Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo

Maria de Lourdes Ruivo da Silva de Matos Pintasilgo GCC GCIH GCL (Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐˈɾiɐ dɨ ˈluɾdɨʃ pĩtɐˈsiɫɡu]; Abrantes, São João Baptista, 18 January 1930 – Lisbon, 10 July 2004) was a Portuguese chemical engineer and politician. She was the first and to date only woman to serve as Prime Minister of Portugal, and the second woman to serve as Prime Minister in Western Europe, after Margaret Thatcher.

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo (1986) (cropped).jpg
Prime Minister of Portugal
In office
1 August 1979 – 3 January 1980
PresidentAntónio Ramalho Eanes
DeputyManuel da Costa Brás
Preceded byCarlos Mota Pinto
Succeeded byFrancisco de Sá Carneiro
Minister of Social Affairs
In office
17 July 1974 – 26 March 1975
Prime MinisterVasco Gonçalves
Preceded byMário Murteira
Succeeded byJorge Sá Borges
Personal details
Born(1930-01-18)18 January 1930
Abrantes, Portugal
Died10 July 2004(2004-07-10) (aged 74)
Lisbon, Portugal
Political partySocialist Party
Alma materUniversity of Lisbon

Early lifeEdit

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo was born to a middle-class family in 1930.[1] Her father, Jaime de Matos Pintasilgo (born Covilhã, Conceição, 9 December 1896 – died Lisbon, Socorro, 10 October 1959) was in the wool business, and her mother was Amélia do Carmo Ruivo da Silva, a native of Vendas Novas. Her parents married in Abrantes on 14 March 1929.[2]

Her father, Jaime, abandoned the family and at school she tried hard to hide that, thus causing her to avoid usual relationships.[3] At the age of seven, she was sent to the Liceu Filipa de Lencastre, a secondary school, in Lisbon. She distinguished herself in the Mocidade Portuguesa, a militaristic youth movement founded by Dictator Salazar. Later she joined Acção Católica (Catholic Action). During her years at the Instituto Superior Técnico from where she earned a degree in industrial chemical engineering, she joined and eventually led the Catholic's women's student movement.[2]


After graduating from University of Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico in 1953, at the age of 23, with an engineering degree in industrial chemistry she went into a graduate scholarship program with the national Nuclear Energy Board.[4] After completing the program, she began working for a large Portuguese conglomerate with interests in cement plants, Companhia União Fabril, the "CUF".[4] By 1954, she held the position of chief engineer of the studies and projects division.[4] From that position she quickly moved to the position of project director, where she was in charge of the firm's documentation center and responsible for the company's technical journals.[4] She held this position for seven years, until she left the company in 1960.[4]

Pintasilgo had strong ties to the Roman Catholic Church. From 1952–56, at Lisbon's Catholic University of Portugal, she was president of the women's group. In 1956 she became the international president of a movement of Catholic students, Pax Romana. In 1961, Pintasilgo joined the Grail (Graal), an international Catholic laywomen's movement. Two years after joining the Grail she led an international group working to improve the movement as well as establishing it in Portugal.[4]

By 1965 she had become the Grail's international vice-president. She was also appointed by the Vatican and served as woman's liaison between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. After leaving Companhia União Fabril, she held a job in government until 1969 which was to run Portugal's program for development and social change. In 1970, she presided over government working groups involving women's affairs, as well as being a member of the Portuguese delegation to the United Nations, 1971–72. In 1974 she was appointed secretary of state for social welfare in the first provisional government following the revolution. She moved her way up to Minister of Social Affairs by early 1975. In 1975, Pintasilgo became Portugal's first Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.[4]

Prime Minister and afterEdit

In 1979 she was called on by General António Ramalho Eanes, the President of Portugal, to become Prime Minister.[2] Pintasilgo was sworn in as the Prime Minister of the Portuguese caretaker government on 1 August 1979 with the term of three months in office.[5] During her time in office she pushed to modernize the out-dated social welfare system. She left her mark by making social security universal and improving health care, education, and labor legislation in Portugal.[2]

She contributed the piece "Daring to be different" to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan.[6]

Pintasilgo was the first woman to run for president in 1986. She ran as an independent and received 7% of the votes. The following year she was elected to the European Parliament as a member of the Socialist Party which she held until 1989.[1]

Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo died of cardiac arrest at her home in Lisbon on 10 July 2004, aged 74.[7] She was buried in Prazeres Cemetery, in Lisbon.

Electoral resultsEdit

1986 Portuguese presidential electionEdit

e • d Summary of the 26 January and 16 February 1986 Portuguese presidential election results
Candidates Supporting parties First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Mário Soares Socialist Party 1,443,683 25.43 3,010,756 51.18
Diogo Freitas do Amaral Democratic and Social Centre, Social Democratic Party 2,629,597 46.31 2,872,064 48.82
Francisco Salgado Zenha Portuguese Communist Party, Democratic Renovator Party 1,185,867 20.88  
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo Independent 418,961 7.38
Ângelo Veloso[A] Portuguese Communist Party left the race
Total valid 5,677,525 100.00 5,882,820 100.00
Blank ballots 46,334 0.81 33,844 0.57
Invalid ballots 18,292 0.32 20,436 0.34
Total (turnout 75.38% and 77.99%) 5,742,151 5,937,100
A He left the race in favor of Salgado Zenha.
Source: Comissão Nacional de Eleições

Maria de Lurdes Pintassilgo AwardEdit

Maria de Lurdes Pintassilgo was a former student at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), one of the most prestigious Engineering faculties in Portugal. Since 2016, IST promotes the Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo Award aiming to recognise and reward annually two women, graduated at IST, as a way to promote the gender balance policy at IST as well as recognise the crucial role that women have in all fields of Engineering.


  1. ^ a b "Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo", p. 32, The Times (London), 15 July 2004
  2. ^ a b c d O'Shaughnessy, Hugh, "Obituary: Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo; Europe's Second Female Prime Minister", p. 34. The Independent (London), 14 July 2004
  3. ^ Cook,Stephen and Stuart Wavell: "Thursday People: Lisbon's laby in waiting/ Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, Portuguese presidential candidate", The Guardian (London), 2 January 1986
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Associated Press, International News, Lisbon, Portugal, 19 July 1979
  5. ^ "Portuguese New Government Sworn In", Xinhua General News Service, 3 August 1979
  6. ^ "Table of Contents: Sisterhood is global :". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Portugal mourns much-loved female leader", EuroNews, 10 July 2004

Further readingEdit

  • Skard, Torild (2014) "Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo" in Women of Power - Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Brtistol: Policy Press, ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0.
Political offices
Preceded by
Carlos Mota Pinto
Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Francisco de Sá Carneiro