Laudelina de Campos Melo turns 116th, Google doodle on Afro-Brazilian activist
Happy Birthday Laudelina de Campos Melo!!!
Google today dedicates a beautiful doodle to Laudelina de Campos Melo, an Afro-Brazilian activist, rich organizer and community worker. She turns 116 today.
Laudelina de Campos Melo was born on October 12, 1904 in Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brazil to Sidônia and Marco Aurélio. Her mother was a domestic worker and her father worked as a lumberjack. Her parents had been born to slaves, but under the terms of the Rio Branco Law, which passed in 1871, they were granted their freedom at birth, though their parents remained in bondage.
Laudelina de Campos Melo quit her school after losing her father in a tree-felling accident to care for her five younger siblings so that her mother could work full time in a hotel. She worked in various black cultural organizations to improve her community even when she was a teenager. In the process, she witnessed firsthand the racism, poor working conditions, and exploitation faced by so many workers, including her own mother — an experience that inspired her fight for change.
In 1920, Laudelina de Campos Melo was elected president of a cultural group, Clube 13 de Maio, which focused on political activism and recreational activities. She married a stone mason, Henrique Geremias in 1924. He was from Rio de Janeiro. She became politically active, joining the Communist Party of Brazil, the Frente Negra Brasileira (Black Brazilian Front), and the black cultural organization Saudades de Campinas. They remained in São Paulo, where their two children were born, until 1932, when they relocated to Santos.
Laudelina de Campos Melo's activism focused on reducing racial prejudice and undervaluing the labor of working women. Around 1936, she founded the Associação Beneficente das Domésticas de Santos (Santos Domestic Laborers' Association). By uniting workers in the organization, she hoped it would be a platform to improve their education on legal issues effecting them, as well as a vehicle to build a shared awareness and solidarity among women domestic workers to fight for their rights.
In 1961, Laudelina de Campos Melo founded the Associação dos Empregados Domésticos de Campinas (Association of Campinas' Domestic Laborers) to support literacy training and unionize domestic workers. She partnered with politicians like Francisco Amaral and with the progressive wing of the Catholic Church to continue pressing for the rights of domestic workers. However, she left the Association in 1968 due to conflicts within it. In 1972, domestic workers were granted the right to Social Security and yearly paid holidays.
In 1982, Laudelina de Campos Melo was called back to the Association of Domestic Workers. She helped restructure the association into an official union in 1988, under the new name of the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos de Campinas (Union of Domestic Workers).
In 2015, Melo's movement for justice achieved another victory: when the Brazilian government passed legislation to extend labor rights to domestic workers. She is recognized as the founder of the first domestic workers' union in Brazil and a pioneer in bringing awareness to and rights protections for domestic workers in the country. She died on 22 May 1991 in Campinas and donated her home to be used as the headquarters of the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos.