Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty

by Linda Glaser and Claire A. Nivola

“Give me your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... read more

“Give me your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . ” (from “The New Colossus”). A friendship gift from France to the United States, the Statue of Liberty had nothing to do with immigration until Emma Lazarus, commissioned to write a poem as part of a publication to raise money to erect the statue in New York Harbor, imagined the immigrants who would see it upon their arrival in America and gave the statue a voice of fierce compassion. Emma was a wealthy Jewish American writer whose view of the world, and her role in it, had changed after she visited Ward’s Island in New York Harbor. Linda Glaser’s prose poem captures Emma Lazarus’s brief life as a woman defying expectations of class and gender to work for and with the poor, and the dedication that led her to write the extraordinary poem that forever turned the Statue of Liberty into a symbol of America’s promise. Claire A. Nivola’s lovely watercolor and gouache illustrations pair delicacy of detail with a bold assertion that the statue’s promise embraces the diversity of all who have and continue to come to the nation’s shores. (Ages 8–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011

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