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Georgiana Solomon (nee Thompson)

Georgiana Margaret Solomon (nee Thomson) (1844 - 1933) was the wife and then widow of the prominent South African politician Saul Solomon, and also the co-founder of the South African Women’s Federation (Suid-Afrikaanse Vrouefederasie, SAVF). Georgiana Thomson was born and educated in Scotland but in 1873 was persuaded by Dr Charles Murray to take up the post of principal of the Good Hope Seminary for Girls in Cape Town. In 1874, she met and married Saul Solomon. In September 1881 their daughter Maggie and her governess Miss Martha Burton were tragically drowned. Partly as a result of this tragedy, the family travelled to England in 1883 and in 1888 settled there permanently. Saul Solomon died in 1892.

Georgiana Solomon was active in the pro-Boer movement in Britain during the South African War and after the war she travelled to South Africa where she spent time touring the ‘ruined areas’ and involving herself in rehabilitation and reconstruction work. Together with Annie Botha, wife of the Boer general and politician Louis Botha, she helped establish the SAVF in 1904. After her subsequent return to London she maintained her interest in South African affairs and was a member of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. She was an enthusiastic speaker and letter-writer and was involved in hosting members of various ‘native’ delegations which visited London between 1913 and 1919, and she acted as an important networker, particularly in relation to Solomon Plaatje.

Most of Schreiner’s extant letters to Georgiana Solomon take the form of postcards written while she was living in London between 1914 and 1920, and are centered on activities and arrangements concerning their common interest in the ‘native question’ and South African politics. Schreiner wrote to Solomon to obtain information about Solomon Plaatje’s whereabouts, and also arranged for him to meet with John Hodgson. She also clearly attended political meetings at Georgiana Solomon’s home, commenting in a 1919 letter for example, “Your gathering was most interesting. How well Platje and all the delegates spoke!” Despite their shared interest in race matters, Schreiner and Mrs Solomon clearly disagreed with one another regarding the First World War, and Schreiner was forced to remind Mrs Solomon that she was a pacifist, adding in a letter of 1914, “So we’d better not talk about the war, dear Mrs Solomon. I think when two people have so many things in common as you and I have, we need never refer to the things about which we don’t agree. Don't you think so? We can’t all think alike can we?” It is possible to discern from her letters to others that even on matters relating to South African politics Schreiner did not always agree with Mrs Solomon’s views or tactics; in a 1917 letter to Will Schreiner she referred to Mrs Solomon and John Hodgson as a “distressing pair”.

For further information see:
Elizabeth van Heyningen (2006) ‘Solomon, Georgiana Margaret (1844-1933)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/56252
T.C. Pienaar (1981) ‘Solomon, Georgiana Margaret’ in (ed) C.J. Beyers Dictionary of South African Biography Vol IV Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, pp. 590 - 591
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collection icon National Library of South Africa, Cape Town: Special Collections at the NLSA provide one of the leading locations for archival papers across many periods, organisations a... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon University of Cape Town, Historical Manuscripts: Manuscripts & Archives at the University of Cape Town is a leading location for accessing archival papers across many per... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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