Bilah Abigail Levy Franks
Bilah “Abigail” Levy Franks’ letters created a portrait of life for Jews in colonial America. Levy was born in England and immigrated to America with her family at age seven. In 1712, she married Jacob Franks, with whom she had nine children, and became active in Shearith Israel synagogue in New York as well as in the secular society of her well-to-do Christian neighbors. But the family’s financial troubles pushed Franks to send her children one by one back to England for better opportunities, and though Franks wrote to them often, she never saw them again. Her letters to her son Naphtali relate her experiences of New York society, her wide and varied reading of everything from novels and poetry to philosophy, and her combination of devotion to Judaism and anger at its superstitions. They also reveal her frustration with the lack of suitors for her children who could combine a Jewish background with the necessary social status and intellectual refinement she wanted for her family. Through her writing, Franks offers a window into the attempts of colonial American Jews to retain their religious identity while still participating fully in the larger society.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Bilah Abigail Levy Franks." (Viewed on April 30, 2017) <https://jwa.org/people/franks-bilah>.