As the visionary founder of the National Council of Jewish Women, Hannah Greenebaum Solomon spent her lifetime organizing communities to work cooperatively for social good.
Solomon and her sister, Henriette Frank, were very active in Chicago social clubs and organizations, and were the first Jewish members of the Chicago Women’s Club. In 1890, Solomon was asked to organize a nationwide Jewish Women’s Congress as part of the World’s Fair. The Congress became the National Council of Jewish Women, to teach all Jewish women their obligations to their faith and to the community. Solomon was the Council’s first president, encouraging local chapters to be founded nationwide. She was also involved in creating the Council of Women of the United States. In 1904, Solomon journeyed to Berlin with her friend and fellow suffragist Susan B. Anthony for a convention of the International Council of Women.
Solomon was a lifelong activist in Chicago, working with Jane Addams at Hull House, advocating for reform and improvements in child welfare, reforming the Illinois Industrial School for Girls, and even involving herself in improving the city’s waste disposal systems. She established penny lunch stations in the public schools, and placed the first probation officers for juvenile delinquents in the courts. During World War I, she was chairperson of all Chicago City ward leaders, dealing successfully with the city’s forty different nationalities to coordinate war efforts. She also worked for slum clearance, low cost housing, child labor laws, mothers” pensions and public health measures.
Today, the National Council of Jewish Women is the oldest active Jewish women’s volunteer organization in America. It stands as a living testimony to the vision of its activist founder, as well as the positive energy organized women can exert for the good of the larger community.