Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Selina Solomons, 1862 – 1942
Alexis L. Pavenick, PhD, MLIS
Research and Instruction Librarian
California State University, Long Beach
Selina Solomons, born in San Francisco, California, was the eldest child of Hannah Marks Solomons and Gershom Mendes Seixas Solomons. Both Hannah and Gershom were notable Jewish community leaders in San Francisco during the early 1900s, known for their powerful personalities and independent minds. Solomons's siblings are also considered historically important in their achievements that empowered women and Jewish Americans during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Selina Solomons worked as a writer, and was spiritualist, practicing astrologer and active suffragist over the course of her life. Her main literary focus was on women's rights and suffrage (Rochlin and Rochlin 104-5). She joined a number of women's clubs to support these causes, and some of her lectures' key statements were recorded by local San Francisco newspapers. For example, in 1893, while she was a member of The Women's Club of San Francisco, The Morning Call reported on her lecture in support of dress reform. The paper quoted her response to a revival of hoop skirts, which she found "objectionable, on the score of health, comfort, and beauty" (Philibert-Ortega). On May 25, 1895, Solomons presented a paper for The Women's Congress of the Pacific Coast Association. Entitled "The Matriarchate," this lecture was perhaps Solomons' first widely public illustration of her dedication to feminism and suffrage (Silver 214). A year later, she wrote a poem to commemorate Susan B. Anthony's speaking tour in October 1896, supporting the first California state campaign for the women's right to vote (Harper 881). Though the 1896 vote failed, Solomons continued to support Anthony over the 15 years it took to get women's suffrage back on the California ballot. Solomons became an even more ardent promoter of suffrage on February 15, 1910, when she opened the Votes-For-Women Club on 315 Sutter Street, San Francisco. The club supported itself through providing a buffet and reading room that offered space for lectures on suffrage and women's rights. It specifically catered to working-class women, whom Solomons felt were underrepresented in the women's suffrage community.
On March 31, 1910, Solomons encouraged members of her club to protest a voter registration booth in San Francisco, demanding that women should be allowed to register, as the sign read, "All Citizens to Register for the Next Election." A local newspaper reported that the argument between the suffragists and the male-dominated crowd went on for some time but the women, led by Solomons, remained "imperturbable as the sphinx" (Silver 218).
Her most notable works include the play The Girl from Colorado (1911), which she wrote to describe and support the vote for women ("Selina Solomons," A Centennial Celebration). Her book, How We Won the Vote in California: A True Story of the Campaign of 1911, chronicles the events leading up to the successful outcome, and remains in print. It is this book that supports some researchers' view that Solomons is a leading historian of California suffrage (Rubens 161).
After winning women's right to vote in California, Solomons "conducted a ‘wake' for the Votes-for-Women Club and transformed it into Home Club, a residence club for women" (Silver 221). The following year, in 1912, Solomons served as clerk of elections in her precinct (221). Her great push for suffrage complete, Solomons focused the remainder of her life on "theosophy and astrology, areas of interest her mother held" (222). She considered the winning of women's suffrage on October 10, 1911, "the greatest day in my life" (222).
"Gershom Mendes Seixas." Jewish Virtual Library. jewishvirtuallibrary.org/gershom-mendes-seixas Accessed 25 April, 2018.
Harper, Ida Husted. "Chapter XLVII: The California Campaign, 1896." The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, vol. 2, by Ida Husted Harper. Indianapolis, IN: Hollenbeck Press, 1898. pp. 863-. Note on page 881. [LINK]
Philibert-Ortega, Gena. "Guest Post: Researching Women Suffragists." blog.myheritage.com/2018/04/guest-post-researching-women-suffragists/ Accessed 25 April, 2018.
Rochlin, Harriet and Fred Rochlin Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
Rubens, Lisa. "The Patrician Radical: Charlotte Anita Whitney." California History, vol. 65, no. 3, Sep.1986, pp.158-171. University of California Press in association with the California Historical Society. jstor.org/stable/25158386 Accessed 25 April, 2018.
"Selina Solomons." A Centennial Celebration California Women and the Vote. The Bancroft Library. bancroft.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/suffrage/room_01.html Accessed 25 April, 2018.
"Selina Solomons." American Jerusalem. americanjerusalem.com/characters/selina-solomons/28 Accessed 25 April, 2018.
Silver, M. K. "Selina Solomons and Her Quest for the Sixth Star, 1862-1942." The Western States Jewish History, vol. 35, no. 3/4, 2003. pp. 211-223.
Solomons, Selina. How We Won the Vote in California: A True Story of the Campaign of 1911. San Francisco: New Woman Publishing, .
Note: Solomons' portrait – available in her book How We Won...