As detailed in the new book Hannah G. Solomon Dared to Make a Difference, Hannah Greenebaum Solomon was born in Chicago in 1858. Her father, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, was a volunteer firefighter and founder of the city’s first Reform synagogue. Her mother made clothes for the poor through her work with the Jewish Ladies Sewing Society. Her parents taught Hannah “that everyone deserved freedom and respect” and even helped a runaway slave seek freedom. Because of her work with her sister in the Chicago Women’s Club, Hannah was appointed to organize events for Jewish women during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She invited prominent women from around the country to speak about important women’s issues like education, equality, poverty, and aid to immigrants. The events were so successful that Hannah launched the National Council of Jewish Women and was elected its first president. Under her leadership, the NCJW lobbied for new laws for affordable housing, public nursery schools, public playgrounds, and free meals for school children.
Illustrator Sofia Moore’s detailed, full color paintings bring to life the people, places, and events of Chicago in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and beautifully complement the inspiring and informative text. Lindauer does an excellent job providing historical context for events like the end of the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, and the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. She also introduces readers to other significant Chicago institutions, such as Jane Addams’ Hull House and the Maxwell Street Settlement House. An author’s note with additional information about Hannah Solomon, as well as the Hull House, is appended along with a timeline.
Parents, teachers, and librarians may wish to pair this book with other picture book biographies such as The Key from Spain by Debbie Levy, Goldie Takes a Stand by Barbara Krasner, Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, and Emma’s Poem by Linda Glaser, as well as No Truth Without Ruth by Kathleen Krull, to celebrate the many noteworthy contributions of Jewish women in America.
Rachel Kamin is the Director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Rachel is currently the co-editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter. She holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan.