When Hannah G. Solomon looked around Chicago, the city where she was born, she saw unfairness all around her. Remarkable Hannah decided to hep change that, founding the National Council of Jewish Women, and fighting to make life better for others, especially women and children in Chicago and beyond.
The Story Behind HANNAH G. SOLOMON DARED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
By Bonnie Lindauer
Illustrated by Sofia Moore
Kar-Ben Publishing, September 1, 2021.
I was inspired to write about the life of Hannah G. Solomon after reading a history of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) San Francisco section, of which I am a member. I didn’t know much about our founder’s life, but after reading just a few sentences I was hooked to want to know more.
As a former academic librarian, I’m a seasoned researcher. I began my research only to discover that there were no biographies of her, but there was her autobiography. I read her autobiography several times and began to visualize her life. Because she lived at a time in history that included the Great Chicago Fire and the Chicago World’s Fair, I researched both of these events. I knew I wanted to begin the book with one of them and work backwards to reveal some of the influences in her childhood that motivated her to become a social activist in Chicago.
One of the sources I discovered provided a detailed account with photos of living conditions in Chicago in the 1880s and 1890s when so many immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe. I could picture the terrible housing with no indoor plumbing or heating and the overcrowding. I included this in a section of my manuscript, which was edited to this text:
“As Hannah grew up, she realized that many people in Chicago were suffering. Thousands of Jews form Russia and oPland lived in poor neighborhoods, struggling to survive. Often, several families had to cram into tiny two-room apartments. In the winter, frigid air seeped in through the poorly constructed, badly heated buildings. This caused health problems.”
I also researched several sources that described the magnificent 1893 Columbian Exposition, known as the Chicago World’s Fair. Because the Ferris wheel was introduced at this fair, I developed class activities around this new invention, that you can find on my author website. This was such an important event, and the fact that Hannah had been selected to organize a conference for Jewish women confirmed that she had secured an honored place in the Chicago community. I found the best quotations from her autobiography, along with solid information from the Jewish Women’s Archive. I was so happy when the editors decided to include the words Hannah spoke after being relegated to a subservient role by the men’s group. Hannah tried to work with them in planning an event for both men and women, but they didn’t share her idea of women playing a major part. Hannah wrote in her autobiography, “The only part of the program they wished us to fill was the chairs.”
At the end of the four-day conference that Hannah organized at the Chicago World’s Fair, she spoke out in support of a Jewish women’s organization that would seek to improve social conditions all over the United States. As a result, the NCJW was created. This organization focused on helping people in need, especially women and children. Under Hannah’s leadership, the NCJW helped convince local leaders to pass new laws, such as those for better housing, establishing the first free public nursery school and creating public playgrounds for children.
I also researched Hannah’s close friends, who were important women of the time: Jane Addams and Susan B. Anthony. She developed a settlement house based on the model of Jane Adams’s Hull House. She marched with the suffragettes along with Susan B Anthony.
A major theme in my book is that every person can make a difference and Hannah exemplified this throughout her life. She never gave up, even when confronted with obstacles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bonnie Lindauer loves reading picture books and writing both picture books and middle grade novels. She’s a member of the NCJW-SF section, an amateur cellist and lover of the outdoors. After this debut biography of Hannah G. Solomon, she is working on a graphic novel and picture book of Laura Margolis, know as the savior of Shanghai. Bonnie lives in San Francisco with her husband. and their senior dog Archie. She volunteers for Muttville, a senior dog rescue and for the Bayshore Elementary School as a reading tutor.
Author website and Social Media links:
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