Beyond mothering her many biological and adopted children, Rebecca Machado Phillips tended her community by founding soup kitchens and aid societies for the poor and sick. Phillips’s parents had come from Portugal, where their families had kept their Judaism secret, but in America her father served as cantor of New York’s Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, Shearith Israel. He died a year after she was born. In 1762, just shy of sixteen, she married Jonas Phillips, a merchant, and started a family. Between ages seventeen and forty-six, Phillips bore twenty-one children, and later adopted two of her orphaned grandchildren. In 1774 the Revolutionary War forced the family to move from New York to Philadelphia. There, in 1782, Rebecca Phillips and Grace Nathan raised funds for ritual objects for the new Mikveh Israel synagogue. In 1801 Phillips helped found the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances. The association provided food and clothing for the poor as well as aid for yellow fever victims in Baltimore. In 1820, at age 74, she became first directress of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society of Philadelphia.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Rebecca Machado Phillips." (Viewed on August 4, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/phillips-rebecca>.