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Short biography
Sarah Menkin Foner was the first woman to publish a novel in Hebrew. She was born Sarah Feiga Meinkin into a devout and distinguished Russian-Jewish family. Sarah was descended from the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, a major figure in European Jewish history. Her parents were both literate in Hebrew, a rarity in that era, and they imbued their household with a love of Jewish learning. Sarah's father, a Talmud scholar, was her teacher, and by the age of 12, she had already published a letter in the Hebrew newspaper Ha-Yom. She attracted the attention of literary figures in the Jewish Enlightenment movement known as the Haskalah. In 1880, she published "The Love of the Righteous," the first Hebrew novel written by a woman. The following year, she married Yehoshuah Metzah, a Hebrew writer some 20 years her senior. They had one son but the marriage ended when Metzah fell in love with another woman and left Sarah alone and destitute. In 1885, she married Meir Foner, a Hebrew playwright. The couple traveled throughout the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe working as itinerant teachers, before settling in Łódź, Poland. There Sarah founded the Daughters of Zion Society for the education of Jewish girls in Hebrew and Jewish history.
She continued writing throughout this period of her life. "The Children's Path" appeared in 1886 with a dedication to Sir Moses Montefiore, and was the first children's story published in Hebrew by a woman. The novella "The Treachery of Traitors" (1891) was historical fiction set in the period of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Sarah Foner's autobiography "Memories of My Childhood" was published in 1903. Her final novella, "The Women’s Revolt," appeared only in Yiddish and may have reflected the author’s own personal life. After attending an early Zionist conference, she left Europe and her second husband for good. She went first to England and then to the USA in 1905 to live her final years with her son in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her last published piece appeared in the American magazine Shaharut in 1919.
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