Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Dianne Feinstein

(1933 - )

Dianne Feinstein is an astute politician who has successfully climbed the ladder of elective offices in San Francisco and California in general. She was the first woman elected U.S. Senator from California, (1992), the first woman to be elected president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, (1969), the first woman to be mayor of San Francisco, (1978), the first woman to be considered for selection as the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party, and the first woman to be nominated as governor by a major party in California.  Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were the first pair of women to be elected together to the United States Senate from the same state in 1992. The two were also the first Jewish female members of the U.S. Senate.  

Dianne Feinstein was born on June 23, 1933, in San Francisco, the oldest of three daughters of Betty and Leon Goldman. Her father was a nationally known surgeon who was a professor at the University of California. She received a B.S. degree in history in 1955 from Stanford University. While going to college, she modeled clothes on television for her uncle Morris Goldman, a clothing manufacturer.

Her first election campaign was at Stanford University when she successfully ran for vice-president of the student body.  

Feinstein began working in the California district attorney's office and she met Jack Berman, a prosecutor. After a short courtship, they were married on December 2, 1956. Three years later they were divorced and she was left with her daughter, Katherine Anne, born on July 31, 1957.

After deciding that politics was her forte, she was appointed by Governor Brown to a membership on the Board of Trust of the California Institution for Women which was later changed to California Women's Board of Terms and Parole, which regulated the prison terms and parole conditions for women convicts.

She resigned from her position on the Board of Terms and Parole to spend more time with her husband Bertram Feinstein, a neurosurgeon, and her daughter. In 1969, she was elected to the board of supervisors and receiving the highest vote which automatically elected her to be president of the board for a two year term. Feinstein held this position for a number of terms and on the morning of November 27, 1978, she was planning to announce her retirement from political life when she received the news that Mayor George Moscone had been fatally shot. Feinstein immediately became the acting mayor. It was during this year that her husband died.

She finished her term as acting mayor and then won the election for mayor in 1979. The law allowed only two terms as mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein left office in 1988. She married Richard C. Blum, an investment banker, on January 20, 1980, who helped support her losing campaign for governor as candidate of the Democratic Party.

Dianne Feinstein set her sights on winning the senate vacancy created when Pete Wilson vacated this position to become governor of California. She easily defeated John Seymour in a special election in 1992. Two years later, she edged out Michael Huffington, a millionaire Republican congressman from Santa Barbara for a full six year term.  Feinstein was re-elected in 2012 with 62.5% of the vote. 

Dianne Feinstein has demonstrated that Jewish women can achieve politically in a male dominated sexist society if they work hard at it.

Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.