Francisca Edwiges Neves Gonzaga, known as "Chiquinha", (1847-1935) was the first important female composer and performer of popular music in Brazil. She was born as an illegitimate child, but fortunately her farther recognized her as his own and provided her with an education that included musical training. She participated in piano recitals throughout her youth and demonstrated execeptional skill. Her desire at a young age to pursue music professionally, however, was abandoned by her family. At age 13 she was forced into an arranged marriage but by 18 had already left her husbund to become a single mother, who played the piano to support her children. As a result of this she was declared dead by her former family! However, over time Chiquinha succeeded in making a living and a name for herself as a performer, composer and piano teacher.
Gonzaga was the first female to be allowed attending the social and musical fraternity of choro musicians, helped by her friend Joaquin Calado - the first composer of music in the choro style. Chiquinha started composing in the choro style too and had success with the piece "Corta-jaca" from 1897. Later she would be engaged in composing and arranging music for the popular theater. She was also a dedicated participant in the abolition movement and engaged further in the protection of authors' and composers' rights. By the time of her death in 1935, her musical works included a great number of theater pieces as well as sacred music, besides popular music including maxixes, marches and choros. Her legacy as an important composer of Brazilian popular music continues today.
The info above was provided from a paragraph in 'Choro, A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music' by Tamara Elena Livingston-Isenhour & Thomas George Characas Garcia (Indiana University Press, 2005), p.73-76
A career profile available at AMG
Soundclips of some of Gonzaga's recorded pieces available at clickmusic