Magazine article Tikkun

Emma Lazarus

Magazine article Tikkun

Emma Lazarus

Article excerpt

EMMA LAZARUS by Esther Schor. Shocken Books, 2006.

CLEVER, LITERARY, and rich, Emma Lazarus was the daughter of a distinguished Sephardic family settled in New York City for four generations. Her fame as the author of the sonnet engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty came decades after her death in 1887, but Gilded Age contemporaries would have read her essays, translations, and poems in journals like Century and The New York Times. She published her first book at age seventeen, gaining the admiration of Emerson; later friendships included Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Henry James. Esther Schor's biography, the fifth book in Shocken's Jewish Encounters series, draws on recently discovered letters written by Lazarus to her friend, Helena deKay Gilder, to flesh out previously unknown details of Lazarus' life.

Lazarus emerges as a political as well as literary figure. She supported Henry George's single tax and Jacob Schiff 's Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, shaping social programs to assist refugees from Russia after the pogroms of the 1880s, and alerting Americans to the poisonous anti-Semitism that crept west with them. …

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