Then and Now: Dynamic duo who paved the feminist path

This Mother’s Day, let us celebrate the matriarchs who not only achieved great things but who successfully passed down their passion and courage to their daughters. I don’t mean Sarah, Rachel, Leah and Rebecca, but Hannah and Selina — the intergenerational duo who transformed the possibilities for women in the Bay Area and beyond.

Selina Solomons’ classic suffragist manual

German-born Hannah Marks Solomons (1835–1909) moved to San Francisco for an arranged marriage, but after arriving decided against it and started teaching, eventually becoming the only female school principal in San Francisco. She went on to found the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union of San Francisco, and was president of the Ladies Fair Association of Temple Emanu-El.

She eventually married community leader Gershom Mendes Seixas Solomons, and one of her seven children, Selina Solomons (1862–1942), became a leading suffragist. She founded the Votes for Women Club near Union Square and was instrumental in passing California’s Eighth Amendment in 1911, granting women the right to vote almost a decade before the 19th Amendment became national law. She is best known today for her classic manual “How We Won the Vote in California.”

This column is provided to j. by Daniel Schifrin, writer-in-residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where stories of local Jewish life are explored in “California Dreaming: Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present.”

Dan Schifrin
Dan Schifrin

Daniel Schifrin, a local teacher and writer, is writing a play about medieval Jewish Spain as a LABA Fellow at the JCC East Bay.