Valerie Solanas Biography

Valerie Jean Solanas (April 9, 1936 – April 25, 1988) was an American radical feminist writer who is best known for her assassination attempt on artist Andy Warhol. Born in New Jersey, Solanas said that she was the victim of sexual abuse by her father; and, after her parents' divorce, she had a volatile relationship with her mother and stepfather as a teenager with her unruly behavior. As a consequence, she was sent to live with her grandparents. Her alcoholic grandfather physically abused her and Solanas ran away and became homeless. She came out as a lesbian in the 1950s. She graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. Solanas relocated to Berkeley, California. There, she began writing her most notable work, the SCUM Manifesto, which urged women to "overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex."

Solanas moved to New York City in the mid-1960s, working as a writer, beggar, and prostitute. She met Andy Warhol and asked Warhol to produce her play, Up Your Ass. She gave him her script, which he proceeded to lose, followed by Warhol expressing additional indifference to her play. After Solanas demanded financial compensation for the lost script, Warhol hired her to perform in his film, I, A Man, paying her $25.

In 1967, Solanas began self-publishing the SCUM Manifesto. Olympia Press owner Maurice Girodias offered to publish Solanas' future writings, and she understood the contract to mean that Girodias would own her writing. Convinced that Girodias and Warhol were conspiring to steal her work, Solanas purchased a gun in the spring of 1968. On June 3, she sought out Girodias, who was gone for the weekend. She then went to The Factory, where she found Warhol. She shot at Warhol three times, with the first two shots missing and the final wounding Warhol. She also shot art critic Mario Amaya, and attempted to shoot Warhol's manager, Fred Hughes, point blank, but the gun jammed. Solanas then turned herself in to the police. She was charged with attempted murder, assault, and illegal possession of a gun. She was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and pled guilty to "reckless assault with intent to harm", serving a three-year prison sentence, including psychiatric hospital time. After her release, she continued to promote the SCUM Manifesto. She died in 1988 of pneumonia, in San Francisco.