Grace Aguilar's Kol Isha: Authoring New Roles for Women in Judaism
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Despite Victorian attitudes toward women's writing, Anglo-Jewish writer Grace Aguilar (1816–1847) wrote and published more than 12 novels, theological tracts and collections, as well as numerous essays and poems. Because her works often expressed traditional views, her ideas were sometimes accepted when circulated among Britain's Jewish community. Like Evangelical Christians, whose beliefs about gender were widely influential, Aguilar envisioned Jewish women as the spiritual center of their homes. By transforming the home into a religious space comparable to the communal space of the synagogue, Aguilar articulated new possibilities for Jewish women as spiritual leaders. Her concept of women's religious leadership breaks down the boundaries between the private and public spheres, which then helped Jewish women writers to overcome the unholy connotations of the literary marketplace. Aguilar offered perspectives on Judaism that were influenced by Victorian values, emphasizing women's responsibility for their own religious education and the centrality of the female domestic sphere.