“[W]oman’s sphere is the whole wide world.” —Hannah Solomon
Born this day in 1858: Hannah Greenebaum Solomon (1858–1942), social welfare worker, clubwoman, founder of the National Council of Jewish Women
Hannah Solomon was born Hannah Greenebaum to German immigrants in Chicago, Illinois. She was educated at temple school, learning both Hebrew and German, spent two years at a public high school, and studied piano. In 1879 she married a merchant named Henry Solomon. The couple had three children, one of whom died young.
Solomon was active in Chicago’s social and cultural clubs. In 1877 she and her sister Henriette Frank became the first Jewish members of the Chicago Woman’s Club. In 1890 she was part of a committee to organize a World’s Parliament of Religions to be held at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. She organized the Jewish Women’s Congress as an adjunct of the parliament. It was the first general convention held by Jewish women in American. It became the National Council of Jewish Women, and Solomon was its first president. She served in this role until 1905, and then was named honorary president for life. The organization, dedicated to fostering Jewish women’s religious and social responsibilities, quickly formed numerous local chapters.
Solomon also helped found the Illinois Federation of Women’s clubs and the Council of Women of the United States. She was elected treasurer of the council in 1904, and together with Susan B. Anthony and May Wright Sewall, represented it at the International Council of Women’s 1904 meeting in Berlin. She also helped found the Women’s City Club of Chicago in 1910.
Solomon was heavily involved in social welfare work in Chicago. She worked closely with Jane Addams of Hull house on child welfare issues. In the early 1900s she took a leading role in the rehabilitation of the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, which was a training school for delinquent girls. She also played a leading role in the development of the Cook County juvenile court.
Her other social welfare efforts included working with Jewish immigrants, and established the Bureau of Personal Service to provide them legal advice. She also conducted an investigation into Chicago’s waste disposal system.
Hannah Solomon was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995.
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