is one of the largest women's
organizations, and the one best known to women in the United States
through contact with its leaders at international confer ences. Started
in 1922 in the capital and in various States, it is the organization that
was most active in the work to secure women's civil and political
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Women WorkerJ in Brazil


rights. It has been constantly on the alert to improve the position
of women in every way. The Federatiorthas secured the appointment
of women to international conferences and has taken an active
interest in the Inter-American Commission of Women.
The aims of the Federation when it was established in 1922 included: Higher educational standards and opportunities for women;
the welfare of mothers and children; the right of women to work and
influence working conditions; the development of their talents and
gifts; organized effort and collaboration for political rights and
political education; better international relations and peace.
Six national conventions of women were held from 1922 to 1942.
In the last, women from different sections of Brazil met and discussed
(1) women's activities in Brazil, (~) women's contribution to the war
effort, and (3) women of the Americas in the postwar reconstruction
period. In addition to other action taken, the convention protested
against the recent exclusion of Brazilian women from certain government agencies on the basis that · it was a violation of their constitutional rights.
Associa~iio das · Senhoras Brasileiras (Association of Brazilian
Women-Catho,lic Action).-This association has a very attractive
restaurant in the business district of Rio de Janeiro, which is open to
all employed girls at lunch time. Between five and six hundred a day
are served ample but inexpensive meals. Next to the street-floor
dining room is a lending library. A small number of rooms in this
main building and a room registry take car~ of girls from out of the
city. A trained social worker conducts an employment office and
also helps girls with personal problems. Classes in typing, .shorthand,
languages, and sewing are offered, and there is a shop where girls may
sew under supervision. Each year a large exposition of hand-made
articles is held, where many women sell their work and secure ·o rders.
Parties and outings are organized and members may go to the vacation house in Petropolis owned by Uniao Social Feminina. This program of the association is for employed girls. It had its beginning in
1918 in commercial classes started by a Catholic sister. The necessity
of giving girls some specialized training if they were going to work
outside their homes was seen; then the need for making available·good
and inexpensive meals. Girls whose homes were not in the city
brought the problem of suitable living quarters.
This association also maintains a clubhouse for domestic workers
in a residential district. There is an employment office here, classes
are held, and a few rooms are available for girls who come from other
towns to secure work or for those who are changing jobs. Improving
working cop.ditions is also a concern of the officers of this association.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Associa~ao Cristao Feminina (Young Women's Christian Association). -There is a Y. W. C. A. (Associa9ao Cris tao F eminina) in Rio
de Janeiro. As in other countries, young women clerical and office
employees and more mature women holding responsible positions in the
business world are members of the association. The Y. W. ' C. A.
headquarters are attractive and conveniently located for classes,
meetings, and social activities. Business girls are in clubs and classes
and spend their vacations at the summer camp. The classes include
health education, sports, commercial subjects, languages, homemaking. There are luncheon and supper meetings of the clubs when
topics of particular interest to young business women are discussed.
Recreation and social affairs are part of their activities.
The employment service of the association is used by clerical as well
as domestic employees. Business girls were helping in the war
emergency program of the association. These young women are also
active leaders in the association.
Liga das Senhoras Catolicas (League of Catholic Women) .-In Sao
Paulo the Liga das Senhoras Catolicas, with 1,000 members, has
a number of welfare and educational projects. Three of them are
for young women who work: A domestic-science school in an industrial
district offers short courses for girls to learn to manage their own
homes, a longer course for dietitians, and night classes also; a
restaurant for young business girls in the business district accommodates 400 a day; a commercial school and a vacation home on the
seashore are maintained.
Associa~ao Civica Feminina (Women's Civic Association) .- This
association was founded in Sao P aulo in 1932 for the purpose of pre. paring women for participation in civic and political life and for promoting such participation. The members went to rural communities
and to industrial and other centers to interest women in political
questions and to teach them to use their suffrage.
The association has various projects for women wage earners, two
of them educational: (1) A vocational or trade school for ·girls, where
3-year courses in dressmaking, cooking, child care, and academic
subjects are taught to girls who have finished primary school; 600
students are enrolled in the day classes, and a large number in the night
school; a baby clinic in the same building gives the students facilities
for practical experience. (2) Night classes, which the association
organizes and helps to finance, for the workers of three factories;
primary-school subjects are taught and diplomas are given to those
who finish the course.
Centro Social Leao XIII (Soc1:al Center for Industrial Girls) .- This
center is largely financed and admjnistered by one woman. The
center occupies two houses in an industrial community and provides
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women Worker:J in Brazil


rooms for a small number of young factory workers away from home,
and meals, classes, and recreation for a larger number. There is a
trade or vocational school for girls of industrial families and night
classes are given for women workers. Since girls under 18 earn very
little, such a center answel's a real need.

Legiao Brasileira de Assistencia (Brazilian Legion of Assistance). After the five Brazilian ships were sunk in August 1942 and Brazil
declared war on Germany and Italy, the wife of President Vargas
organized the Brazilian Legion of Assistance to supply funds, clothing,
and food to needy families of soldiers and recreation to the soldiers
them~elves. Soon the activitjes of the Legiao were enlarged to include all phases of civilian defense and social welfare arising in a
nation at war. Volunteer workers have been trajned for family and
cruld-welfare assistance, nutrition work, commumcations and transportation, vjctory gardening. Women lawyers, doctors, and social
workers give a definite number of hours each week to the Legiao.
Home women, business girls, and factory workers have volunteered
to help as they can. Wives of ministers of the President's cabinet
carry part of the responsibility for the organization.
The Legiao is support~d by a small tax on all wages and salaries.
As the organization has been established in all States and in many
cities, the semiofficial character has been maintained by having the
wives of governors and mayors serve as chairmen.
Cruz Vermelha (Red Cross).- The Red Cross groups are very active
and large numbers of young women have taken the courses and are
wearing the uniforms of first-aid workers and volunteer nurses. Two
interesting services were organized as part of the Red Cross in Sao
Paulo by a graduate nurse working as a volunteer. One was called
the "Samaritanas," and graduates of the 1-year nurses'-aide course
were pledged to work as volunteers, not for money. The other, the
"Socarristas," · was for first-aid workers, some of them sufficiently
advanced in their work to assist in the 75 Red Cross posts in the city.
Civilian Defense.- ln addition, young women had been trained by
the army for civilian-defense work and made a very smart appearance
in their uniforms. They served as air wardens during practice blackouts and patrolled the streets of ·Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo with
authority and dignity. Each one knew how to handle the job assigned. University students, who offered their services during the
summer months, made smveys for the army and attended the
civilian-defense classes as well.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Women were first granted the right to vote in national elections in
1932 by a new electoral code, and t h ey voted for the first time in 1933 ·
for members of the Constitutional Assembly. Two women were
members of this assembly and served on the committee which drew
np the Constitution of July 1934. This Constitution guaranteed to
women, as a matter of fundamental law, the right to vote, and assured
to women the same rights as men to hold public office. In the next
elections women were elected to National and State legislatures.
Even before 1932, political rights had been granted to women in
several States. In 1927 in the State of Rio Grande do Norte, and in
the .next year when women registered in several other States for the
purpose of voting, their registrations were d eclared legal. In 1929,
for the first time in Brazil, a woman was elected mayor of a city in Rio
Grande do Norte. Since that date women have served as mayors of
cities in other States and have been chairmen of municipal councils
and justices of the peace.
Elections have not been held in Brazil since 1934, and the National
Parliament has not met since 1937. 13
Professional women in Brazil who are interested in the changing
position of women in their country believe that the increased participation of women in war-emergency activities, their greater numbers in
wage-earning jobs, their growing enrollment in high schools and universities are giving them experien ce and confidence that will make
them even more useful to their country and will insure them wider
opportunities to use ' their ability and knowledge after the war.

This report was prepared before t he general elect ions held in Brazil in December 1945.


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