The First Jewish Woman in Congress


Her tenure might have started when her husband died, but she went on to win re-election five times, and to serve in Congress from 1925 to 1937. Meet Florence Prag Kahn: Republican from California, and the first Jewish woman to serve in United States Congress.

Born in Salt Lake City in 1866, Florence Prag went on to study at UCal Berkeley and to a career as a high school English and history teacher in San Francisco.  After she married, she served as her husband’s secretary during his three Congressional terms, and was his close adviser and confidante. So it came as no surprise that when she won the special election to office after his death, she was ready for the job.

Florence Prag Kahn’s position on women was complex. On one hand, she defended women’s right to hold political office—quoted as saying, “There is no sex in citizenship, and there should be none in politics.” On the other hand, she stood against women’s suffrage in her early years and never considered herself a feminist.

That’s probably not the only thing that differentiates her from Bella Abzug, often cited as the first Jewish woman in Congress, but who, obviously, wasn’t. Watch a short film about Bella Abzug, the second Jewish woman in Congress:


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