Sophie Masloff

Sophie Masloff (née Friedman; December 23, 1917 – August 17, 2014) was 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]

Sophie Masloff
56th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
May 6, 1988  January 3, 1994
Preceded byRichard Caliguiri
Succeeded byTom Murphy
President of the Pittsburgh City Council
In office
January 4, 1988[1]  May 6, 1988
Preceded byBen Woods
Succeeded byBen Woods (Acting)[a]
Member of the Pittsburgh City Council
In office
April 27, 1976  May 6, 1988
Preceded byAmy Ballinger
Succeeded byDuane Darkins
Personal details
Sophie Friedman

(1917-12-23)December 23, 1917
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedAugust 17, 2014(2014-08-17) (aged 96)
Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic
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]

Early life

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.[6] 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][7]

Political career

City council

Masloff was elected to the Pittsburgh City Council in 1976. 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."[8]

In January 1988, Masloff was elected president of the city council. Just four months later, mayor Richard Caliguiri died in office on May 6, 1988. According to the city charter, the city council president stood first in the line of succession, so Masloff automatically became mayor.

Pittsburgh mayor

Masloff served out the remainder of Caliguiri's term, and was unopposed in a bid for a full term in November 1989. She was the first woman and the first Jew to hold the post.[9] She once referred to the rock band The Who as "The How,"[10] among many other rehearsed malapropisms.[11]

  • 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.[12][13]

Electoral history

Retirement and other achievements

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.[14] She also appeared in advertisements for Bruegger's and Schneider's Dairy.[15]

In 2007 a street near PNC Park was named Sophie Masloff Way in honor of Masloff at her 90th birthday.[7] On September 13, 2011 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was on hand at the Pittsburgh Zoo as a seal was named for Masloff.[16] Masloff died of natural causes on the morning of August 17, 2014, at the Center for Compassionate Care in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.[17][18]

A new fireboat, acquired for Pittsburgh's fire department in 2017, was named in honor of Masloff.[19]


  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. Brown, David M. (December 23, 2007). "Masloff, 90, recalls a life less ordinary". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  6. McFadden, Robert D. (August 17, 2014). "Sophie Masloff, Ex-Mayor of Pittsburgh, Dies at 96". New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  7. Naccarelli, Sean (March 25, 2010). "Let's Talk About: Mayor Sophie Masloff". Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  8. Hritz, Tom (April 8, 1980). "Madoff's Crusade Opens Council's 'John' to Mary". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 17, 2014 via Google News.
  9. Smith, Craig (February 13, 2011). "Masloff in hospital, reported as 'alert'". TribLive. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  10. O'Neill, Brian (February 7, 2010). "How's The Who? Not right for us". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. "Colorful Sophie maintained her popularity through tough times". Beaver County Times. Google News. January 2, 1994. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  12. Walsh, Lawrence (February 19, 1992). "Flaherty budget not singled out, mayor says". The Pittsburgh Press. Google News. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  13. O'Neill, Brian (February 19, 1992). "Masloff-speak:Art of saying little about not much". The Pittsburgh Press. Google News. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  14. "Sophie Masloff at the Political Graveyard". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  15. "Ex-mayor lauding vales of bagels, milk". Herald-Journal. Google News. January 20, 1999. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  16. Majors, Dan (August 9, 2011). "A sea lion named Sophie? It's a natural". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  17. "Death claims former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 17, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  18. "Former Mayor Sophie Masloff Dies At 96". CBS Pittsburgh. August 17, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  19. Bob Bauder (August 3, 2017). "Pittsburgh's new fire boat is powerful enough to spray a bridge fire". Tribune Live. Retrieved August 3, 2017. Mayor Bill Peduto named the boat to honor the late Sophie Masloff, the city's only female mayor and a former city councilwoman from Squirrel Hill. 'A boat should always be named after a woman, and there's no greater woman who was a leader for city government than Mayor Masloff,' Peduto said. 'There really wasn't any question, if we were naming it for a woman, which woman we should name it for.'

Further reading

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
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