The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Hannah Marks Solomons


by Ava F. Kahn

Educator and civic worker Hannah Marks Solomons. Courtesy of the Jewish Museum of the American West.

In Brief

Hannah Marks Solomons was born in Bromburg, Germany in 1935 to Polish immigrants en route to the United States. The family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. However, the children were soon orphaned, and Hannah was raised by her uncle and aunt, David and Judith Solis-Cohen, in Philadelphia. Hannah moved to California in 1853 for an arranged marriage, but decided against entering a loveless union and lived in a kosher boardinghouse. She began teaching at Temple Emanu-El and at a public elementary school, and eventually became the youngest and only woman principal in San Francisco. She was one of the founders and president of the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union of San Francisco and a leading member of the Jewish community.

Early Life and Education

Hannah Marks Solomons was an influential San Francisco educator and civic worker, as well as the wife of a leading member of the Jewish community.

She was born in Bromberg, Germany, on September 29, 1835, to Gertrude and Lewis Fleishman, who were en route from Poland to the United States, where they changed their name to Marks. The family, including three-year-old brother Bernhard, settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Lewis worked as a furrier. However, the children were soon orphaned, and Hannah was raised by her uncle and aunt, David and Judith Solis-Cohen, in Philadelphia. In 1852, Bernhard joined the California gold rush, becoming in succession a merchant, miner, teacher, school principal, and farmer.

Marriage and Career

In 1862, Hannah married Gershom Mendes Seixas Solomons. Born in 1828 to Selina and Lucius Levy Solomons, he was an heir of the well-known Sephardi family; his maternal grandfather, Gershom Mendes Seixas, participated in the 1789 inauguration of George Washington. Seixas Solomons came to San Francisco in 1852. Highly respected, he was a founding member of many Jewish organizations, the secretary of Congregation Emanu-El, an accountant, and a journalist. They had seven children: Selina (b. 1862) became a writer and advocate for woman suffrage; Lucius Levy (b. 1863) became a lawyer and public speaker; Gertrude Marks (b. 1866) died at a young age; Adele Rosa (b. 1868) became a doctor; Theodore Seixas (b. 1870) became an explorer and journalist; Leon Mendes (b. 1873) became a scholar; Frank Benjamin (b. 1875) died as an infant. When the marriage failed, possibly due to Gershom’s alcoholism, Hannah was forced to support the family. She returned to teaching in the public schools and at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.

Community Involvement and Legacy

Admired for her community involvement, Solomons was president of the Ladies Fair Association of Temple Emanu-El (1868, the first Jewish fair in San Francisco), one of the founders and president of the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union of San Francisco, and the representative of San Francisco’s Jewish women at an 1888 meeting to decide if women should be allowed on the Board of Education.

Hannah Marks Solomons died on August 4, 1909. Her independence and her accomplishments as an educator and mother were amplified in the West, where family support was limited. Although Judaism had been important to her for most of her life, in her later years she became a follower of Theosophy.


“Noted Educator Passes Away.” Emanu-El, August 13, 1909, 10

Rochlin, Harriet, and Fred Rochlin. Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West (1984)

Sargent, Shirley. Solomons of the Sierra (1989); Seixas Family Genealogy. Archives. Western Jewish History Center, Berkeley, Calif.

Solis-Cohen, J., Jr., ed. “A California Pioneer: Bernhard Marks.” PAJHS 44 (1954): 12–57

Stern, Norton B., and William M. Kramer. “The Historical Recovery of the Pioneer Sephardic Jews of California.” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 8 (1975): 3–25

Voorsanger, Jacob. “Leon Mendez Solomons (1873–1900).” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 10 (1978): 138–145.

Have an update or correction? Let us know


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Kahn, Ava F.. "Hannah Marks Solomons." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 31 December 1999. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 30, 2023) <>.