Woman Levy, Julia

Jewish community leader and Philanthropist
Alternative Names
  • Solomon, Julia

Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne

Julia Solomon was born in Bath, England, in 1826. Her father, Samuel Solomon was transported as a convict to Australia in 1832, and Julia, with her mother and seven siblings, followed him to New South Wales as free immigrants in 1835. Her father was freed in 1842. At the age of nineteen, in 1845, she married Lewis Wolfe Levy, who would become a prominent businessman, a leader of Sydney's Jewish community and a member of parliament. The Levys had fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood.

While Julia Levy raised the children, Lewis Levy worked successfully to expand his business interests and pastoral investments. The family lived in regional New South Wales, especially Maitland, where Lewis Levy's cousins, the Cohens - several of whom were married to sisters of Julia - also resided. After operating a profitable general store in Tamworth, he became partners with two Cohen cousins, Samuel and David in the Maitland company David Cohen & Co., and directed the firm's development. The Levy's returned to Sydney in 1862, where he remained active in Cohen and Co.'s affairs while also sitting on the boards of a number of other commercial enterprises, including the Australian Gaslight Co., the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney and the Hunter River New Steam Navigation Co. He was also owner or partner in ownership of eight pastoral runs in the New South Wales bush. From the 1870s, he entered politics, briefly, as MLA for Liverpool Plains and later for Maitland. In 1880 he was appointed Jewish representative on the Legislative Council, a position he held until his death in 1885.

There is little evidence of Julia Levy's specific activities during the period her husband was building his wealth, but together the couple were seen as leaders of the Maitland Jewish community and renowned as dedicated supporters of a great many charitable, educational and benevolent causes. By this time they lived in 'Cahors', a house in Macleay Street, Pott's Point, Sydney and Levy served as president of the Macquarie Street synagogue for some years. Julia Levy continued her charitable activity after Lewis's death. An obituary published on her death in 1914 noted she was 'renowned for her great charity, which embraced all creeds and classes' and another praised Mrs Levy as 'one of the greatest philanthropists in New South Wales'. In the last months of her life she was involved in knitting socks and sewing shirts for soldiers fighting in World War I.

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Obituary', Ballarat Courier, 9 September 1914. Details
  • 'Leaders of the past - Mrs L.W. Levy', The Great Synagogue Congregational Journal, Obituary, May 1952. Details

Online Resources

See also