When Hannah G. Solomon (1858–1942), a white Jewish woman, is asked to help organize events for Jewish women during what is now known as the Chicago World’s Fair, she is both nervous and excited to make a difference. Throughout her childhood, Solomon’s parents had been pillars of their community and supporters of freedom and kindness, helping formerly enslaved people evade capture and opening their home to unhoused people after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As Lindauer clearly explains, this environment places Solomon on the path to involvement with the conference, where she gathers “America’s outstanding Jewish women” to discuss education and liberty, and forms the National Council of Jewish Women. Moore’s distinctive illustrations have a nostalgic, multilayered quality, overlaying patterns and textures with a fine-lined, majority light-skinned cast and watercolor-and-ink spreads. Solomon’s lifelong dedication toward uplifting marginalized people, especially women and children, will inspire. Back matter features author’s notes, photographs, and a timeline. Ages 5–10. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
The 1893 Columbian Exposition - better known today as the Chicago World’s Fair - introduced many inventions and innovations, including electric lamps and the Ferris wheel. It was also the birthplace of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), thanks to the efforts of Hannah Greenebaum Solomon. Born to German immigrant parents in 1858, young Hannah grew up encouraged to treat all people with respect and to help those less fortunate than herself. Her parents set the example, working to aid new immigrants, impoverished families, and people fleeing slavery. In the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Hannah’s parents opened their home to those who had lost theirs. As an adult, Hannah was among the first Jewish women admitted to the Chicago Women’s Club. Her community service work attracted the attention of the World’s Fair organizers, who asked her to plan some activities for Jewish women. The committee planning activities for Jewish men turned her away, so she decided to “show them what a woman can do!” She invited notable Jewish women from across America to speak on important issues. From this conference, the NCJW was founded, with Hannah G. Solomon as its first president. Throughout her life, Solomon fought the notion that women should be nothing more than wives and mothers. She advocated for women and children, working with the NCJW, Hull House, the Maxwell Street Settlement House, and the women’s suffrage movement. Lindauer packs many of Solomon’s achievements into clear, concise paragraphs infused with admiration and respect for her subject. While no citations are given for quotations within the text, they are presumably from Solomon’s autobiography, which Lindauer notes was a primary source in her research. The back matter includes an author’s note, photographs of Solomon and Hull House, and a timeline. Moore’s dynamic illustrations use bright color and line to create a layered effect. Soft black line-sketched backgrounds and abundant white space center richly-colored foreground figures throughout the text. A double-page spread accompanying Hannah’s memory of the Great Chicago Fire is an exception: gray smoke and orange flame fill the space behind the details of buildings and people. The illustrations are rich with period details bringing nineteenth-century Chicago to life, from the horse-drawn fire truck to the ladies’ fashionable dresses. Jewish life is also highlighted in images of the Greenebaum family gathered around the Shabbat dinner table, a menorah on a fireplace mantel, and young boys wearing yarmulkes. This engaging, informative biography casts a well-deserved spotlight on a Jewish woman who achieved much, but is not well-known today. It should be read widely.
Even as a child, Hannah Greenebaum knew she was destined to spend her life helping those in need.
Her parents were responsible for many milestones in Chicago’s Jewish community, including the founding of the first Reform synagogue. Her father also helped new immigrants find jobs and was instrumental in aiding runaway slaves. Her mother started a Jewish women’s sewing group that made clothes for the poor. As an adult Hannah was the first Jewish woman admitted to the Chicago Women’s Club. She fought tirelessly for women’s advancements against male domination both within Orthodox Judaism and in the general society. From a conference of Jewish women that she organized came the National Council of Jewish Women, an organization that worked directly with people in need and pushed for new laws to address poverty, housing, and education. She also expanded her activism to the women’s suffrage movement. Lindauer presents Solomon’s groundbreaking accomplishments in clear, concise language with great admiration, stressing her persistence and determination. Statements attributed to Solomon seem to be based on her remembrances, presumably from her memoir or archived papers as mentioned on the copyright page, but no sources are cited specifically. Many of Moore’s illustrations have a 3-D effect with black-line sketched backgrounds from which brightly colored foregrounds and people emerge. Solomon mostly appears as a part of groups, with little seen of her emotions or facial expressions. Her spouse, Henry Solomon, appears only in the closing timeline.
An interesting, informative account of a little-known woman of great achievement. (photos, author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)