International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Eunice Weaver

    Status Other
    Country Brazil


    Eunice Sousa Gabi Weaver (1902-1969) was born in São Manoel, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. She worked throughout her life with leprosy sufferers and their families. She was involved in the rehabilitation of patients crippled by leprosy and in the care of, and prevention of leprosy in, children whose parents had been sent to leprosaria.

    In 1927 she met and married Charles Anderson Weaver, who worked in Colégio Granbery as a teacher. During their travels together to many countries, Eunice studied journalism, sociology and oriental philosophy. She later studied at Columbia University and took a course in Social Services at the University of Carolina. She gained knowledge about the problem of leprosy during her travels, and stayed in a number of leprosaria in the Sandwich Islands, Egypt, China, Japan and India.

    On her return to Brazil, in Juiz de Fora in the state of Minas Gerais, she began a campaign to help leprosy sufferers. The Sociedade de Assistência aos Lázaros was founded at this time, as leprosy was a serious problem in Minas Gerais. Eunice would take clothes, blankets and food to the people arriving by train who were bound for the leprosarium of Santa Isabel at Belo Horizonte.

    In 1935 Eunice persuaded President Getúlio Vargas to organise official aid for the leprosy work. She travelled round Brazil, launching the campaign of the Sociedades de Assistência aos Lázaros e Defesa contra a Lepra. This included the construction of 25 preventórios for the children of leprous parents. (These homes are now called "Educandarios").

    For 30 years she was president of the Federation of Societies for Assistance to Lepers and for Control of Leprosy (formed in 1932). She represented Brazil in numerous international leprosy congresses and organised leprosy services in Paraguay, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Venezuela.

    In November 1950, Eunice Weaver became the first woman in Brazil to receive the Ordem Nacional do Mérito (the the Paraguay Order of Merit), and in 1963, she became the first person from South America to be given the Damien-Dutton award.

    She died on 9 December 1969. In 1972 a stamp was issued by the Brazilian Post Office in her honour.

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