The Business of Emancipation

The German-Jewish struggle for legal equality and economic prosperity

Glückel

Early modern era

Glückel of Hameln or Glikl bas Yehudah Leib (1646-1724) was a merchant from Hamburg whose memoirs are among the most important sources about the daily life of Jews in early modern Germany. Glückel’s commercial success is all the more striking because she was a woman working in a man’s world. Jewish as well as Christian customs gendered the division of labor, identifying the home as a female space and business as a male space. However, Jewish tradition celebrated strong women, especially when it came to economic activity. Like her mother before her, Glückel actively participated in her husband’s business. She oversaw Hayyim’s trade in pearls and gold, settled customer accounts, and managed the firm while he was away on business as far as Moscow and London. After Hayyim’s death in 1689, she took over, managing to pay off his considerable debts within one year.  

Leopold Pilchowski, Bertha Pappenheim (German Jewish women rights activist, 1859-1936) in costume of Glückel of Hameln. Wikimedia Commons.

Elias Galli, City view Hamburg. 1689. Museum of Hamburg History. Public domain.

View of the city from the time of Glückel of Hameln.

For more information about Glückel of Hameln, see the Shared History Project here.

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  Glückel of Hameln

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