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Penina Moïse

Penina Moïse shaped Jewish culture through her poetry as the first woman poet included in an American prayer book. Moïse left school at age twelve, after the death of her father, and nursed her mother and brother through long illnesses despite her own failing eyesight. Despite her personal struggles and lack of education, Moïse was a prolific writer, earning praise for her 1833 collection of poems, Fancy’s Sketch Book, as well as her articles for various newspapers across the country. She wrote 190 hymns for her congregation, Beth Elohim, and the Reform movement’s 1932 Union Hymnal included over a dozen of her hymns. Surprisingly, given her history, Moïse was also a gifted teacher, and became superintendent of Beth Elohim’s Sunday school in 1845. After the Civil War, she returned to Charleston and ran an academy with her sister and niece. Though her eyesight continued to deteriorate into blindness, she continued to work and write with wit and playful humor until the end of her life.

Penina Moise
Full image
Penina Moise.
Courtesy of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH, and the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods.

Date of Birth
April 23, 1797
Place of Birth
Charleston, South Carolina
Date of Death
September 13, 1880

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Penina Moïse." (Viewed on December 17, 2018) <>.


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