Pelosi helps honor first Jewish congresswoman


What does the first female Speaker of the House have in common with the first female Jewish member of Congress? They both represented the same congressional district.

While the district’s boundaries aren’t exactly the same some 80 years later, Nancy Pelosi today represents the same general area of San Francisco that Florence Kahn did from 1925-1937. And Pelosi was on hand Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol, joining Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to unveil a portrait of Kahn as part of the celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month.

"For personal, San Francisco-wide and national reasons, this is indeed a great cause for celebration to honor Florence Kahn and to unveil this," said Pelosi, noting that Kahn represented the district during the building of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pelosi also told the crowd how much she loved a San Franciso park named after Kahn’s husband, Julius.

"I always said that apart from my own home and probably this Capitol now, I spent more time at Julius Kahn playground with my five children," she said.

Kahn, a Republican, took over Julius’ seat in California’s Fourth District in 1925 after he died in office and was the seventh woman to serve in Congress. She was the first woman to serve on the Military Affairs — now the Armed Services — Committee and the Appropriations Committee. In recognition of the latter achievement, current Appropriatons Committee chairman Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) and Appropriations subcomittee chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) both gave brief speeches as well.

"Florence Kahn was a trailblazer and pioneer," Obey said.

Wasserman Schultz, who spearheaded legislation recognizing JAHM four years ago, pointed out a quote from Kahn that summed up how she felt about being a woman when politics was almost exclusively a man’s world: "There is no sex in citizenship, and there should be none in politics."

The placement of Kahn’s portrait in the Capitol, which features her in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, is still to be determined.

Tuesday was a big day for Jewish American Heritage Month: After the Tuesday afternoon ceremony unveiling the Kahn portait, most of those in attendance trooped over to the new Capitol Visitors Center for a reception celebrating the month sponsored by UJC/Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago — which had its annual Washington advocacy day on Tuesday.

Wasserman Schultz spoke at that event too, as well as Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), among others.

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