Valerie Solanas (April 9th, 1936 – April 25th, 1988) was an American radical feminist, author of the SCUM Manifesto, and troubled individual. The Manifesto is one of the best known books in the radical feminist genre, but Solanas is best known for shooting Andy Warhol.
Born in New Jersey, Solanas had a turbulent upbringing, claiming her father regularly sexually abused her. Her parents divorced when she was young, but she also disliked her stepfather and soon descended into rebellion and truancy. After a difficult childhood, Solanas became homeless at fifteen, at seventeen she gave birth to a child who was removed from her care and adopted.
Despite this difficult start in life, Solanas was an intelligent young woman, graduated from high school on time and earned a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland. Here she hosted a call in radio show and gave out feminist advice on subjects such as how to combat pushy men. It was at this time she came out as a lesbian, despite the conservative climate of the 1950s. It was during this time she began writing the SCUM Manifesto, the work she is best known for.
By the 1960s the radical SCUM Manifesto was finished, but unable to find a publisher, Valerie Solanas self published the book in 1967. Unbeknown to many, Solanas was beginning to suffer mental health problems and it would be just one year later that she would shoot Andy Warhol, art critic Mario Amaya, and attempt to shoot Warhol’s manager in the head, before the gun jammed.
At the time of the shooting she claimed ‘Warhol had too much control on my life’ but by the time of the trial Solanas had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and served just three years in a psychiatric hospital. Sadly this event would mar her life and upon release would stalk Warhol again, leading to her frequent institutionalisation. From here she would disappear into obscurity, homelessness, and destitution before finally succumbing to pneumonia aged just 52.
While the SCUM Manifesto has come under some criticism, the book, which urged women to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and eliminate the male sex has been translated into dozens of languages and is excerpted in several feminist anthologies.