This essay examines the role of upper-class Brazilian women (patrícias) in the public sphere during and after the Paraguayan War (1864–70). Barred from formal citizenship by the Constitution of 1824, upper-class women developed a form of “delicate citizenship” through which they projected themselves onto the national stage. In support of the war effort, they organized fund drives and sent uniforms and other supplies to the front. Following Brazil’s victory, they sponsored parades and other public festivities in honor of the returning troops. While hailing the army’s achievements in Paraguay, the victory celebrations also stressed the theme of peacetime demobilization and the return of the troops to their civilian roles and identities. Such demobilization would reduce or eliminate the potential political role of the veterans, drawn overwhelmingly from the country’s working-class and slave populations, and reaffirm the principles of monarchical rule and social inequality. Particularly important in the symbolism of the victory celebrations was Ana Néri, an upper-class widow and mother from Bahia who served as a nurse in Paraguay. Publicly embraced as the “mãe dos brasileiros” (mother of Brazilians), her embodiment of the female virtues of tenderness, caring, and self-sacrifice made her the perfect exemplar of the patricias’ movement and of delicate citizenship.

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