Glikl bas Judah Leib

 

glikl

[Bertha Pappenheim (one of Glikl’s descendants and translators) dressed as Glikl bas Judah Leib. Leopold Pilichowski (1869–1933). {{PD-art}} Uploaded to de.wikipedia 16:05, 26. Jan 2006. This image is in the public domain due to its age.]

This week’s hottie is Glikl bas Judah Leib (1645-1724), a Jewish business woman and rigorous diarist who is better known by the retroactively Germanicised name, Glückel von Hameln.* Glikl’s Yiddish diary is nothing short of a gift: the rich 7-book diary encompasses all manner of themes, shedding light on her family life and business affairs, personal devotion to Judaism and the goings on of the local Jewish community and society more broadly. Glikl’s diary seems largely to have been intended for her children; however, thanks to her years of effort in keeping it, we have a better understanding of how a Jewish woman, albeit one from an affluent background, experienced life in late 17th– and early 18th-century German society.

At 14, Glikl was married and moved from Hamburg to Hameln, the home of her new husband, a merchant. Glikl became more than a merchant’s wife: her diary indicates that her role in her husband’s business was crucial. Her husband seems to have respected her business acumen and treated her as a partner. But Glikl is not simply a hottie because she had serious business savvy. On the contrary, none of this should diminish the important roles she played as wife and mother. Glikl had 12 children who survived into adulthood and she was just as active in their rearing as she was in business. She managed a large family home, educated her children and planned their eventual marriages.

Glikl was widowed by her first husband in 1689. She then assumed full control of her husband’s business, which he fully entrusted to her before his death. Unfortunately for Glikl, her second marriage was financially ruinous. Glikl entrusted all of the money that she had spent her first marriage and widowhood accruing to her new husband, who lost it all and ended up bankrupt. When he died in 1711, Glikl thus found herself destitute and living with one of her children for her remaining 13 years—the very fate her diary reveals she had worked for years to avoid.

Glikl’s diary is an invaluable source for Jewish and women’s/gender history and the intersections thereof. Her active role in both family life and business outside of the home complicates common assumptions about where and how women historically operated. Moreover, Glikl’s daily activities among her family and community can alert us, if we let them, to the very real and multi-faceted value of traditionally feminised labour, including the emotional labour so often undertaken by spouses and parents (in contemporaneous Eurasian societies, typically wives and mothers) that remains today egregiously undervalued or flat out ignored.

~S

*According to Natalie Zemon Davis, Glikl’s name was first Germanicised in this way in 1896 in the first published translation of her diary. It is noteworthy that the addition “von Hameln” denotes aristocracy while also linking Glikl to her husband‘s natal town of Hameln.[1]

 

Bibliography

Davis, Natalie Zemon. “Glikl Bas Judah Leib: Arguing with God” in Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives. Cambridge: University of Harvard Press, 1995.

Turniansky, Chava. “Glueckel of Hameln.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on June 17, 2016) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/glueckel-of-hameln&gt;.

 

[1] Davis, 8.

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Glikl bas Judah Leib

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