Sophie Masloff, 1917 – 2014

December 23, 1917: In Pittsburgh, PA, Jennie and Louis Friedman gave birth to Sophie Friedman who gained fame as Sophie Masloff, the first woman and the first Jew to serve as Mayor of Pittsburgh.

As City Council President, Masloff assumed the mayor’s office on May 6, 1988 when the Pittsburgh mayor Richard Caliguiri died in office and she served out the remainder of his term. She was reelected in November 1989. She was the first woman and the first Jew to hold the post.  She once referred to the rock band The Who as “The How,” among many other rehearsed malapropisms.

  • Masloff’s administration was forced to deal with problems such as urban decay, a shrinking industrial sector, and crumbling infrastructure.
  • She was the first public figure to suggest that the city’s baseball and football teams each have their own stadiums. Her vision was eventually implemented years after she left office. The success of retro-style ballparks such as Cleveland’s Jacobs Field and Baltimore’s Camden Yards eventually led to the building of PNC Park and of Heinz Field, a separate football stadium.
  • Masloff made fiscal responsibility the centerpiece of her term in office. During her administration, she privatized numerous costly city assets including the Pittsburgh Zoo, the National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory, and the Schenley Park Golf Course. She and the city council were sued by city controller Tom Flaherty for cutting $506,000 from his 1992 budget.

Pictured today is a 1938 U.S. postage stamp of George Washington bearing a Pittsburgh, PA precancel.

pittsburgh precancel - USA 1938

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