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Glückel bas Judah

Glückel bas Judah of Hameln’s remarkable life as a businesswoman and world traveler was preserved in her own words, thanks to the autobiography she wrote over the course of several years. Married at fourteen, Glückel helped her husband with his business as a jewel merchant, interviewing prospective agents, drawing up agreements, and keeping accounts while raising fourteen children, twelve of whom survived to adulthood. Glückel travelled extensively through Germany, France, Holland, and Denmark, both for business and securing good matches for her children. When her husband died in 1689, he left the business in her hands. She not only maintained the jewel trade, she lent money at interest and set up a sock factory in Hamburg, selling her wares at local fairs. However, after eleven years of widowhood, she married a banker who squandered all of her money and died, leaving her penniless and dependent on her children, something she had fought to avoid her entire life. Glückel began writing her autobiography in 1691, two years after her first husband died. Written in Old Yiddish, it is a combination of an ethical will, a memoir, stories of her ancestors, and an account of important events in the communities where she lived.

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Glückel of Hameln left behind a memoir—one of the few extant writings by a woman of the period—that provides us with a picture both of seventeenth-century German-Jewish society and of the inner world of a woman of her place and time. The first translation of the Old Yiddish text was done by a relative of Glückel’s, Bertha Pappenheim, who also posed as Glückel for the portrait depicted here, painted by the artist Leopold Pilichowski (1869–1933).

Institution: Alice and Moshe Shalvi, Jerusalem

Date of Birth
1645
Place of Birth
Hamburg
Date of Death
September 19, 1724
Occupations

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Glückel of Hameln." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/people/gluckel-of-hameln>.

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