Florbela Espanca

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Florbela Espanca
Espanca Florbela.jpg
Born December 8, 1894
Vila Viçosa, Portugal
Died December 8, 1930 (age 36)
Matosinhos, Portugal
Occupation Poet
Nationality Portuguese
Period 1894-1930

Florbela Espanca (Portuguese pronunciation: [floɾˈbɛlɐ (ɨ)ʃˈpɐ̃kɐ]; birth name Flor Bela de Alma da Conceição), Portuguese poet (Vila Viçosa, December 8, 1894 – Matosinhos, December 8, 1930). Precursor of the feminist movement in Portugal, she had a tumultuous and eventful life that shaped her love, erotic and feminine writings.


The daughter of Antónia da Conceição Lobo, she was baptized as the child of an "unknown" father. After the death of her mother in 1908, Florbela was taken into the care of Maria Espanca and João Maria Espanca, for whom Antónia had worked as a maid. João Maria Espanca, who always provided for Florbela (she referred to him in a poem as "dear Daddy of my soul"), officially claimed paternity in 1949, 19 years after Florbela's death.

Florbela's earliest known poem, A Vida e a Morte (Life and Death), was written in 1903. Her first marriage, to Alberto Moutinho, was celebrated on her 19th birthday, December 8, 1913. After graduating with a literature degree in 1917, she became the first woman to enroll at the law school of the University of Lisbon. In the year of 1915-1917 she collected all her poems and wrote "O livro D'ele" (His book) that she dedicated to her brother.

She had a miscarriage in 1919, the same year that Livro de Mágoas (The Book of Sorrows) was published. Around this time, Florbela began to show the first serious symptoms of emotional illness. In 1921 she divorced her first husband, which exposed her to significant social prejudice. She married António Guimarães in 1922.

The work Livro de Soror Saudade (Sister Saudade's Book) was published in 1923. Florbela had a second miscarriage, after which her husband divorced her (according to Rui Guedes, a very remarkable person on her studies, António Guimarães hit her). In 1925 she married Mário Lage (a doctor that treated her for a long time). Her brother Apeles Espanca died in an airplane accident (some believe he committed suicide, due to his fiancée's death), which deeply affected her and inspired the writing of As Máscaras do Destino (The Masks of Destiny).

In October and November 1930, Florbela twice attempted suicide, shortly before the publication of her last book Charneca em Flor (Heath in Bloom). Having been diagnosed with a pulmonary edema, Florbela died on December 8, 1930, her 36th birthday. Her precarious health and complex mental condition make the actual cause of death a question mark to this day. Charneca em Flor was published in January 1930. After her death in 1931, «Reliquiare», name given by the Italian professor Guido Battelli, was published with the poems she wrote on a further version of "Charneca em Flor».

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