Sisterhood Blog

Throwback Thursday: Jewish Congresswoman from Utah

By Chana Pollack

  • Print
  • Share Share

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

Florence Prag Kahn, the first Jewish woman to serve in Congress, was a pioneer in many ways. She was born in 1866 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents were Polish Jewish immigrants who were friends of Mormon leader Brigham Young. Her mother chronicled the family’s unique experiences in her memoir, “My Life Among the Mormons.”

Her family made a fortune selling supplies to miners, but its wealth declined with the end of the gold rush. In 1869, her family moved to San Francisco where she graduated from the San Francisco Girls’ High School (her mother taught there) and later from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1899, she married newly elected Congressman Julius Kahn, a Republican. He served for 26 years until he died, at which point Kahn, also a Republican, was elected to replace him.

She soon became known as a politician who “gets things done.” She also had a keen sense of humor. Asked once if she supported birth control, she reportedly quipped “I will if you make it retroactive.” She was reelected to five more terms, and it was through Kahn’s highly productive 12 years of service in Congress that the San Francisco area saw the building of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, among other projects. An active Reform Jew, member of Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women, Kahn felt strongly about her Jewish identity. She even referenced it when speaking in Congress. In a speech before the House on the reapportionment issue — that is, the changing around congressional seats based on the census — she claimed to have no problem with it because “Moses had conducted the world’s first census.”

She supported citizenship for Chinese women and foreign born children of U.S. mothers, which was an innovation at the time (father’s had to be a U.S. citizen prior) and advocated payments to Native American tribes whose land had been taken unfairly. Though she worked for Hebert Hoover’s reelection against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt praised Kahn and sent her an open invitation to the White House. Kahn’s fast paced schedule did not prevent her from traveling throughout California encouraging women to get interested in politics.

Photo credit Forward Association

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jewish, Florence Prag Kahn, Congress, Mormons, Utah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.