Deaths & Marriages
Rebecca Gratz, 1781 - 1869
"You must banish reserve now, My dear Maria for we are Sisters, and with that loved title you have a claim to my warmest affection—and in that title too I look for such love as has been the most fertile source of comfort and happiness to me thro' my life. (Henceforth, we will not remember that there is a difference of opinion on any subject between us)."
After the deaths of their mother in 1808 and father in 1811, the unmarried Gratz siblings, Hyman, Joseph, Jacob, Sarah, and Rebecca remained in the family home. Rebecca was not eager to marry, for she thought "there appears no condition in human life more afflictive and destructive to happiness & morals than... an ill-advised marriage." Nevertheless, she "upbraid[ed her] bachelor brothers for continuing in their single state. A bad example in the eldest seems to afflict them, and I fear we shall all grow old together in the family mansion." Although Sarah died in 1817, Rebecca and her three brothers continued to live together for the rest of their long lives. In addition to performing household and family duties, they participated in both Jewish and non-sectarian communal activities.
The Gratz siblings were involved in a variety of organizations including Mikveh Israel's board of directors, Philadelphia's Anthenaeum, the Deaf and Dumb Home, the Chestnut Street Theater, the Academy of Fine Arts, and various libraries. Of the other five Gratz siblings to survive to adulthood, only the women, Frances, Richea, and Rachel, married Jews. Gratz, like other Jews in her predominantly Christian society, was very tolerant of others' beliefs and welcomed Simon's and Benjamin's non-Jewish brides. In fact, she became particularly close with Benjamin's wife, Maria Gist.
- "You must banish..." From a letter from Rebecca Gratz to Maria Gist Gratz, 1819. From Letters of Rebecca Gratz, edited by David Philipson. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1929)21.
- "there appears no..." From a letter from Rebecca Gratz to Ann Boswell Gratz, May 27, 1847. From Letters of Rebecca Gratz, edited by David Philipson. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1929)21.
- "upbraid[ed her]bachelor..." From a letter from Rebecca Gratz to Maria Fenno Hoffman, October 28, 1812, Gratz Family Papers P8. Courtesy of The American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham MA & New York, NY.