Born in Haymount Kelso to an unsuccessful ‘gentleman
farmer’ George Thomson and Margaret Scott from
Melrose. Georgiana had to earn her living as a teacher.
Her parents had connections with the Rev. Andrew Murray
(Dutch Reformed Church) in Cape Town. He had been
active in women’s education and planned to establish
a school, the Good Hope Seminary, for the higher
education of girls in Cape Town. In 1873, Georgiana was
invited to become lady principal.
Georgiana met and married Saul Solomon (1817-1892) – she was 29 and he 56. He was proprietor of the Cape Argus, a member of the legislative assembly for Cape Town and a noted liberal and philanthropist. Solomon emphasised racial equality between black and white, where other liberals pressed for legal and constitutional equality. Through the Solomon extended family, Georgiana became a member of a circle of educated, enlightened and politically active women at the Cape (including Olive Shreiner author of Story of an African Farm). A deeply committed Christian, Georgiana was active in the temperance and purity movements. In 1888, Saul’s health broke down following the death by drowning of their elder daughter and the family returned to Britain. Saul died in 1892. Georgiana wrote a book of poems Echo of Two little Voices.
Now resident in England, Georgiana revisited South Africa and was involved in the women’s suffrage movement, which emerged there in 1902 at the end of the South African War. It was non-militant taking the form of ‘welfare feminism’. She collaborated with General Louis Botha’s wife Annie, to form the Suid-Afrikaanse Vrouefederasie (SAVF) which embraced reconciliation between Boers and British and aided Boer families devastated by the War. Back in England she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union and in 1909 led a deputation to the House of Commons, but was unable to meet Prime Minister Asquith.
On 18th November 1910, she was brutally assaulted by the police during a further deputation to the Commons, which left her invalided for a while. In March 1912 she and daughter Daisy served one month’s imprisonment in Holloway gaol, for breaking 7 small windows in the office of Black Rod at the House of Lords. She remained active in the purity movement, a member of the Women’s Freedom League and was a vicepresident of the Free Church League for Women’s Suffrage as well as Honorary president of the SAVF.
She was appalled by the Act of Union in South Africa, which failed to extend suffrage to black men. She lobbied against the 1913 Land Act which deprived Africans of the right to own land in South Africa. She believed that it was England which was promoting the colour bar, stultifying development and increasing the ‘miseries and perils’ of black women. Looked after by Daisy, she died in Eastbourne aged 88.
Find out about the contribution people from Kelso have made through the ages. Biographies of characters with Kelso connections who have made their mark throughout the world.View Storyboard: Georgiana Margaret Solomon