Eugénie Foa

Eugénie Foa, the first professional Jewish woman writer, described Jewish culture in sympathetic terms to a broader audience. One of several talented children of a wealthy Sephardic banker, Rebecca Eugénie Rodrigues Henriquès married Joseph Foa, a Genoan merchant, in 1814, but the marriage quickly turned sour. When Joseph abandoned her, Eugénie Foa returned home to her family and stayed until her father’s death in 1836, when she began writing to support herself. She published Kiddushin in 1830, the first of four Jewish-themed romance novels, as well as a plethora of children’s books. It is likely that she was the founder of Journal des enfants, the first periodical for young readers. Although she converted to Catholicism, she wrote sympathetically about Jews in her books for adults, describing Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, and other rituals, and focused her children’s books on themes of tolerance and compassion for the needy and oppressed. Her work achieved massive popularity; many of her books were widely reprinted, and several were translated for American audiences. A member of France’s early feminist movement and an advocate for human rights, Foa wrote for numerous journals on such issues as financial support for women writers, better education for girls, and an end to the slave trade. 

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Eugénie Rodrigues-Henriques Foa (1796-1852), the first Jewish woman to make a living as a professional writer. Image courtesy of the Austrian National Library via Wikimedia Commons.

Date of Birth
Birthplace

Bordeaux
France

Date of Death
1852
Occupations
Writer, Editor, Founder

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Eugenie Foa." (Viewed on August 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/foa-eug-nie>.

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