Emma Lazarus was a Jewish-American poet and literary figure who is best known for her sonnet "The New Colossus", which words are engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Lazarus was born to an established European Jewish family which had settled in the United States during the colonial period. Having studied literature from an early age, she was fluent in many languages including German, French, and Italian. These skills allowed her to translate the works of great literary figures such as Goethe and Heine into English.
Lazarus' poetry earned her such considerable acclaim that renowned author Ralph Waldo Emerson took an active interest in her career from its earliest stages. Their friendship, and his mentoring of her writings, would continue throughout their lives.
But beyond her writing, Lazarus must also be recognized among the first true Zionists. Though not particularly religious, Lazarus was an advocate for the rights of Jewish people and wrote extensively on the problem of anti-Semitism. She even proposed the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine before other notable Zionists such as Theodor Herzl.
Emma Lazarus died of Hodgkins Disease at the age of thirty-eight. Her legacy however, remains etched in bronze at Liberty Island:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"