Rachel DeTorres Benjamin Lazarus
This was the place of business of a strong-willed Jewish woman who took care of her family and her congregation. Rachel (Richa) DeTorres Benjamin Lazarus (1762–1847), born in New York, was only fourteen in 1776 when she married Charleston-born Marks Lazarus (1757–1835). In 1804, she gave birth to her seventeenth child and, that same year, obtained the status of feme sole, or “sole trader,” a married woman who had the legal right to manage her own commercial affairs. She operated independently as a dry-goods merchant from 1817 until the 1838 Fire, which destroyed three buildings she owned on King Street. She replaced them almost immediately with three similar buildings, today’s 229, 231, and 233 King Street. Apparently Rachel looked out for other independently minded Jewish women, for one of her tenants was another feme sole, Hannah A. Moses (daughter of Isaiah and Rebecca Phillips Moses and wife of Alexander H. Abrahams). Rachel Lazarus was recognized as the only female among the fifty-six subscribers of the Hebrew Harmonic Society, which began raising funds to purchase an organ for Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s new synagogue. When she wrote her will in 1844, Rachel directed that her King Street buildings could be sold at a favorable price to her son Benjamin D. Lazarus, with whom she had lived since the death of her husband in 1835, and who would become responsible for his unmarried sisters Emma and Adaline.