TABLE OF CONTENTS
Manuscript Collection No. 143
Rebecca Gratz (March 4, 1781 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - August 27, 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was a preeminent Jewish American educator and philanthropist. Gratz was the seventh of twelve children born to Miriam Simon and Michael Gratz. Her mother was the daughter of Joseph Simon (1712-1804), a preeminent Jewish merchant of Lancaster, while her father was descended from a long line of respected rabbis. Miriam and Michael were observant Jews and active members of Philadelphia’s first synagogue, Mikveh Israel.
In 1801, at the age of 20, she helped establish the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, which helped women whose families were suffering after the Revolutionary War. In 1815, after seeing the need for an institution for orphans in Philadelphia, she was among those instrumental in founding the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum. Four years later, she was elected secretary to its Board. She continued to hold this office for forty years. Under Gratz' auspices, a "Hebrew Sunday School" was started in 1838. Gratz became both its superintendent and president, and assisted in developing its curriculum, resigning in 1864.
Gratz was also one of the founding members of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, around November 1819. In 1850, she advocated in The Occident, over the signature A Daughter of Israel, for the foundation of a Jewish foster home. Her advocacy was largely instrumental in the establishment of such a home in 1855. Other organizations that came about due to her efforts were the Fuel Society and the Sewing Society.
Gratz is said to have been the model of Rebecca, the daughter of the Jewish merchant Isaac of York, who is the heroine in the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Scott's attention had been drawn to Gratz's character by Washington Irving, who was a close friend of the Gratz family. The claim has been disputed, but it has also been well sustained in an article entitled "The Original of Rebecca in Ivanhoe", which appeared in The Century Magazine, 1882, pp. 679–682.
Gratz never married. Among the marriage offers she received was one from a Gentile whom she loved, but ultimately chose not to marry, on the account of her faith. Her portrait was painted twice by the noted American artist Thomas Sully. One of those portraits, both owned by the Rosenbach Museum, is on display at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Gratz is buried at Mikveh Israel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
--Wikipedia contributors, "Rebecca Gratz," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rebecca_Gratz&oldid=416424813 (accessed May 3, 2011).
Correspondence with family members and friends. Baltimore, Maryland; New York, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This collection is arranged in one (1) series:
Terms of Access and Use
Photocopies of this collection are open to all users. The photocopied collection is available in the Barrows-Loebelson Reading Room of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.
Original manuscripts from this collection are located in the AJA's Rare Documents File.
Property and Literary Rights
Nancy Erdrich, by the act of donating the Rebecca Gratz Correspondence to the American Jewish Archives, assigned all property rights to the American Jewish Archives. Literary rights are retained by the Gratz heirs. Literary rights may also be retained by specific creators of materials.
Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.
Gratz, Rebecca. Collection. 1794-1869. MS-236. Finding aid available online.
Originals located in Rare Documents File.
Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Rebecca Gratz Correspondence and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:
[Description], [Date], Box #, Folder #. MS-143. Rebecca Gratz Correspondence. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Rebecca Gratz Correspondence were received from Nancy Erdrich, Westmount, Quebec, Canada in December, 1981.
Processed by American Jewish Archives' staff.
No further accruals are expected to this collection.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the American Jewish Archives's online catalog.
Gratz, Hyman, 1776-1857
Gratz, Joseph, 1785-1858
Gratz, Michael, 1740-1811
Lee, Eleanor Percy, 1820-1849
Jews -- Pennsylvania
Jews -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia