Historical Highlights

Representative Florence Kahn of California

February 17, 1925
Representative Florence Kahn of California Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution At age 58, Florence Kahn of California became the first Jewish woman elected to Congress, and was re-elected with little opposition five times.
On this date, Florence Kahn of California won the special election to succeed her late husband Julius Kahn to the 69th Congress (1925–1927). In the contest for the San Francisco district, Kahn earned 48 percent of the vote against three opponents: Raymond Burr, H.W. Hutton, and Henry Claude Huck. Kahn eventually received prestigious committee assignments (including Military Affairs and Appropriations) during her House career, positions she gained because of her insider's knowledge of the institution. Her years as a political aide and adviser to her husband made her an unusually savvy freshman Member. “One of the things which I learned during twenty-five years as the wife of a Congressman is not to meet issues until they come up and not to talk too much,” Kahn told the International Herald Tribune. “So I am not going to say that I will do any particular thing except to represent my district the best I am able.” While she served in Congress, her district was the site of two simultaneous bridge projects in the 1930s, the Golden Gate, connecting San Francisco with the Marin headlands to the north, and the Bay Bridge, which connected the city to Oakland and the East Bay. Kahn’s political skill in helping to garner the funds necessary to initiate construction of the Bay Bridge particularly, paved the way for a substantial boost to the economic development of San Francisco and the surrounding areas of northern California.

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