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!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • 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.