Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein (June 22, 1933 – September 29, 2023) was an American politician who served as a United States Senator from California for 31 years, from 1992 until her passing in 2023. As a member of the Democratic Party, she had also served as the Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988.
Early Life and Education
Born Dianne Emiel Goldman in San Francisco, Feinstein was the daughter of Leon Goldman, a renowned surgeon, and Betty Rosenburg, a former model. She graduated from Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in 1951 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Stanford University in 1955. Despite a challenging family life marked by her mother’s unpredictable moods and alleged abusiveness, Feinstein forged ahead in her educational pursuits.
Early Political Career
Feinstein began her political journey as a fellow at the Coro Foundation in San Francisco in 1955. In 1960, Governor Pat Brown appointed her to the California Women’s Parole Board, where she served until 1966.
San Francisco Politics
Board of Supervisors
In 1969, Feinstein was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, serving for nine years. She made two unsuccessful attempts at the mayoral office during this period. Despite these setbacks and even a bombing attempt on her home by the New World Liberation Front, Feinstein persevered.
Her chance to lead came unexpectedly in 1978 when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated. As the first female president of the Board of Supervisors, Feinstein succeeded Moscone, becoming the city’s first female mayor. She was instrumental in renovating the city’s cable car system and presided over the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Her effective leadership even earned her the title of the most effective mayor in the country by City & State in 1987.
U.S. Senate Career
After losing a race for governor in 1990, Feinstein was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election in 1992, becoming California’s first female U.S. Senator. Soon after, she became the state’s senior senator when Alan Cranston retired. Feinstein was re-elected five times and garnered a record 7.86 million votes in the 2012 election.
Committees and Legislation
Feinstein was a legislative powerhouse, authoring the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban and chairing the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She was also the first woman to preside over a U.S. presidential inauguration.
Feinstein announced in February 2023 that she would not seek reelection in 2024. As she aged and her health declined, there were growing concerns about her fitness to serve. She passed away in office on September 29, 2023, at the age of 90.
Feinstein was a trailblazer in many respects: the oldest sitting U.S. senator at the time of her death, the longest-serving U.S. senator from California, and the longest-tenured female senator in history. Her contributions to American politics and her pioneering spirit have left an indelible mark on the nation’s history.