(1858 - 1942)
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon founded the National Council of Jewish Women in 1893, the oldest active Jewish
women's volunteer organization in America. She was
also active in philanthropy and the civic life of Chicago.
She was born on January 14, 1858, the fourth of ten
children of Sarah and Michael Greenebaum. Her parents emigrated
from Germany and her father soon became a very successful hardware
merchant in Chicago. Hannah's parents were important figures in
Chicago's growing Jewish community and belonged to the reformed
temple. She went to their religious school where German and Hebrew
On May 14, 1879, she married Henry Solomon, a young merchant
who shared her interest in classical music and the arts. They had three
children Herbert, who died in 1899, Helen and Frank, who replaced his
father as the head of the business when he died in 1913.
Hannah Solomon and her sister, Henriette Frank, were always active in many social clubs and organizations.
They became the first
Jewish members of the Chicago Women's Club. Henriette became its
president in 1884 and the club became more involved in the problems
of children and women.
In 1890, Hannah Solomon was asked to organize a national Jewish
Women's Congress for the World Columbian Exposition Parliament of
Religions to be held three years later. She managed to get together many
Jewish leaders and their organizations for the first such assembly in
America. This Congress made this assembly a permanent organization
called the National Council of Jewish Women. Their goals were to teach
all Jewish women their obligations to their religion and community.
Hannah Solomon was elected as the Council's first president and
served until 1905 when she was made honorary president for life.
During her tenure, local chapters sprung up throughout the country
and they became active with the social issues confronting women.
Solomon was active in many other organizations in the Chicago
area. She and Susan B. Anthony represented the Council of Women of
the United States at a convention of the International Council of Women
in Berlin in 1904.
She was involved in helping the Russian-Jewish immigrants who
were crowding into Chicago in the 1890s. With funds received from
the Chicago section of the National Council of Jewish Women, she
formed the Bureau of Personal Service, an organization designed to
give guidance and legal advice to these new Jewish immigrants.
Her interests were wide when it came to working for the betterment
of life for women. Solomon worked with the Illinois Industrial School
for Girls in 1905 and had the school rehabilitated and moved to a more
desirable area. In 1907, she became president of the school and
instituted many positive changes. She was an active member of the Women's
City Club and was responsible for many civic reforms.
Solomon was involved in the founding of the Chicago Juvenile Court
and was on the board of the Chicago Civic Federation. She was instrumental in helping to improve the laws and city ordinances affecting
juvenile delinquents and the underprivileged.
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon died on December 7, 1942. Her
legacy to the United States and Judaism was the establishment and the
development of the National Council of Jewish Women, an outstanding Jewish women's volunteer organization.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included
Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish
Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody
of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York,
and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.
Photo courtesy of the Library