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Trailblazer: When Marie Curie went to Brazil

Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
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The Polish–French chemist Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867–1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only woman so far to win it twice. Less well known is that she paid a visit to Brazil in 1926 that boosted the country’s nascent feminist movement.

On her 1,600-kilometre train trip, she talked to scientists at the universities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais (M. Curie, I. J. Curie and E. D. Curie Lettres: Marie Curie et ses Filles; Pygmalion, 2011). Her visit to the University of Minas Gerais helped to make the medical school’s radium institute better known and respected.

She was accompanied throughout by a committee of important women in science and politics; they belonged to the Brazilian Federation for Female Progress. The attendant publicity reinforced the status of women in Brazil and encouraged their participation in the professions.

Women in Brazil were granted the right to vote only in 1934. As a remarkable exception, however, they were permitted to vote in 1926 in one Brazilian state as a tribute to their eminent visitor.

Nature 551, 440 (2017)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07236-2

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