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At the Borders of Non-Work: Poor Female Workers and Definitions of Vagrancy in Early Twentieth-Century Rio de Janeiro*

  • Lerice de Castro Garzoni (a1)
Abstract

This article discusses how residents of early twentieth-century Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defined vagrancy. Commentators on the 1890 Penal Code sought to explain the terms of the article related to vagrancy, article number 399, and its application. Evaristo de Moraes, a lawyer, essayist, and public intellectual at that time, similarly dedicated several works to this topic, as did journalists and literary writers who worked in the press. But these debates in the lettered realm were not isolated from the views and actions of average citizens, a phenomenon that one can observe by reading the criminal proceedings against women who were arrested for repeat offenses against anti-vagrancy laws. In the interventions and arguments of the accused and their defenders, it is possible to observe how vagrancy took on new meanings and how, over the course of time, the relationship between these women and the world of work evolved.

Lerice de Castro Garzoni. Aux limites du non-travail. Travailleuses pauvres et définitions du vagabondage à Rio de Janeiro au début du vingtième siècle.

Cet article étudie comment les résidents à Rio de Janeiro au Brésil, au début du vingtième siècle, définirent le vagabondage. Les commentateurs du code pénal de 1890 tentèrent d’expliquer les dispositions de l’article sur le vagabondage, l’article 399, et son application. Evaristo de Moraes, juriste, essayiste et intellectuel publique de cette époque, consacra également plusieurs ouvrages à ce sujet, de même que des journalistes et des écrivains littéraires qui travaillaient dans la presse. Mais ces débats dans le monde lettré n’étaient pas séparés des opinions et actions de citoyens ordinaires, phénomène que l’on peut observer en lisant les poursuites pénales de femmes qui furent arrêtées pour infractions répétées de lois contre le vagabondage. Les interventions et arguments des accusées et de leurs défenseurs permettent d’observer comment le vagabondage revêtit de nouvelles significations et comment, au fil du temps, la relation entre ces femmes et le monde du travail évolua.

Traduction: Christine Plard

Lerice de Castro Garzoni. An den Grenzen zur Nichtarbeit: Arme Arbeiterinnen und Definitionen der Landstreicherei im Rio de Janeiro des frühen 20. Jahrhunderts.

Der Beitrag diskutiert, wie die Einwohner Rio de Janeiros (Brasilien) im frühen 20. Jahrhundert die Landstreicherei definierten. Kommentatoren des Strafgesetzbuches von 1890 bemühten sich um eine Auslegung des Paragrafen zur Landstreicherei (§399) und versuchten seine Anwendung zu klären. Auch Evaristo de Moraes, ein zeitgenössischer Jurist, Essayist und öffentlicher Intellektueller, widmete dem Thema mehrere Arbeiten, wie dies auch Journalisten und für die Presse arbeitende Schriftsteller taten. Dass diese Debatten unter den Gebildeten nicht von den Ansichten und Handlungen der Durchschnittsbürger zu trennen sind, zeigt sich an den Strafprozessakten über Frauen, die man aufgrund wiederholter Verstöße gegen den Landstreichereiparagrafen verhaftet hatte. An den Interventionen und Argumenten der Beschuldigten und ihrer Verteidiger lässt sich erkennen, wie die Landstreicherei neue Bedeutungen annahm und wie sich das Verhältnis zwischen den Frauen und der Arbeitswelt im Laufe der Zeit entwickelte.

Übersetzung: Max Henninger

Lerice de Castro Garzoni. En las fronteras del no-trabajo: las mujeres trabajadoras pobres y las definiciones de vagancia en Río de Janeiro a comienzos del siglo XX.

En este artículo se plantea cómo los habitantes de Río de Janeiro, Brasil, en los primeros años del siglo XX, definieron la vagancia. Quienes dedicaron comentarios al Código penal de 1890 buscaron explicar los términos y la aplicación del artículo relativo a la vagancia, el artículo número 339. En la misma línea que Evaristo de Moraes, un abogado, ensayista e intelectual público en ese momento, otros periodistas y escritores que trabajaban para distintos periódicos, dedicaron algunos de sus trabajos a esta cuestión. Sin embargo, estos debates que se dieron en el ámbito letrado no se trataban de algo aislado respecto de las percepciones y acciones de la gente corriente –un fenómeno que puede ser observado leyendo el contenido de los procesos judiciales contra las mujeres que habían sido arrestadas debido a las repetidas infracciones de las leyes antivagancia. En las intervenciones y argumentos de las acusadas y de sus defensores es posible encontrar cómo la vagancia adquirió un nuevo significado y cómo evolucionó, a lo largo del tiempo, la relación entre esas mujeres y el mundo del trabajo.

Traducción: Vicent Sanz Rozalén

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This article is a revised and adapted version of: “Nas fronteiras do não-trabalho: trabalhadoras pobres e as definições de vadiagem no início do século XX”, Revista Mundos do Trabalho, 1:2 (2009), pp. 65–93. Translation: Amy Chazkel.

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1 Vagrancy case against the defendant Maria Francisca Leonor; Arquivo Nacional [hereafter, AN], Série processo criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, notation (notação) OR.3561, September 1904.

2 See, as a North American gateway to the vast literature, Ocobock, Paul, “Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective”, in A.L. Beier, and Paul Ocobock (eds), Cast Out: Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective (Athens, OH, 2008), pp. 134. For an approach to vagrancy in relation to the boundaries of “work” and “non-work”, see also Wadauer, Sigrid, “Establishing Distinctions: Unemployment Versus Vagrancy in Austria from the Late Nineteenth Century to 1938”, International Review of Social History, 56 (2011), pp. 3170.

3 For a discussion of gender issues in relation to tramps, see Weiner, Lynn, “Sisters of the Road: Women Transients and Tramps”, in Eric Monkkonen (ed.), Walking to Work: Tramps in America, 1790–1935 (Lincoln, NB, 1984), pp. 171188; and Cresswell, Tim, “Embodiment, Power and the Politics of Mobility: The Case of Female Tramps and Hobos”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 24 (1999), pp. 175192.

4 According to the census of 1906, Rio de Janeiro counted 811,443 inhabitants in that year (463,453 men and 347,990 women). Due to the strong flow of European immigration as well as the internal migration of ex-slaves from other regions in Brazil, the city had experienced an increase of 55.3 per cent in the total number of inhabitants compared to the 1890 census. Again according to the census, of the population in 1906, 25 per cent was foreign. Declared the capital of the colony in the middle of the eighteenth century, Rio de Janeiro made great leaps in its development after the Portuguese Court was transferred to Brazil in 1808. In this period, the opening of the ports also made the influx of immigrants possible, many of whom established themselves in the city. It was also during these years that a rising number of travelling artists passed through Rio de Janeiro, portraying the city in their works. These paintings, such as those by Jaen-Baptiste Debret or Johann M. Rugendas, often testify to the presence of slaves in daily life. After the abolition of slavery a policy of incentivizing European immigration was adopted, in order to “whiten” the population, which triggered the immigration wave at the end of the nineteenth century mentioned above. The city functioned as capital of the Republic between 1889 and 1960 when the status of capital was transferred to Brasilia.

5 For a more detailed history of anti-vagrancy laws before the First Republic, see Mattos, Marcelo Badaró, “Contravenções no Rio de Janeiro do início do século”, Revista Rio de Janeiro, 1 (1993), pp. 1623.

6 See the discussion of the 1888 project to repress indolence, in Chalhoub, Sidney, Trabalho, lar e botequim: o cotidiano dos trabalhadores no Rio de Janeiro da belle époque (Campinas, 2001), pp. 6489.

7 Collecção das Lei dos Estados Unidos do Brazil de 1890 (Rio de Janeiro, 1890), p. 2734.

8 On the instability of those occupations see, respectively, Érika Bastos Arantes, “O porto negro: cultura e trabalho no Rio de Janeiro dos primeiros anos do século XX” (Master’s thesis in History, UNICAMP, 2005); and Sandra L. Graham, House and Street: The Domestic World of Servants and Masters in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro (Cambridge, 1988). On the high rates of unemployment at this time see, among others, Sylvia F. Damazio, Retrato Social do Rio de Janeiro na virada do século (Rio de Janeiro, 1996).

9 This question was especially evident in the Santana neighborhood of Rio, where dwelling arrangements were commonly more collective. On the significance and political meanings of collective housing arrangements, see Chalhoub, Sidney, Visões da Liberdade: uma história das últimas décadas da escravidão na corte (São Paulo, 1990), especially ch. 3.

10 Acórdão do Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo, 26 July 1902, Revista de Jurisprudência, VII, p. 171, cited in Código Penal Brasileiro (decreto n.847 de 11 de outubro de 1890). Posto em dia, annotado de accordo com o direito pratico e a jurisprudência dos nossos Tribunais, contendo ainda o prazo referente à prescrição de cada crime, bem como o calculo da graduação das respectivas penas por Affonso Dionysio Gama (São Paulo, 1923), pp. 498–499; and Annotações Theorico-praticas ao Código Penal do Brasil. De accordo com a doutrina, a legislação e a jurisprudência, nacionais e estrangeiras, seguido de um appendice contendo as leis em vigor e que lhe são referentes por Antonio Bento de Faria (Rio de Janeiro, 1904), p. 608.

11 Annotações Theorico-praticas ao Código Penal do Brasil, pp. 603–608.

12 Since the 1980s many studies have approached this issue with different objectives and from different theoretical perspectives. Jurandir Freire Costa, evaluating the process of “medicalization of the family” during the nineteenth century, states that “from the point of view of the hygienists, a woman’s independence was confined to the house and the possessions and ideas that reinforced the image of the wife-mother”. See Costa, Jurandir Freire, Ordem médica e norma familiar (Rio de Janeiro, 1983 [1979]), p. 260. In her analysis of medical registries from the beginning of the twentieth century, Maria Clementina Pereira noted the tendency to classify as insane those women who defied certain behavioral patterns, such as those who traveled alone or were financially independent; Pereira Cunha, Maria Clementina, Espelho do mundo: Juquery, a história de um asilo (Rio de Janeiro, 1986).

13 See, among others Soihet, Rachel, Condição feminina e formas de violência: mulheres pobres e ordem urbana, 1890–1920 (Rio de Janeiro, 1989) and Graham, House and Street.

14 This is evident in the verdicts on sexual crimes at the beginning of the twentieth century, as Martha Abreu and Sueann Caulfield demonstrate. See Esteves, Martha de Abreu, Meninas perdidas: os populares e o cotidiano do amor no Rio de Janeiro da Belle Époque (Rio de Janeiro, 1989); and SCaulfield, ueann, In Defense of Honor: Sexual Morality, Modernity and Nation in Early-Twentieth Century Brazil (Durham, NC, 1999).

15 Decreto n. 145, 11 June 1893, article 1, quoted from Collecção das Lei dos Estados Unidos do Brazil de 1893 (Rio de Janeiro, 1894), p. 45. Capoeiras refers to practitioners of the syncretic Afro-Brazilian martial art/dance style that developed in Brazil in the nineteenth century and was formally criminalized in the 1890 Penal Code.

16 See item IV, article 1, lei n. 947, 29 December 1902, quoted from Collecção das Lei dos Estados Unidos do Brazil de 1902 (Rio de Janeiro, 1903), p. 110.

17 See paragraph 1, article 63, decreto n. 6994, 19 June 1908, quoted from Diário Oficial da União, Seção 1, 23 June 1908, p. 4241.

18 For the discussion of the possibilities for gradations in sentences, see Annotações Theorico-praticas ao Código Penal do Brasil, p. 610.

19 On the absence of colonies destined exclusively for women and the way they were characterized in the reports of the administrators of the Colonia Correcional de Dois Rios, see Sepúlveda dos Santos, Myriam, “A prisão dos ébrios, capoeiras e vagabundos no início da Era Republicana”, Topoi: Revista de História, 5:8 (2004), pp. 138169, 157–158.

20 To understand the Office’s attributions and how these “records of antecedents” were produced, see articles 52 to 68 of decreto n. 4756, 5 February 1903.

21 There is, of course, a huge scholarly literature on the history of “anthropometric measurements” in relation to criminological discourse. Among the most insightful is still one written by a non-historian: Gould, Stephen Jay, The Mismeasure of Man (New York, 1981), especially ch. 4.

22 In 1906, Senator Barata Ribeiro questioned these identification practices aimed at women, discussing the notion of “dishonor” for the “tramps”. See Gomes da Cunha, Olívia Maria, “The Stigmas of Dishonor: Criminal Records, Civil Rights, and Forensic Identification in Rio de Janeiro, 1903–1940”, in Sueann Caulfield, Sarah C. Chambers, and Lara Putnam (eds), Honor, Status and Law in Modern Latin America (Durham, NC [etc.], 2005), pp. 295315, 295–296.

23 See Collecção das Lei dos Estados Unidos do Brazil de 1899 (Rio de Janeiro, 1900), p. 38.

24 See article 6, section 5, of law no. 628 of 28 October 1899: “Once the formal statement [auto] is presented to the judge, the latter will promptly summon the accused to present himself, within a strict time limit of 24 hours after the summons has been issued, to request those legal measures which he sees as necessary for his defense. These measures have to be decided upon within the subsequent 24 hours and in the presence of the accused [my italics] and, if he does not request anything or does not appear before the judge the judge should proceed to an immediate verdict.” Another fundamental difference was that those accused of vagrancy remained in prison until the judicial proceedings. This did not occur with the defendants in other types of cases; from the jail in the police station the “vagrants” were sent to the Casa de Detenção, where they were identified by the Gabinete de Identificação e Estatística and awaited the completion of their criminal files.

25 Being poor and seen as a racially mixed mestiço, Evaristo de Moraes began his professional life working as an advocate even before he was formally trained in law. Known for defending workers, and an active trade unionist, he became one of the country’s foremost specialists in criminal law; Evaristo de Moraes, Ensaios de Pathologia Social. Vagabundagem, Alcoolismo, Prostituição, Lenocínio (Rio de Janeiro, 1921).

26 On the career of Evaristo de Moraes, see Nunes Mendonça, Joseli Maria, Evaristo de Moraes: tribuno da República (Campinas, 2007).

27 Italics according to the original, the notion of “unskilled” appearing in English. As he later mentions, this division is not of his own making but reproduces a classification that was sanctioned in the fifth International Prison Congress, Paris 1895. Founded in the United States in 1870, the International Prison Congress also involved several European countries. Its goal was to encourage the exchange of information about prison administration as well as the prevention and treatment of crime; Moraes, Ensaios de Pathologia Social, p. 17.

28 Ibid., p. 19.

29 Ibid., p. 23, italics in the original.

30 Broadly understood, the author does not consider that this is an exclusively Brazilian problem but one that is accentuated in Brazil, as is evident in the following passage: “[F]oreign writers who bitterly censure the police in their countries, because of the constant persecution of ex-prisoners, would have occasion for more severe reflections, if they considered the absurd actions of the police, commissioners and agents of our police here: in the capital of the republic”; ibid., p. 23.

31 According to the decree no. 4,763 of 5 February 1903 regulating the police service in the Federal District, the city of Rio de Janeiro was divided in twenty urban districts, each with a police station. The district police station of Santana was located in the parish of the same name which stretched from the Campo de Santana (also known as the Praça da República) to the sea, and which was known, from the second half of the nineteenth century and due to the high number of Afro-Brazilians residing there, as the “black town”. This part of Rio was also characterized by a great diversity of immigrant workers of varying origin. Between 1900 and 1910, Santana, together with the parishes of Santa Rita and Espírito Santo, made up 23 per cent of Rio’s total population. The Santana police station was thus localized in one of the most densely populated parts of the city at the time, a fact which translated into a high number of trials for vagrancy. The extensive amount of police documentation conserved on vagrancy shows that this issue was given special attention by the police in this period. With numerous poor workers living there already, it also constituted one of the alternative domiciles for those who had been expelled from the more central areas when these were reformed. Santana thus brought persons of diverse origins and ethnic backgrounds together who, often under the eyes of police officers, met in the countless taverns and collective housing arrangements scattered over the area.

32 Moraes, , Ensaios de Pathologia Social, pp. 2829.

33 Concerning Evaristo de Moraes, Joseli Mendonça considers that “while incorporating many ideas that justified measures to segregate the poor classes – seen as dangerous because they were poor – Evaristo highlighted the extent of these ideas and proposed limits to repressive actions and penal justice”; see Mendonça, , Evaristo de Moraes, p. 325.

34 It is worth emphasizing that discussion regarding the time of arrest, as well as the “hours” the accused were usually seen on the streets, took nevertheless a prominent place in some vagrancy cases. See processos with the notations OR.4070 and OR.4050, both from June 1905, and 6Z.8341 from February 1924; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria e da 3.ª Pretoria Criminal, Rio de Janeiro.

35 Vagrancy case against the defendant Lídia de Oliveira Ramos et al.; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.4149, March 1905.

36 Vagrancy case against the defendant Rita de Cristo Rangel; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.4730, May 1906.

37 See, among others AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro; OR.3344, September 1904, OR.4174, December 1905, OR.5104, March 1907, and OR.8505, September 1911.

38 Vagrancy case against the defendant Maria Francisca Leonor; AN, Série processo criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.3561, September 1904.

39 Acórdão da Câmara Criminal do Tribunal Civil e Criminal do Distrito Federal, 7 October 1903, O Direito vol. 92, p. 618, cited in Annotações Theorico-praticas ao Código Penal do Brasil, p. 608; and Código Penal Brasileiro, Decreto n. 847, 11 October 1890, comentado por Affonso Dionysio Gama, p. 499.

40 Vagrancy case against the defendant Olívia Maria de Oliveira; AN, Série processo criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.4173, February 1905.

41 See among others, AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8a, Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, processo de OR.5752, January 1907.

42 According to Gíria dos Gatunos Cariocas, a dictionary of the time about Rio’s argot, canoa and canastra have the same meaning: “operation organized by the police to round up thieves, troublemakers, and tramps”. See Elysio de Carvalho, “Gíria dos gatunos cariocas (vocabulário organizado para alunos da escola de polícia)”, Boletim Policial, 4, 5, and 6 (1912), pp. 168–181. I am grateful to Professor Sidney Chalhoub for this reference.

43 Of the sentences in the judicial records consulted here, dating between 1905 and 1911, 44 per cent were dismissed due to “formal irregularities”. Between 1912 and 1925, this fell to 19 per cent.

44 The vagrancy charges cited here relate to the defendant Izabel Tavares; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.3776, March 1904. The defense statement was authored by Martinho José dos Prazeres.

45 Vagrancy case against the defendant Alzira Maria da Conceição; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.7974, April 1910. Defense statement authored by Serapião Alcides de Figueiredo.

46 Vagrancy case against the defendant Inácia Maria da Conceição and others; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.4347, January 1906. The defense statement was authored by Bruno Lemos.

47 Vagrancy case against the defendant Olga Maria de Souza Lima and others; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.4357, July 1905. The defense statement was authored by Arthur Godinho.

48 João do Rio was a pseudonym of the reporter and writer Paulo Barreto, who was born and lived in Rio de Janeiro. He wrote for different newspapers and authored a number of books between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. On his works, see Levin, Orna Messer, As figurações do Dândi: um estudo sobre a obra de João do Rio (Campinas, 1996).

49 Rio, João do, A alma encantadora das ruas (Rio de Janeiro, 1995 [1908]), p. 124.

50 The Revolta da Vacina [revolt of the vaccine] was a popular uprising against the law that made vaccination against smallpox obligatory in the city of Rio de Janeiro. For several days, streetcars were overturned and barricades were raised. For an interesting debate on this uprising, see Pereira, Leonardo, As barricadas da saúde: vacina e protesto popular no Rio de Janeiro da Primeira República (São Paulo, 2002).

51 Articles published 17 March 1905, 18 March 1905, and 21 March 1905, respectively. For a description of a canoa undertaken by the ninth urban district (Santana), see “Gatunos Presos” (“Thieves Arrested”) in the same newspaper from 22 February 1907.

52 Vagrancy case against the defendant Flora Ribeiro; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 3.ª Pretoria Criminal do Rio de Janeiro, 6Z.4949, August 1919.

53 Vagrancy case against the defendant Maria Rosa de Lima; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.7703, June 1909. Defense statement authored by Fernando Lupper Fortes Teixeira.

54 On “window prostitution”, see Pereira, Cristiana Schettini, “Que tenhas teu corpo”: uma história social da prostituição no Rio de Janeiro das primeiras décadas republicanas (Rio de Janeiro, 2006), ch. 1.

55 Vagrancy case against the defendant Olga Maria de Souza et al.; AN, Série processo criminal da 8.ª pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, processo OR.4357, July 1905.

56 Vagrancy case against the defendants Ambrosina da Soledade, Celina Maria de Jesus, Liberatina da Silva Bastos, and Maria da Conceição; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, OR.3371, August 1904. Defense statement authored by Alfredo Silva.

57 Vagrancy case against the defendant Constância Maria José; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 3.ª Pretoria Criminal do Rio de Janeiro, 6Z.4567, October 1919. According to record of the Gabinete de Identificação e Estatística attached to this document, Constância had been the defendant in eight legal cases between January 1915 and June 1918, of which five were for vagrancy. Defense statement authored by Manoel Gomes Pinto.

58 Vagrancy case against the defendant Rosaria Soares da Costa; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 3.ª Pretoria Criminal do Rio de Janeiro, 6Z.6467, January 1921. According to the record in the Gabinete de Identificação e Estatística, Rosária had been defendant in four trials between April 1912 and June 1918, three for vagrancy. Defense statement authored by Joaquim de Lima.

59 Vagrancy case against the defendants Belmira Maria da Conceição and Isaura Olímpia Barroso; AN, Série Processo Criminal da 8.ª Pretoria do Rio de Janeiro, 3899, June 1905.

* This article is a revised and adapted version of: “Nas fronteiras do não-trabalho: trabalhadoras pobres e as definições de vadiagem no início do século XX”, Revista Mundos do Trabalho, 1:2 (2009), pp. 65–93. Translation: Amy Chazkel.

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