Virgínia Quaresma, Portugal's first female reporter

cropped black and white photograph portrait of Virgínia Quaresma

Mixed race and lesbian writer and activist who fought for equality

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Portuguese journalist and writer Virgínia Quaresma was one of the first woman to work as a journalist in Portugal. In a time of great discrimination, she lived her life openly as a lesbian and was an important figure in Portugal's feminist movement.

black and white photograph portrait of Virgínia Quaresma

She was one of the first women in Portugal to graduate with a degree in Letters. She is known for her contribution to the development of modern journalism and activism for a variety of social and political causes.

Family life

Born in 1882 in Elvas, a town on the border between Portugal and Spain, she was the youngest of her parent's three children. Her father was an army officer and her mother was a domestic worker, who was descended from enslaved people from Africa.

colour photograph, a panorama view of Elvas

Educated alongside her brothers, at age 18, Quaresma began studying a course in primary education in Lisbon and later studied Letters at the University of Lisbon.

Journalism career

Her journalist career followed.

From the 1900s onwards, she began to publish more and more articles on women's issues, such as suffrage, access to divorce and equal pay and professions.

cover of journal 'Sociedade Futura'

Virginia Quaresma was the kind of journalist who went out to find the news.

Instead of staying in an office, she went to where events took place to interview people and gather information. This seems common today, but it was new in the Portuguese and Brazilian press at the time.

At the turn of the century, Quaresma was among the leading feminists in Portugal. She worked for feminist journals such as O Mundo—Jornal da Mulher, arguing for equal rights in all spheres of society. She wrote for the journal Sociedade Futura (Future Society).

In 1907, she became the editor of magazine Alma Feminina, aimed specifically at female audiences.

cover of a journal 'Alma Feminina'

Several years later, she was appointed to a public commission to study women's education in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.


In the mid-1910s, along with her partner Maria da Cunha, she moved to Brazil, expanding her journalist career to two countries and continents.

She returned from Brazil in 1915. However, by the 1930s, when the Estado Novo dictatorship regime began in Portugal, Quaresma was in a relationship with Maria Luiza Vallat da Silva Passos. Virgínia and Maria decided to move to Rio de Janeiro in 1933.

Virgínia again returned to Portugal in the 1960s, where she continued to write.

street sign for Rua Virgínia Quaresma on a pink wall
colour photograph of a street

Virgínia Quaresma died in 1973, and is remembered today as one of the first figures in feminism and journalism in Portugal and Brazil, with her name being given to streets, prizes and her image on postage stamps.

This blog was updated in December 2023 with information based on new research by Professor Eduardo da Cruz and Professor Andreia Castro, both from Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).