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Pittsburgh’s First Jewish Mayor Dies at 96

Sophie Masloff, elected in 1988, was also the city’s first female leader

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Then-Councilwoman Sophie Masloff at a subway groundbreaking ceremony on October 11, 1981.(From the Collections of the Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)

Sophie Masloff, the first Jewish major of Pittsburgh, died Sunday at the age of 96, JTA reports.

Born to Romanian Jewish immigrants in a Yiddish-speaking home, Masloff worked as a county court clerk for 30 years and was elected to City Council in 1976. She later became its president and, in 1988, when she was 70, assumed the role of mayor following the death of then-mayor Richard Caliguiri. As Pittsburgh’s 56th mayor, she was the city’s first female and first Jewish leader. She served through 1994.

According to the AP, Masloff is survived by a daughter, a granddaughter, a grandson, a great-granddaughter and a niece. Her husband Jack died during her time as mayor.

Masloff was known for her honesty and sense of humor, and the AP recalls some of her most legendary comments:

When Bill Clinton was trying to stir up support in his 1992 presidential campaign, he telephoned the mayor to let her know he was coming to Pittsburgh. She was not convinced that the caller was Clinton and told him, “Right, and I’m the Queen of Sheba.”

She described followers of the rock band Grateful Dead as “Deadenders,” rather than Deadheads, and mangled rocker Bruce Springsteen’s name to “Bruce Bedsprings.”

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Pittsburgh’s First Jewish Mayor Dies at 96

Sophie Masloff, elected in 1988, was also the city’s first female leader

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