Emma Lazarus’s famous poem “The New Colossus” helped the Statue of Liberty greet millions, but still reflected her experience of the mixed welcome that minorities faced in America. She was respected as a masterful poet at a time when few women writers were taken seriously and corresponded with such literary greats as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Browning, and Henry James. But despite her acclaim, Lazarus still faced anti-Semitism and witnessed growing tensions towards Jews in America and abroad, spurring her to call for a Jewish homeland decades before the word “Zionist” even existed. While she was widely published in her lifetime and mourned by activists like Henrietta Szold, Lazarus’s family’s decision after her death to censor her Jewish essays and poems left her work in relative obscurity for decades. Despite this, she continues to influence artists and activists through projects ranging from a federation of activist women’s clubs named in her honor to a modern dance performance inspired by her poetry.
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How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Emma Lazarus." (Viewed on May 17, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/lazarus-emma>.