Birthday: April 9, 1936
Died At Age: 52
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Valerie Jean Solanas
Born Country: United States
Born in: Ventnor City, New Jersey, United States
Famous as: Author
father: Louis Solanas
mother: Dorothy Marie Biondo
children: David Blackwell
Died on: April 25, 1988
place of death: San Francisco, California, United States
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
U.S. State: New Jersey
education: University Of Maryland, University of Minnesota
Who was Valerie Solanas?
Valerie Solanas was an American radical feminist and a writer who is most known for authoring the SCUM Manifesto and for trying to kill Andy Warhol – one of the most recognized and popular artists of America. In the SCUM Manifesto, which she self-published in 1967, she called for the complete elimination of the male sex and creation of an ideal society of women. She had hoped that Warhol would produce her play Up Your Ass; however, Warhol found the manuscript objectionable and ended up misplacing it. Frustrated and convinced that Warhol and Girodias – the publisher of Olympia Press who signed her to write for him – wanted to steal her work, she shot and critically injured Warhol. Later, she surrendered herself and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was sentenced to three years in prison including treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
Childhood & Early Life
Valerie Jean Solanas was born on 9th April 1936, in Ventnor City, New Jersey as the first child of Louis Solanas – a bartender – and Dorothy Marie Biond – a dental assistant. The couple had another daughter named Judith Arlene Solanas Martinez.
As per Valerie Solanas, her father abused her sexually. Her parents separated while she was still very young and her mother went on to remarry soon. Valerie though, never liked her stepfather and by the time she reached adolescence, she had begun rebelling against her mother too.
In school, she skipped classes, beat up a boy and also hit a nun. Due to her rebellious nature, her mother pulled her out from her school and sent her away to stay with her grandparents. She was thirteen years old then.
According to Valerie Solanas, her grandfather was a violent and alcoholic man who frequently beat her. A couple of years later, she left her grandparents residence and became a homeless.
By 1953, she had given birth to two children, both of whom were raised by someone else.
She completed her high school education in 1954 and went on to obtain a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland. Here, she hosted a radical feminist radio advice show and also came out as a lesbian.
Thereafter, in 1958 she joined the grad school at the University of Minnesota for a Masters programme in Psychology but dropped out the following year. She felt that there was nothing for women and all the research places were meant for men.
Following this, she joined Berkeley to do some courses. It was here that she started working on her SCUM Manifesto.
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Her Work & Attack on Andy Warhol
In the early 1960s, fascinated by the bohemian lifestyle of the artists, poets and musicians of the New York’s Greenwich Village, Valerie Solanas moved to the city.
In 1966, her autobiographical short story A Young Girl's Primer on How to Attain the Leisure Class was published in the Cavalier, a playboy-style magazine started by Fawcett Publication in 1952.
Simultaneously, she also wrote a play called Up Your Ass. She approached Andy Warhol to produce it; however, he found it too outrageous and told her that he had misplaced it.
Instead, he offered her a role in his film I, a Man (1967) and paid her $25 for it. The same year Valerie Solanas made an appearance in yet another of Warhol's film Bikeboy.
In 1967 again, she self-published her most known work the SCUM Manifesto in which she called for a complete elimination of the male sex and formation of an ideal society of women.
The work was seen by some as a radical feminist call to arms while for others, it was an attempt at satire meant to draw attention.
By this time, she had also come to know the founder of Olympia Press, Maurice Girodias. In 1967, the two entered into an informal contract according to which Solanas was supposed to write for the latter. She also received $500 in advance for the work. However, she had come to believe that Girodias and Warhol – who had still not returned the script of her play – were conspiring together to steal her work.
On 3 June 1968, Valerie Solanas went to Andy Warhol’s new office at 33 Union Square West and shot him and Mario Amaya, a London art critic with a .32 Beretta. She also made an unsuccessful attempt to shoot Warhol's manager.
Mario Amaya was not badly hurt, but Warhol was hit in both his lungs, spleen, stomach, liver, and esophagus. He was quickly taken to Columbus–Mother Cabrini Hospital where he underwent various surgeries and was discharged after two months. As a result of the attack, he was required to wear a surgical corset throughout his life.
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The same day, hours after shooting Warhol, Valerie Solanas approached a policeman in Times Square and confessed her crime. She surrendered her.32 semi-automatic and.22 revolver and informed the police that Warhol ‘had too much control over my life’.
In the beginning of 1969, she went through psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Later that year, she was considered fit for the trial. In her trial, she pleaded guilty to the assault charges. She was given three years in prison including the time she had already spent. She eventually came out in 1971.
The incident drew national attention towards her and her work thereby increasing the sale of SCUM Manifesto. It also divided the mainstream feminist groups, some of who defended her while others condemned her.
After coming out of the prison, she worked as the editor for Majority Report: The Women’s Liberation Newsletter, a biweekly feminist publication for a year and half.
Her mental health deteriorated and she continued to threaten Warhol as well as others publishing figures and was therefore arrested again. Valerie Solanas was, later, once again sent to psychiatric care until 1975.
On April 25, 1988, the San Francisco police found her maggot- ridden dead body in her room in a Bristol Hotel. She had apparently died of pneumonia five days earlier.
In 1990, musicians Lou Reed and John Cale released their concept album – Songs for Drella – about Warhol and included a song – I Believe – about Solanas in it. Reed believed that Solanas was responsible for Warhol’s death two decades after the shooting incident.
In 1996, an American British independent film I Shot Andy Warhol directed by Mary Harron was released. It explored the relationship between Valerie Solanas and Warhol and the focussed on the assassination attempt on the latter. In the film Lili Taylor portrayed Solanas and received widespread appreciation for her work.
The script of Solanas’s play Up Your Ass was found in 1999 and turned into a musical the following year by George Coates Performance Works in San Francisco. The musical starred only female actors.
The story of three plays were based on her life. These include Valerie Shoots Andy (2001), Tragedy in Nine Lives (2003) and finally a musical Pop! (2011).
A semi-fictional novel – Drömfakulteten (The Dream Faculty) – about her, written by Swedish author and playwright Sara Stridsberg, came out in the year 2006 and won the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for its writer. In 2019, the book was published in English.
In 2017, she was featured in an episode of the seventh season of FX horror anthology series American Horror Story: Cult wherein she was depicted as the instigator of most of the Zodiac Killer murders.