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Penina Moïse poems

Identifier: Mss 1034-049

Collection Overview

The collection consists of two original poems, handwritten by the author, Penina Moïse. The first, entitled "On Parting with My Press" is one page; the second, "To the Consecration," is two pages.


  • Creation: approximately 1840s


Language of Material

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

Abraham Moïse, a Sephardic Jew, immigrated to the West Indies from France and became a successful businessman; he later fled (1791) to Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife, Sarah, in the midst of a slave insurrection. Penina, the Moïse's sixth child (of nine), was born on April 23, 1797, in Charleston, SC. Abraham Moïse died when Penina was twelve, leaving the family impoverished. Penina took on a majority of the household management and dropped out of school to care for her mother and siblings. She managed to find time to study on her own and began to write Jewish hymns, poems and odes. Her first published poem appeared in a Charleston newspaper in 1819. For the next six decades, Moïse's stories, poems and essays appeared in national magazines such as Godey's Ladies' Book and local newspapers from New Orleans to New York. She was a regular contributor to Isaac Leeser's Occident and American Jewish Advocate, an early English language Jewish newspaper. Moïse first won national artistic acclaim in 1833 when she published Fancy's Sketch Book, a collection of her poems. It was the first available book of verse by an American Jewish woman and appeared under her name at a time when most female authors used pseudonyms. In the 1840s, Moïse headed K.K. Beth Elohim's (Charleston) Sunday school and supplemented her household income by making fine lace and embroidery; she never married. She wrote poems and songs for her Sunday school children to recite, most of which pertained to Jewish history and encouraged children to take pride in their heritage. During the Civil War, Moïse wrote poems to encourage soldiers as they went to battle. It was at this time that she began to experience problems with her eyesight and was soon confined to her home, suffering from near-blindness, neuralgia and insomnia. Despite her physical problems, Penina continued to teach, conducting a private Sunday school out of her home; she taught literature from memory. With her niece Jacqueline as scribe, Moïse continued to write verse and hymns on Jewish themes, many of which are still sung in Jewish Sabbath Schools. Penina Moïse died on September 13, 1880, and is buried in the Coming Street Cemetery in Charleston, S.C. Her dedication and devotion to Judaism were the driving forces in her life and writing.


1 oversize paper folder (2 items) ; 25 cm.

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated by Solomon Breibart.

Related Material

Related materials in Special Collections include the Thomas J. Tobias papers (Mss 1029).


Inventory of the Penina Moïse Poems, approximately 1840s
Processed by: Special Collections staff; finding aid created by: Special Collections staff
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
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