Lazarus was one of seven children of Moses and Esther Nathan Lazarus. Her father's family came from Portugal. She became interested in Jewish tradition after reading Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. She never married, although she was considered a pretty woman. Emma Lazarus died of Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Lazarus wrote many lyric poems. She used classic forms like rhyme royal and ottava rima (in the cycle named Epochs). She was especially good at writing sonnets. Her best known work is the sonnet The New Colossus. It was placed at The Statue of Liberty in New York. She also translated into English poems by romantic German poet Henrich Heine. As a journalist she always protested against any kind of discrimination.
- Bette Roth Young, Emma Lazarus in Her World: Life and Letters. With a Foreword by Francine Klagsburn, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1995.