Rebecca Solnit

b. June 24, 1961

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Rebecca Solnit until we are able to commission a full entry.

Feminist writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit, 2020. Photograph by Trent Davis Bailey.

Rebecca Solnit’s experiences of sexism became the inspiration for both her 2014 book Men Explain Things to Me and the popular term “mansplaining.” Miserable at school, Solnit took a GED in tenth grade, began studying at a junior college, then studied in Paris before graduating from San Francisco State University. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984 and began her writing career, becoming a frequent contributor to the Guardian and Harper’s Magazine. She published her first book, Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era, in 1990, and as of 2023 has written twenty books and collaborated on several more. Solnit and her books have won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for her 2004 book River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction for Call Them By Their True Names: American Crises, and the 2019 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize in Nonfiction. At a cocktail party, a stranger who heard she had just written a book on Muybridge proceeded to lecture her about an important book written on the subject, completely unaware it was her own work. The incident sparked Solnit’s 2008 essay and 2014 collection discussing what would later be called mansplaining and gaslighting. Her most recent book as of 2023 is Waking Beauty. Alongside Solnit’s writing career, she has worked as an activist for environmentalism, women’s rights, and human rights. In 2023, she launched the climate project Not Too Late with Thelma Young Lutunatabua, an effort to distribute climate information and resources to spur individual hope and change. 


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rebecca Solnit." (Viewed on April 24, 2024) <>.