Glueckel of Hameln
(1645 - 1724)
Glueckel (or Gluckel) was born in Hamburg in 1645 into a prominent patrician family. At 14, she married Chayim
of Hameln in an arranged marriage. When her husband moved to Hamburg,
she was his adviser in all practical matters even while bearing and
raising their twelve children. Glueckel carried his business and financial
enterprises after his death in 1689.
However, his death depressed her and she tried to
overcome her loss by writing a diary, a memoir of her life. She began
it when she was forty six. She completed the first five sections in
1699; the next year she married a banker named Cerf Levy of Metz, where
she lived until her death. Glueckel stopped writing in 1700 and didn't
continue until 1715.
Her original manuscript was lost but copies made by her descendants
were preserved. In 1896, David Kaufmann published the Memoirs for the
first time in the original Yiddish,
with a lengthy German introduction. Since then the Memoirs have been
translated into German, Hebrew,
Although intended to be a personal memoir to acquaint her children
and grandchildren with their family background, Glueckel's writings
became incredibly important to historians because they are the only
Jewish document about that period written by a woman. Moreover, they
became an important source for Central European Jewish history and culture
and for linguistic and literary studies of older aspects of Yiddish.
Though primarily a family chronicle and not intended
for publication, the simple and intimate Memoirs unfolded a rich panorama
of Jewish life in cities such as Hamburg, Altona, Hameln, Hanover, Metz, Berlin, and Amsterdam.
Glueckel had an excellent memory, a kind temperament, a poetic gift
of expression, a good traditional education, and a pious disposition.
She was well versed in the legendary lore of the Talmud and had read the popular Yiddish ethical books. She often made use of
parables, fables, folk tales, and stories that illustrated a moral.
She was profoundly influenced by t'chinot (devotional Yiddish prayers
for women) and often echoed them in her meditations.
Sources: Gates of