Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Pintasilgo, Maria de Lourdes (1930–2004)

Portuguese feminist and Portugal's first female prime minister (1979–1980). Born in Abrantes, Portugal, on 18 January 1930, Maria Pintasilgo earned an engineering degree from Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico in 1953. During 1954–1960, she worked as an engineer. Her religiosity and sense of social justice led her to become president, and later a board member, of the Pax Romana International Movement for Catholic Students. She also founded the Portuguese branch of the International Grail Movement of Catholic Women.

In 1968, António Salazar's ill health forced his resignation, and Marcelo José das Neves Caetano became prime minister. At that time, Pintasilgo became an advisor to the Corporative Chamber's Department of Politics and General Administration and chaired the National Commission on the Status of Women. A left-wing military coup toppled Caetano in 1974. In the second and third short-lived governments that followed, Pintasilgo served as minister for social affairs and continued as an advocate for women.

In 1976 General António dos Santos Ramalho Eanes became the first democratically elected president of Portugal in fifty years. He then dispatched Pintasilgo to serve as ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a post she held until 1979. That same year, Eanes asked her to head a provisional government until elections were held. On 1 August 1979, Pintasilgo was sworn in as head of the eighth government since 1974. She presided as prime minister for five months over an all-male, sixteen-member cabinet. Thereafter, she served Eanes as advisor to the president.

In 1986 Pintasilgo became the first woman to run for president in Portugal, an election she lost. In July 1987 she was among those first Portuguese elected to the European Parliament. Pintasilgo died in Lisbon on 10 July 2004.

David M. Carletta


Further Reading
Ferreira, Virgínia. "Engendering Portugal: Social Change, State Politics and Women's Social Mobilization." Pp. 162–188 in Modern Portugal, edited by António Costa Pinto. Palo Alto, CA: Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, 1998.; Opfell, Olga S. Women Prime Ministers and Presidents. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1993.
 

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