Richea Gratz became the first Jewish woman to attend college in America in 1787, at the age of thirteen. Gratz attended Franklin College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she studied literature and classical languages and developed a passion for liberal arts that would reveal itself in her patronage of the arts throughout her life. In 1794 she married Samuel Hays and turned her attention to raising a family and volunteering for various social causes, as befit an upper-middle-class woman of her day. She supported Philadelphia’s literary and artistic growth by helping fund the Philadelphia Library and the Chestnut Street Theater, as well as supporting a number of local artists. She also volunteered at her synagogue, Congregation Mikveh Israel, and in 1801 joined her mother and two of her sisters as a cofounder of the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, which offered services such as a soup kitchen.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Richea Gratz." (Viewed on February 28, 2015) <http://jwa.org/people/gratz-richea>.