Grace Seixas Nathan
1752 – 1831
Grace Seixas was born in Stratford, Connecticut, on November 11, 1752, into a family that loved both America and Jewishness and encouraged learning for all of its members. Sister of literary, skilled, and learned men, she herself evinced a lifelong love of writing. She began writing poetry as a young woman and continued this pursuit until her death, although none of her work was published during her lifetime.
Many of her poems reflect Jewish themes, such as “Reflections on Passing Our New Burial Ground,” written on the occasion of the establishment of a new cemetery by New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel in 1829. She also maintained a lively correspondence. A favorite correspondent was her niece Sarah Abigail Seixas, who later married Israel Baer Kursheedt. Through her letters to Sarah, Seixas Nathan reveals her concern for the health and well-being of the members of the extended family, as well as a vivacious sense of humor. She was especially attached to her brother Gershom, longtime hazan for New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel. Five years after his death at age seventy, she continued to wear the colors of “deep mourning” in memory of “our Blessed Sainted reverend relative.”
In addition to her literary gifts, Seixas Nathan shared her brothers’ ardent patriotism. Gershom, Benjamin, and Abraham Seixas had all been strong supporters of the Patriot cause during the Revolution. She wrote of herself, during the War of 1812: “I am so true an American—so warm a Patriot that I hold these mighty Armies—and their proud-arrogant-presumptuous and over-powering Nation as Beings that we have Conquered and shall Conquer again—this I persuade myself will be so. And may the Lord of Battles grant that it may be so” (November 14, 1814).
Grace Seixas married Simon Nathan, a merchant and like-minded supporter of the Patriot cause, in 1780. Their marriage was a long and happy one. They had one child, (Isaac Mendes) Seixas Nathan, born in 1785.
Grace Seixas Nathan died in New York on November 8, 1831.
De Sola Pool, David. “Some Letters of Grace Seixas Nathan.” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 37 (1947): 203–211; Marcus, Jacob Rader. The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History (1981), and United States Jewry, 1776–1985. Vol. I (1989).