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Maria Da Lourdes Pintasilgo Bibliography

This name uses Portuguese naming customs. The first or maternal family name is Ruivo da Silva and the second or paternal family name is Matos Pintasilgo.

Maria de Lourdes Ruivo da Silva de Matos Pintasilgo, GCIHGCC (Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐˈɾiɐ dɨ ˈluɾdɨʃ pĩtɐˈsiɫɡu]); (Abrantes, São João Baptista, 18 January 1930 – Lisbon, 10 July 2004) was a Portuguese chemical engineer and politician. She was the first and to date only woman to serve as Prime Minister of Portugal, and the third woman to serve as Prime Minister in Europe, after Savka Dabčević-Kučar and Margaret Thatcher.

Early life[edit]

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo was born to a middle-class family in 1930.[1] Her father, Jaime de Matos Pintasilgo (born Covilhã, Conceição, 9 December 1896 – died Lisbon, Socorro, 10 October 1959) was in the wool business, and her mother was Amélia do Carmo Ruivo da Silva, a native of Vendas Novas. Her parents married in Abrantes on 14 March 1929.[2]

Her father, Jaime, abandoned the family and at school she tried hard to hide that, thus causing her to avoid usual relationships.[3] At the age of seven, she was sent to the Liceu Filipa de Lencastre, a secondary school, in Lisbon. She distinguished herself in the Mocidade Portuguesa, a militaristic youth movement founded by Dictator Salazar. Later she joined Acção Católica (Catholic Action). During her years at the Instituto Superior Técnico from where she earned a degree in industrial chemical engineering, she joined and eventually led the Catholic's women's student movement.[2]


After graduating from University of Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico in 1953, at the age of 23, with an engineering degree in industrial chemistry she went into a graduate scholarship program with the national Nuclear Energy Board.[4] After completing the program, she began working for a large Portuguese conglomerate with interests in cement plants, Companhia União Fabril, the "CUF".[4] By 1954, she held the position of chief engineer of the studies and projects division.[4] From that position she quickly moved to the position of project director, where she was in charge of the firm's documentation center and responsible for the company's technical journals.[4] She held this position for seven years, until she left the company in 1960.[4]

Pintasilgo had strong ties to the Roman Catholic Church. From 1952–56, at Lisbon's Catholic University of Portugal, she was president of the women's group. In 1956 she became the international president of a movement of Catholic students, Pax Romana. In 1961, Pintasilgo joined the Grail (Graal), an international Catholic laywomen's movement. Two years after joining the Grail she led an international group working to improve the movement as well as establishing it in Portugal.[4]

By 1965 she had become the Grail's international vice-president. She was also appointed by the Vatican and served as woman's liaison between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. After leaving Companhia União Fabril, she held a job in government until 1969 which was to run Portugal's program for development and social change. In 1970, she presided over government working groups involving women's affairs, as well as being a member of the Portuguese delegation to the United Nations, 1971–72. In 1974 she was appointed secretary of state for social welfare in the first provisional government following the revolution. She moved her way up to Minister of Social Affairs by early 1975. In 1975, Pintasilgo became Portugal's first Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.[4]

Prime Minister and after[edit]

In 1979 she was called on by General António Ramalho Eanes, the President of Portugal, to become Prime Minister.[2] Pintasilgo was sworn in as the Prime Minister of the Portuguese caretaker government on 1 August 1979 with the term of three months in office.[5] During her time in office she pushed to modernize the out-dated social welfare system. She left her mark by making social security universal and improving health care, education, and labor legislation in Portugal.[2]

She contributed the piece "Daring to be different" to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan.[6]

Pintasilgo was the first woman to run for president in 1986. She ran as an independent and receiving 7% of the votes. The following year she was elected to the European Parliament as a member of the Socialist Party which she held until 1989.[1]

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo died of cardiac arrest at her home in Lisbon on 10 July 2004, aged 74.[7]

Electoral results[edit]


CandidatesSupporting partiesFirst roundSecond round
Mário SoaresSocialist Party1,443,68325.433,010,75651.18
Diogo Freitas do AmaralDemocratic and Social Centre, Social Democratic Party2,629,59746.312,872,06448.82
Francisco Salgado ZenhaPortuguese Communist Party, Democratic Renovator Party1,185,86720.88 
Maria de Lourdes PintasilgoIndependent418,9617.38
Ângelo Veloso[A]Portuguese Communist Partyleft the race
Total valid5,677,525100.005,882,820100.00
Blank ballots46,3340.8133,8440.57
Invalid ballots18,2920.3220,4360.34
Total (turnout 75.38% and 77.99%)5,742,1515,937,100
A He left the race in favor of Salgado Zenha.
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições

Maria de Lurdes Pintassilgo Award[edit]

Maria de Lurdes Pintassilgo was a former student at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), one of the most prestigious Engineering faculties in Portugal. Since 2016, IST promotes the Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo Award aiming to recognise and reward annually two women, graduated at IST, as a way to promote the gender balance policy at IST as well as recognise the crucial role that women have in all fields of Engineering.


Further reading[edit]

  • Skard, Torild (2014) "Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo" in Women of Power - Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Brtistol: Policy Press, ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0.
  1. ^ ab"Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo", p. 32, The Times (London), 15 July 2004
  2. ^ abcdO'Shaughnessy, Hugh, "Obituary: Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo; Europe's Second Female Prime Minister", p. 34. The Independent (London), 14 July 2004
  3. ^Cook,Stephen and Stuart Wavell: "Thursday People: Lisbon's laby in waiting/ Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, Portuguese presidential candidate", The Guardian (London), 2 January 1986
  4. ^ abcdefgAssociated Press, International News, Lisbon, Portugal, 19 July 1979
  5. ^"Portuguese New Government Sworn In", Xinhua General News Service, 3 August 1979
  6. ^"Table of Contents: Sisterhood is global :". Catalog.vsc.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  7. ^"Portugal mourns much-loved female leader", EuroNews, 10 July 2004

Portugal's only woman to serve as prime minister, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, died early Saturday of heart failure at her home here, the national news agency Lusa reported. She was 74.

She was a leftist with strong ties to the Roman Catholic Church who trained as a chemical and industrial engineer. During the last five months of 1979, she headed a nonparty caretaker government under President Antonio Ramalho Eanes.

She had occupied a series of senior posts in the short-lived governments that followed the bloodless left-wing military coup that put an end to nearly five decades of rule by a right-wing dictatorship that had severely limited women's rights.

Between 1975 and 1979, she also served as Portugal's ambassador to Unesco.

The author of numerous books, including widely read works on feminism, economics and religion, Ms. Pintasilgo was considered a leader of the women's movement in Portugal.

During the 1950's, at a time when the dictatorship discouraged women from taking paid employment, Ms. Pintasilgo became the first woman to work as an engineer at factories owned by CUF, the biggest of seven monopolies that dominated the Portuguese economy at that time.

In 1986 she ran for president, the first woman to do so in Portugal, but lost to the popular former Socialist prime minister Mario Soares.

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