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Grace Aguilar

In her short life, Grace Aguilar wrote twice as many books as Jane Austen, from popular historical romances to an introduction to Judaism that was used by both churches and synagogues. Aguilar wrote an historical play at twelve and started writing her first novel, a response to Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, at fifteen. Suffering from a number of illnesses herself and tending to her sick parents, Aguilar turned her writing from a hobby to a profession, publishing poetry, sermons, and The Spirit of Judaism, a discussion of Jewish practice that was used as a teaching text by Jews and Christians in both Britain and America for a century after her death. Aguilar then branched into fiction of all kinds—historical romances, novels about contemporary women, and The Women of Israel, which explored the lives of Jewish women from biblical matriarchs through modern times. In failing health, Aguilar wrote a radical essay on “The History of the Jews in England,” that argued against the pressures of assimilation and called Christians to account for the treatment of Jews in British society. Her death at age thirty-one was mourned as “a national calamity” by newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Aguilar, Grace - still image [media]
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When she died in 1847 at the age of thirty-one, Grace Aguilar had already attained a reputation as a poet, historical romance writer, domestic novelist, Jewish emancipator, religious reformer, educator, social historian, theologian and liturgist. A Jewish woman in Victorian England, Aguilar produced books that appealed to both Jews and Christians, women and men, religious traditionalists and reformers, and which were subsequently translated into French, German and Hebrew.

Institution: Engraving by kind permission of Michael Dugdale,

Date of Birth
June 2, 1816
Place of Birth
London, London City of
Date of Death
September 16, 1847

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Grace Aguilar." (Viewed on November 28, 2015) <>.


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