Florence Prag Kahn Becomes First Jewish Congresswoman, 1925
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
On This Day in Jewish History: March 4, 1925
On this day, in 1925, Florence Prag Kahn became the first Jewish woman to serve in the United States Congress. She served from 1925 to 1937, during which time she earned the respect of many of her colleagues. Kahn was born in 1866 in Salt Lake City, the daughter of Mary and Conrad Prag, who were both Polish Jews. Kahn was their oldest child; her younger brother died when he was ten. In Utah, her father sold supplies to miners who were searching for gold, but the family was eventually forced to relocate to California after his business failed. In California, Kahn’s mother taught at the same San Francisco high school that Kahn would eventually graduate from. Education (both Jewish and secular) was highly valued in Kahn’s household. In 1887, she graduated from the University of California, one of only seven women in her graduating class. Like her mother, she became a teacher, specifically working in high schools to teach both English and history. In March of 1899, she married Julius Kahn, who was an actor and politician. At the time of their marriage, Julius was a first-term U.S. representative. Florence helped her husband throughout his career; after he died in 1924, she ran for his then-vacant seat at the request of Republican Party officials. Upon winning the election, she became the first Jewish congresswoman, and only the fifth woman in Congress overall. Kahn served on a variety of committees throughout her political career, including the Military Affairs Committee (for which she was the first woman to participate on). Notably, Kahn was a staunch supporter of the F.B.I., and even became close friends with its director. She also firmly opposed Prohibition and worked to reduce the restrictions on alcohol sale imposed during that time, as she believed the government should not regulate virtues. In 1936, Kahn lost her bid for reelection. She participated in a variety of Jewish and women’s organizations after returning to civilian life. In 1948, Kahn died from heart disease. She is remembered for her wit, her support of women in government, and her sons: Julius Jr. and Conrad. May her memory be a blessing.