Josephine Bracken

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Josephine Bracken
Josephine Bracken BR.jpg
Josephine Bracken in Filipino attire (1896)
Born Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken
(1876-08-09)9 August 1876
Victoria City, British Hong Kong
Died 15 March 1902(1902-03-15) (aged 25)
British Hong Kong
Cause of death
Resting place
Happy Valley Cemetery, Hong Kong[1]
Other names Josefina
Ethnicity Irish
Known for La Viuda de Rizal
(The widow of Rizal)
Spouse(s) José Rizal (1896)
Vicente Abad (1900-1902) (her death)
Partner(s) José Rizal (1895-1896)
Children Francisco Rizal y Bracken (1896; stillborn)
Dolores Bracken Abad (1900-1987)[1]
Parents James Bracken and Elizabeth Jane McBride

Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken (August 9, 1876 – March 15, 1902) was the common-law wife of Philippine national hero José Rizal during his exile in Dapitan in the province of Zamboanga del Norte in the southern Philippines.[2][3][4] In the early morning hours of December 30, 1896, the day of his execution by firing squad, the couple was married in Fort Santiago (Real Fuersa de Santiago), the place of his incarceration, following a reconciliation with the Catholic Church. The marriage, though, is disputed by some sectors because no records were found regarding the union, discounting the unusual events of that day, even if it was attested by Josephine herself and the officiating priest.[4][5][6][7]


Early life[edit]

Josephine was born in Victoria Barracks in Hong Kong on August 9, 1876 to Irish parents [4] James Bracken, a corporal in the British Army, and Elizabeth Jane McBride, who were married on May 3, 1868 in Belfast, Ireland. After her mother died shortly after childbirth, her father gave her up for adoption. She was taken in by her godfather, American George Taufer, a blind fairly well-to-do engineer of the pumping plant of the Hong Kong Fire Department, and his late Portuguese wife. He later remarried another Portuguese lady from Macau, Francesca Spencer, with whom he had another daughter.[8]

In 1891, the second Mrs. Taufer died and the two young women then managed the Taufer home.[9]

After on, Mr. Taufer decided to re-marry again but the new wife turned out to be difficult to deal with for Josephine. She spent two months in the Convent of the Canossian Sisters, where she previously attended early years of school. She decided to go back only after Mr. Taufer called at the Convent's door pleading her to go back home as the third wife turned out to be a bad housekeeper. Shortly after a few months, she had trouble again with Mrs. Taufer and haunter her out of the house.[10]

A copy of Josephine's Baptismal certificate

Relationship with Rizal[edit]

Bracken later recommended that her blind adoptive father see Rizal, who was a respected ophthalmologist and had practiced in Hong Kong.[11] By this time, he was a political exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte in southern Philippines. The family sailed to the Philippines and arrived in Manila on February 5, 1895, and later that month Josephine and Mr. Taufer sailed to Dapitan.

Taufer's double cataract was beyond Rizal's help, but the physician fell in love with Bracken. Mr. Taufer vehemently opposed the union, but finally listened to reason. Josephine accompanied her father to Manila on his way back home, together with Rizal's sister, Narcisa, on March 14, 1895. Rizal applied for marriage but because of his writings and political stance, the local priest, Father Obach, would only agree to the ceremony if Rizal could get a permission from the Bishop of Cebu. Either the Bishop did not write him back[12] or Rizal was not able to mail the letter because of the sudden departure of Mr. Taufer.[13]

Before heading back to Dapitan to live with Rizal, Josephine introduced herself to members of his family in Manila. His mother suggested a civil marriage which she believed as a lesser sacrament but is free from hypocrisy, and would be less sinful to Rizal's conscience, than making any sort of political retraction.[2] Nevertheless, Bracken and Rizal lived together in Barangay Talisay in Dapitan as husband and wife in July 1895. The couple had a child born prematurely, Francísco Rizal y Bracken, who died after only a few hours.[14][15]

While she was in a delicate condition Rizal played a prank on her, harmless in itself, which startled her so that she sprang forward and struck against an iron stand. Though it was pure accident and Rizal was scarcely at fault, he blamed himself for it, and his later devotion seems largely to have been trying to make amends.[16]

Rizal's last days[edit]

Jose Rizal, revolutionary and national hero of the Philippines
The title page of a book that was Rizal's wedding and parting gift to his wife.

In the evening before his execution on December 30, 1896 on charges of treason, rebellion and sedition by the Spanish colonial government, the Catholic Church claimed that Rizal returned to his Catholic faith and was married to Bracken in a religious ceremony officiated by Father Vicente Balanguer sometime between 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM. Rizal was scheduled to be executed at 7:00 AM. [6][17] Despite claims by the priest and Josephine herself, some sectors, including members of his family, dispute that a wedding had occurred because no records were found later regarding the union (See Jose Rizal's retraction controversy).

After Rizal's death[edit]

Bracken promptly joined the revolutionary forces in Cavite province, where she helped by taking care of the sick and wounded in the battlefield, boosting their morale,[1] to helping operate reloading jigs for Mauser cartridges at the Imus arsenal under revolutionary General Pantaleón García.[citation needed] Imus was under threat of recapture so Bracken, making her way through thicket and mud, moved with the operation to Maragondon, the Cavite mountain redoubt. She witnessed the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 prior to returning to Manila. She was later summoned by the Spanish Governor-General, who threatened her with torture and imprisonment if she did not leave the Islands. Owing however to her adoptive father's American citizenship, she could not be forcibly deported, but Bracken voluntarily returned to Hong Kong upon the advice of the American consul in Manila.[18]

A carving of Josephine by Jose Rizal

Later life[edit]

Upon returning to Hong Kong, she returned to her father's house. After his death, she married Vicente Abád, a Cebuano mestizo, who represented his father's tabacalera company in Hong Kong. A daughter, Dolores, was born to the couple on April 17, 1900. A late testimony of Dolores affirms that Josephine "was already suffering from tuberculosis of the larynx," at the time of the wedding.[19] Bracken died of tuberculosis on March 15, 1902, in Hong Kong and was interred at the Happy Valley Cemetery in that country.[1]

Inconsistencies regarding Josephine[edit]

  • British historian Austin Coates allegedly found Josephine's birth certificate in Hong Kong and reported it as tampered. He claimed that she is probably an illegitimate daughter of an unknown Englishman and a Chinese mother.[6]
  • American historian Austin Craig reported that Rizal's widow returned to the Philippines and lived in Cebu with her new husband. She gave lessons in English, like she told Rizal during their last meeting, at first privately in Cebu, where one of her pupils allegedly became the first Speaker of the Philippine Assembly. Afterwards, she worked as a government employee in public schools and at the Liceo de Manila, a school in Intramuros (no relation to the present Lyceum of the Philippines University).[20]

In popular media[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Fadul 2008, p. 18.
  2. ^ a b Craig 1913, p.215
  3. ^ Acibo 1995. p.110.
  4. ^ a b c Anderson 2005, p.132.
  5. ^ Craig 1913. p. 241-244.
  6. ^ a b c Fadul 2008. pp. 17.
  7. ^ Younghusband (1899), p.132.
  8. ^ Craig 1913, p. 212.
  9. ^ Craig, Farthest Westing, 181.
  10. ^ Lisa, Luis & De Pedro, Javier (2010). Romance and Revolution. Inkwell Publishing Co., Inc. p.25-26. ISBN 978-971-8527-83-2.
  11. ^ Craig 1913, p. 172.
  12. ^ Fadul 2008, p.21.
  13. ^ Craig 1913. p.213.
  14. ^ Fadul 2008, p. 38.
  15. ^ Craig 1913, pp. 216-217
  16. ^ Craig, Austin (1913). Lineage Life and Labors of Jose Rizal Philippine Patriot. p216.
  17. ^ Craig 1913, p.242.
  18. ^ Craig 1913, p.259.
  19. ^ Cabrera, Rizal and Josephine, 15, 33.
  20. ^ Craig 1913, pg. 263


External links[edit]