The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883)

As our country continues its acrimonious debate on immigration, I though I would talk about Emma Lazarus, a Jewish woman poet, who wrote the words that stand at the base of the symbol of freedom around the world – The Statute of Liberty.

Emma Lazarus’s famous lines captured the nation’s imagination and continues to shape the way we think about immigration and freedom today. Written in 1883, her celebrated poem, “The New Colossus,” is engraved on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Over the years, the sonnet has become part of American culture, inspiring everything from an Irving Berlin show tune to a call for immigrants’ rights.

One of the first successful Jewish American authors, Lazarus was part of the late nineteenth century New York literary elite and was recognized in her day as an important American poet. In her later years, she wrote bold, powerful poetry and essays protesting the rise of antisemitism and arguing for Russian immigrants’ rights. She called on Jews to unite and create a homeland in Palestine before the title Zionist had even been coined.

As a Jewish American woman, Emma Lazarus faced the challenge of belonging to two often conflicting worlds. As a woman she dealt with unequal treatment in both. The difficult experiences lent power and depth to her work. At the same time, her complicated identity has obscured her place in American culture.

The information in this post first appeared in the Jewish Women’s Archive.

I invite you to share a link to your story of an inspiring woman.

About Bernadette

I live in the small town of Haddonfield, NJ. I am at an age in my life when I seem to spend time thinking and musing about life. These musings are usually stimulated by my walks through Haddonfield, my reading of books and fellow bloggers, and my interaction with my group of fabulous family and friends.

31 Responses

  1. I have never seen the full poem before, how powerful and how poignant today, a salutory reminder of days when immigrants and refugees were welcomed, not stigmatised and criminalised. Thank you for posting it. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just got goosebumps as I re-read the poem. A poem I’ve read in the past and admired. A poem that should be placed on the top of every newspaper in the land. I knew nothing about the poet, though, because of course in history classes this female poet was ignored. THANK YOU for educating us here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I visited New York last year with my husband (who has lived in the US for 28 years and chose to take citizenship some years ago) and our youngest daughter, the one thing he insisted we do was to visit Ellis Island. He had been himself several times. I was struck by so many things that day but one was the gentle kind strength in Liberty’s eyes. The poem at her base is beyond inspiring and the words cannot be repeated often enough either in the USA or in an other country purporting to be civilized. Thank you Bernadette, today of all days, for very personal immigration related reasons, I needed this ❀️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh one day it will be a story retold with glee … we all have bumps and the trick is to recognize balm and apply it when it’s presented. In the great story of life, as you and I both know, there are so many far far worse things. Thank you for always being so kind, dear Bernadette

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This post was such an interesting read, so important to write about and show all these inspiring strong women.. well done!

    The campaign #ImAFeminist: We are for equality, is mentioning topics related to this. It is a recently started campaign that previously have mentioned the topic of why men need feminism as well as this week the issues of the gender pay gap as well as what Intersectionality is about. The campaign also has a Facebook and Twitter page worth checking out, and would love your comments, likes and shares if you enjoy it. If you have any ideas for topics important to feminism worth writing about please tell us. Thanks for checking it out and helping us improve and expand our campaign.

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/imafeminist4
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/feministforequality/
    Wordpress: https://feministforequalityblog.wordpress.com/

    ImAFeminist: We are for Equality



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