Emma Lazarus' contribution to American literature was her sonnet "The New Colossus," written in 1883 about the Statue of LIberty. The sonnet was hung on a bronze plaque inside the statue in 1903.
Image: Emma Lazarus, engraved by T. Johnson bewtween 1878 and 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Born into a Jewish family in New York City, Lazarus was the fourth of seven children. She grew up studying literature, everything from American literature to European literature. Her first book was published by her father in 1866 and was entitled Poems and Translations: Written Between the Ages of Fourteen and Sixteen. It was through this publication that Ralph Waldo Emerson began to know Lazarus' work, and the two corresponded until her death.
Besides her famous poem "The New Colossus," Lazarus wrote a novel, two plays and several articles.
Lazarus was devoted to her Jewish faith and became an important forerunner in the Zionist movement.
For more information about Emma Lazarus, please visit her entry in the Jewish Virtual Library (link at right).