Carmen Dolores (March 11, 1852 – August 16, 1910) was the pen-name of Brazilian writer Emília Moncorvo Bandeira de Mello.
She was born in Rio de Janeiro and belonged to a wealthy family, but little is known about her formal education. She was fluent in French and English, and her favourite writers were Emile Zola and Eça de Queiroz.
On December 23, 1867, at fifteen, Emília married the lawyer Jeronymo Bandeira de Mello, who was 14 years her senior. The couple had four children. The eldest daughter, Cecília Bandeira de Mello Rebelo de Vasconcelos (Rio de Janeiro, 1870 – 1948), also became a writer and published novels and short stories under the pen name Madame Chrysanthème. The family led a comfortable life. They apparently owned slaves and made several trips to Europe during the holidays.
Everything started to change in 1890, when Jeronymo died. Emilia was 34 and had to care for her children alone. To make matters more complicated, she suffered severe financial losses, which forced her to start to make a living by her pen.
In 1897, she published a short story collection, Gradações: páginas soltas, under the pen name Carmen Dolores. Between 1898 and 1903, she published short stories and literary criticism in the newspaper O Paiz, under the pseudonym Júlio de Castro. Between 1904 and 1905, under the pseudonym Celia Marcia, she wrote a weekly column in French, Lettres d’une brésilienne, in the newspaper L’Etoile du Sud. Between 1904 and 1906, she also wrote for newspapers in Maranhão, Pernambuco, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, under the pseudonym of Leonel Sampaio. Finally, she wrote two short stories under the pseudonym Mario Villar: “Impressões”, in 1899; and “Notas de um Errante”, in 1906.
Emília became best known through her pen name Carmen Dolores, under which she wrote weekly columns in the newspaper O Paiz, from 1905 to 1910, and in the newspaper Correio da Manhã, from 1907 to 1910.
Emília played with different literary genres, such as chronicles, short stories, literary criticism, essays, plays, and even a novel. She advocated for educational reform in Brazil and, in particular, for women’s access to formal education, so that they could not only become better wives and mothers, but also be able to fully develop their intellectual skills and become independent from their husbands.
She also defended the right to equal pay for men and women, and criticised the idea that motherhood was a woman’s sole vocation, as well as the stereotype according to which women writers were seen as lousy, “masculinized” wives and mothers. Like Maria Benedita Bormann and Júlia Lopes de Almeida, Carmen Dolores also struggled against strong social opposition against women who dared to earn money as writers and to live by their pen, as well as against the double moral standards applied to men and women at the time.
Carmen Dolores also defended the separation between Church and State in Brazil, was a fierce critic of the clergy, and joined the campaign for the introduction of the right to divorce in Brazil, which was led, among others, by Myrthes Gomes de Campos (the first female lawyer in Brazil, born in 1875).
However, Carmen also had a very conservative side, particularly concerning women’s sexual freedom: she deplored the fact that, in her view, the girls of her time seemed to be more interested in going out, buying new dresses, and flirting with boys than in studying or becoming better wives and mothers. She also opposed the republican regime, supported the monarchy, and opposed female suffrage.
Emília published her last column in the newspaper O Paiz, two days before her death. She died of acute peritonitis, on August 16, 1910, at the age of 58.
Dolores’ books were well received in Brazil during her lifetime, but some (male) critics thought her style was too “masculine”, and argued that she dealt with topics considered unsuitable for a woman at the time. Carmen’s work is considered naturalist and she is placed alongside writer Maria Benedita Bormann as the two main female authors representative of naturalism in Brazilian literature. As a short story writer, Dolores is also compared to Joao do Rio, due to the way they both wrote about what is conventionally called as the Brazilian Belle Époque. However, Carmen Dolores remained forgotten until the mid-1980’s, when her work finally began to be rediscovered by Brazilian feminists.
- Gradações: páginas soltas, 1897, short stories.
- Republished in 1989 by Presença, with introduction and notes by Maria Angélica Guimarães Lopes
- Um drama na roça, 1907, short stories
- Desencontro, 1908, play
- Lendas Brasileiras, 1908, 27 short stories for children
- Republished in 2006, with introduction by Eliane Vasconcellos.
- A luta (‘The struggle’), 1909, novel, published in instalments in the newspaper Jornal do Comércio
- Republished posthumously as a book by Editora Garnier, in 1911
- Republished in 2001, by Editora Mulheres, with introduction and notes by Maria Angélica Guimaraes Lopes
- Ao esvoaçar da ideia, 1910, chronicles
- Almas complexas, posthumously published in 1933, short stories, with introduction by Chrysanthème
- republished in 2014, by Editora Mulheres, with an introduction and notes by Risolete Maria Hellmann,
- Carmen Dolores – crônicas de 1905 – 1910, posthumously published in 1998, by Editora do Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, with an introduction by Eliane Vasconcellos
About the author
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