Google Doodle honors the 116th birthday celebration of an Afro-Brazilian activist and pioneer of domestic workers’ union in Brazil Laudelina de Campos Melo on October 12, 2020.
Who was Laudelina de Campos Melo?
Laudelina de Campos Melo was born on 12 October 1904 in Poços de Caldas, southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil to Sidônia and Marco Aurélio. She was an Afro-Brazilian activist, rich organizer and community worker.
Interested in promoting her community, from the time Laudelina de Campos Melo was a teenager, Melo worked in different black cultural associations. In 1920, she was elected president of a cultural group, Clube 13 de Maio, which focused on political activism and recreational activities. While still in her teenagers, she started functioning as a domestic for Julia Kubitschek. Kubitschek’s child Juscelino would become president of Brazil during the 1950s and Melo lived and worked in the family even after they moved to São Paulo.
In 1924, Laudelina de Campos Melo became politically active, joining the Communist Party of Brazil, the Frente Negra Brasileira (Black Brazilian Front), and the black cultural association Saudades de Campinas. Melo’s activism centered around decreasing racial prejudice and underestimating the work of working women.
Around 1936, Laudelina de Campos Melo established the Associação Beneficente das Domésticas de Santos (Association of Santos’ Domestic Laborers). By joining laborers in the association, she trusted it would be a platform to improve their education on legitimate issues affecting them, as well as a vehicle to build a shared awareness and solidarity among women domestic workers to battle for their rights.
Functioning as a nanny, in the last part of the 1940s, Laudelina de Campos Melo moved with the family of her work to Mogi das Cruzes, where she dealt with a farmhouse/hotel until her manager died. Returning in 1954 or 1955 to Campinas, Melo opened a boarding house and left domestic work behind.
Active in the Black Movement of Brazil, Laudelina de Campos Melo partook in the Teatro Experimental do Negro (Black Experimental Theater) group, which pointed toward giving certainty boosting cultural activities through dance and theatrical performance to black youth.
In 1961, Melo established the Associação dos Empregados Domésticos de Campinas (Association of Campinas’ Domestic Laborers) to help literacy training and unionize domestic workers. She left the Association in 1968 because of conflicts within it.
In 1982, Laudelina de Campos Melo was called back to the Association of Domestic Workers. She rebuilt the association into an official union in 1988, under the new name of the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos de Campinas (Union of Domestic Workers).
A domestic worker for most of her life, Laudelina de Campos Melo perceived early in life the discrimination against and undervaluation of working women. Throughout her life, she endeavored to change public recognition and policy vis-à-vis domestic workers and was successful in setting up associations for domestic workers to lobby for being perceived as a class of laborers qualified for labor rights.
Laudelina de Campos Melo died on 22 May 1991 in Campinas and donated her home to be used as the headquarters of the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos.
She is perceived as the founder of the first domestic workers’ union in Brazil and a pioneer in leading awareness to and rights insurances for domestic workers in the country.
In 2015, Laudelina de Campos Melo’s movement for justice accomplished another triumph: when the Brazilian government passed legislation to stretch out work rights to domestic workers.
On October 12, 2020, Google observes Laudelina de Campos Melo’s 116th Birthday with Google Doodle.