About Sofie Masloff (Friedman)
- Listen to interview Sofie Masloff's Oral History
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.
Masloff, who was 70 years old when she took office, was characterized by her short stature and raspy, nasal voice, along with her ability to speak Pittsburghese (the local dialect). These attributes were quickly caricatured by political cartoonists. Her image as a "little Jewish grandmother" made her a well liked figure, even by those who disagreed with her administration.
Masloff is best remembered for pop-culture malaprops. She once referred to Bruce Springsteen as "Bruce Bedspring". When the Grateful Dead came to Pittsburgh, she called them the "Dreadful Dead" and their fans "Deadenders". Perhaps most famously, she referred to the rock band The Who as "The How."
Masloff was born Sophie Friedman on December 23, 1917 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. 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.
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. During her time on council, she was elected City Council President.
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. Masloff assumed the 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.
Accomplishments in office
- ▪ 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.
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. In 2007, a street near PNC Park was named Sophie Masloff Way in honor of Masloff at her 90th birthday.
Sofie Masloff (Friedman)'s Timeline
December 23, 1917
Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA
Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA