Sophie Masloff

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Sophie Masloff
56th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
May 6, 1988 – January 3, 1994
Preceded by Richard Caliguiri
Succeeded by Tom Murphy
President of the Pittsburgh City Council
In office
January 4, 1988[1] – May 6, 1988
Preceded by Ben Woods
Succeeded by Ben Woods (Acting)[a]
Member of the Pittsburgh City Council
In office
April 27, 1976 – May 6, 1988
Preceded by Amy Ballinger
Succeeded by Duane Darkins
Personal details
Born (1917-12-23) December 23, 1917 (age 96)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jack Masloff
m. 1939–1991 (his death)[2]
a.^ As the Council's President Pro Tempore, Woods declared himself Acting Council President following Masloff's ascension to the office of Mayor.[3]

Sophie Masloff (born December 23, 1917) is an American politician. A long-time member of the Democratic Party and civil servant, she was elected to the Pittsburgh City Council and later served as the mayor of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 1994. She was the first woman and the first Jew to hold that office.[4]

Early life[edit]

Masloff was born Sophie Friedman on December 23, 1917[5] to Romanian Jewish parents Jennie and Louis Friedman in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father died when she was two years old. She spoke only Yiddish until she began attending elementary school.[5] She graduated from Fifth Avenue High School in 1935, and began a job as clerk in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in 1938, where she stayed for 38 years.[5][6]

Political career[edit]

Masloff began working as a civil servant in Pittsburgh government at the age of 18 and continued working for the city until she was elected to Pittsburgh city council in 1976.

City council[edit]

During her time on council, she was elected City Council President. As one of two females on council in the 1970s she was often witness to Councilwoman Michelle Madoff's colorful arguments. After a years long fight by Madoff to have the one restroom that was available to City Council at the Pittsburgh City Hall redesigned to be used in a uni-sex fashion Masloff was invited to a "toilet party" by Madoff to celebrate her success. Masloff did not attend, later commenting to the press: "What the hell do I care about her toilet? I got more important things to do."[7]

When Pittsburgh mayor Richard Caliguiri died in office on May 6, 1988, the city charter dictated that the city council president was next in line to assume the office of mayor.

Pittsburgh mayor[edit]

Masloff assumed the mayor's office, and served out the remainder of Caliguiri's 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."[8]

  • 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.

Electoral history[edit]

Retirement and other achievements[edit]

Masloff declined to run for a second full term in the 1993 election and retired to her home in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 1994.

After stepping down as mayor, she has served as a Presidential Elector for Pennsylvania in 1996 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Pennsylvania in 2000 and 2004.

In 2007, a street near PNC Park was named Sophie Masloff Way in honor of Masloff at her 90th birthday.[6]

On September 13, 2011 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was on hand at the Pittsburgh Zoo as a seal was named for Masloff.[9]


  1. ^ "The choice is Sophie". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 7, 1988. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Mayor's husband dies of heart failure". Pittsburgh Press. June 2, 1991. p. A1. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Pittsburgh Council Embroiled in Power Play". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 14, 1988. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ Belsie, Laurent (May 9, 1988). "Pittsburgh's first woman mayor fills in during transition". Christian Science Monitor. p. 7. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Brown, David M. (December 23, 2007). "Masloff, 90, recalls a life less ordinary". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Naccarelli, Sean (March 25, 2010). "Let's Talk About: Mayor Sophie Masloff". Retrieved August 15, 2010. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ O'Neill, Brian (February 7, 2010). "How's The Who? Not right for us - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  9. ^ Majors, Dan (August 9, 2011). "A sea lion named Sophie? It's a natural - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Caliguiri
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
Tom Murphy
Pittsburgh City Council
Preceded by
Ben Woods
President of the Pittsburgh City Council
Succeeded by
Ben Woods1
Preceded by
Amy Ballinger
Member of the Pittsburgh City Council
Succeeded by
Duane Darkins
Notes and references
1. As the Council's President Pro Tempore, Woods declared himself Acting Council President following Masloff's ascension to the office of Mayor