Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Hannah Greenebaum Solomon, 1858-1942
By Hannah Greene, graduate student, New York University
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon (1858-1942), the fourth of ten siblings, was born on January 14, 1858 to a well-to-do and bustling Jewish family in Chicago. A first-generation American, she grew up as the daughter of central European immigrants who journeyed to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. Although the Greenebaum family maintained traditional Jewish practice, her father also actively engaged in Reform Jewish circles, cofounding Chicago's first Reform synagogue and supporting moving Sabbath observance to Sunday to coincide with Christian practice. Her formal academic education culminated in her attendance at Chicago's West Division public high school. In 1879, she married Henry Solomon, with whom she had three children and who supported her public service work.
Solomon came of age in an atmosphere of civic engagement, contributing to her founding the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) in 1893 as a national organization for American Jewish women. She led NCJW as president until her 1905 election as Honorary President. Partially inspired by her earlier involvement in the elite Chicago Women's Club, in which she and her sister participated as the first Jews admitted, and partially by her outrage at Jewish women's exclusion from the Parliament of Religions at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Solomon intended for NCJW to function as a forum for Jewish women to partake of cultural activities, education, and philanthropy. It would serve as a vehicle for Jewish women in the United States to Americanize, expressing their Jewishness in a respectable, middle-class American idiom, befitting its disproportionate constituency of middle- and upper-middle class Jewish women of central European extraction. Solomon envisioned NCJW as at once providing Jewish women with a voice in the world of women's clubs and incorporating ideologies and methods of Progressive reform into the Jewish community. Her particular concerns encompassed Jewish education, aiding women and children, immigration, and reforming the treatment of juvenile offenders. NCJW operated according to the principle that issues such as poverty and prostitution signified social ills that those who possessed wealth and status had a responsibility to rectify, rather than intrinsic moral flaws of those grappling with such dire conditions.
Drawing upon ideologies of maternalism and municipal housekeeping, Solomon's NCJW presented its reform work in the public sphere as a logical and natural extension of its members' roles as wives and mothers. As such, it becomes less surprising that NCJW rejected a resolution in favor of women's suffrage in 1917, notwithstanding Solomon's friendship and collaboration with Susan B. Anthony. Solomon personally supported women's enfranchisement throughout her activist life, grounded in her conviction that granting women the vote would protect women and children. Among myriad causes, inter-religious tensions as well as the pressure of federal immigration restriction that took precedence for NCJW deterred some Council women from supporting votes for women. Nonetheless, Solomon herself joined the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. She and Anthony traveled to the International Council of Women in in Berlin in 1904, where Solomon met renowned reformers from around the world including Bertha Pappenheim and Constance Rothschild. Although Solomon established and participated in numerous cooperative projects, she also did not shy away from the limelight herself, emerging as one of the first Jewish women to run for elective office in her home state. In 1904 and 1916, she ran for the office of University Trustee for the University of Illinois. Although neither campaign proved victorious, her second effort saw her garner more than 900,000 votes, coming in fifth in the electoral race.
In addition to her leadership in Jewish women's circles, Solomon also collaborated with Christian women's groups on social issues and reform endeavors in fin-de-siecle Chicago. 1894 witnessed NCJW's affiliation with the National Council of Women, part of the International Council of Women that Elizabeth Cady Stanton co-founded as a federation of national women's organizations to promote women's suffrage and social reform. During the Spanish-American War and World War I, Solomon threw herself into the peace movement, contending that promoting world peace constituted a critical facet of women's religious mission, and that Jews as a religious group spanning the globe had a responsibility to facilitate international cooperation. In her view, Jewish women worldwide should cooperate to foster peace, specifically qualified to do so because of the intersection of their Jewishness and gender.
Her Hat Was in the Ring. "Hannah Greenbaum Solomon." <www.herhatwasinthering.org/biography.php?id=4998>.
Jewish Women's Archive. "Hannah Greenebaum Solomon." <https://jwa.org/people/solomon-hannah>.
National Women's Hall of Fame. "Hannah Greenebaum Solomon." <https://www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/hannah-greenebaum-solomon/>.
Rogow, Faith. Gone to Another Meeting: The National Council of Jewish Women, 1893-1993, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.
Rogow, Faith. "National Council of Jewish Women." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/National-Council-Of-Jewish-Women>.
Solomon, Hannah. "The Practical Results of Women's Clubs." The American Jewess 2, no. 4 (January 1896): 191-95.
Wenger, Beth. "Hannah Greenebaum Solomon." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/Solomon-Hannah-Greenebaum>.