Sarah Wilkinson came from a middle-class family and attended the Emma Willard School in Troy. After the death of her father she left home and married her childhood sweetheart Oliver Filley. They spent the next four years in the Philippines, in China and Japan, where her husband worked as an engineer. They returned to New York in 1908 where she started work as a theatre critic with the New York Tribune and as a freelance contributor to the National Geographic Society. At this time she changed her name to Solita Solano.
In 1919 Solano got to know the journalist Janet Flanner in Greenwich Village with whom she started a relationship. In 1921 they travelled to Greece, where Janet was to work on a report for the "National Geographic" on Constantinople. Solano had three books published, and as they were not very successful, returned to journalism. In the following year they travelled to France. In Paris they joined the intellectuel-lesbian circles of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Natalie Clifford Barney, Romaine Brooks and Djuna Barnes. In 1929 Solano had an affair with Margaret Anderson, founder of The Little Review, who had come to Paris with her lover, French singer Georgette Leblanc. The affair lasted several years, though Anderson remained living with Leblanc.
A few years later Solano left Flanner after Flanner started an affair with Natalia Danesi Murray; meanwhile Solano fell in love with Elizabeth Jenks Clark. Margaret Anderson got to know Clark through Solano after Clark returned to the US. Clark and Solano became Anderson's closest friends, although Anderson had in the meantime fallen in love with Dorothy Caruso, widow of the singer Enrico Caruso.
During the 1930s and 40s, Solano studied with G. I. Gurdjieff, and for a while acted as his secretary. She was a member of a key Gurdjieff group known as “The Rope,” to which Jane Heap, Margaret Anderson, and Kathryn Hulme also belonged. After Gurdjieff’s death in 1949, Solano became the focal point for members of The Rope until her own death. Her notes of Gurdjieff’s meetings with The Rope are a remarkable record of his personality and method.
After the war Solano returned to France, where she died at the age of 87.
- Elizabeth Jenks Clark Collection of Margaret Anderson
- Baker, Rob. "No Harem. Gurdjieff and the Women of The Rope." Gurdjieff International Review (http://www.gurdjieff.org/rope.htm)
- Berenice Abbott: Portrait of Solita Solano, Parasol Press, Ltd. (1981)
- William Patrick Patterson: Ladies of the Rope: Gurdjieff's Special Left Bank Women's Group, Arete Pubns (1998) ISBN 1-879514-41-9
- Andrea Weiss: Paris war eine Frau, Rowohlt (1998) ISBN 3-499-22257-4
- Gabriele Griffin: Who's Who in Lesbian and Gay and Writing, Routledge, London (2002)