Florbela Espanca

Florbela Espanca was a firebrand and a precursor of the feminist movement in Portugal. When few women were attending university, she managed to graduate with a literature degree in 1917 and then became the first woman to enroll in law school at the University of Lisbon. In the same year, she published her first book of poems, O livro D’ele, which was dedicated to her beloved brother, Apeles. In 1919, Espanca began to show signs of the depression she would struggle with for the rest of her short life. In this year she also had her first miscarriage, which may have influenced the writing of Livro de Mágoas, which translates to The Book of Sorrows. To complicate matters, Espanca’s two divorces and three marriages exposed her to significant social prejudice from conservative Portuguese society, stifling her writing for a short time. But in 1923 she publishes her next book Livro de Soror Saudade. The death of her brother Apeles Espanca in an airplane crash—some say it was a suicide—deeply affected her and may have inspired the writing of her next book As Máscaras do Destino. In October and November of 1930, Espanca twice attempted suicide shortly before the publication of her last book Charneca em Flor. Florbela Espanca died on December 8, 1930, on her 36th birthday. Though the official documents say otherwise, it is suspected that it was a suicide.