Pittsburgh's First Female Mayor Dies

August 18, 2014

Sophie Masloff, who rose from a tax clerk to become Pittsburgh’s first female mayor, died Sunday. She was 96.

She died at an area nursing home, said Joseph Mistick, Masloff’s longtime friend and former top aide.

Masloff took office in May 1988 after the death of Richard S. Caliguiri, and she served until January 1994.

She good-naturedly described herself as an “old Jewish grandmother” and promised when she took office to be at work by 8 a.m. every day except Tuesdays when, she said, “I get my hair done.”

Her tenure was marked by two reductions in the city wage tax, a move designed to keep residents from fleeing to the suburbs, and a complete overhaul of a controversial disciplinary system for police officers.

Masloff faced enormous challenges when she took office because of the recent collapse of the steel industry, but Mistick recalled that she used a combination of humor and steely resolve to silence critics.

When angry citizens who opposed the reduction to the city wage tax filled a public meeting, Mistick said she walked in, stared the crowd down and said, “Shame on you. I did this for our children and grandchildren.”

Then she turned walked out of the room, to stunned silence.

The Masloff administration mounted an assault on the tax-exempt status of the city’s profitable hospitals and prodded banks to channel more loans into city neighborhoods, some of which were increasingly crime-ridden.

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