|Polly Rosenbaum was honored by her colleagues in 1982 with the title "First Lady of the Arizona Legislature" for her long tenure in state government. She served forty-five years as a representative from Gila County and, during her tenure at the state legislature, worked under 12 governors and 15 House speakers.
Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Politics and Government, Women in Historic Preservation
|Born Edwynne Cutler in Iowa in 1899, Polly earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science at the University of Colorado, and was awarded a master's degree in education by the University of Southern California in 1929. That same year she moved to Arizona to take a teaching job in the mining town of Hayden. During the Great Depression, she supplemented her income by securing a secretarial position at the state capitol in Phoenix, where she met and, in 1939, married Gila County Representative William "Rosey" Rosenbaum who would later become Speaker of the House. After Rosey's death in 1949, Polly assumed his seat in the legislature and kept that office until 1994, the longest serving member of the Arizona State legislature.
During her long career in state politics, Polly championed many causes, focusing especially on education, recognizing women's contributions to their communities, public libraries and historic preservation.
As chairman of the House Education Committee, she created legislation to provide schooling for homebound children. She felt the state should pay more attention to women because, she said, "The women really won the West, not the men. The women are the ones who got the libraries and worked for the schools." In 1968 Polly and seven other female members of the House combed through the Arizona Constitution to eliminate discriminatory language based on gender. She also helped originate the Women's Plaza of Honor in Tucson as well as the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame.
While teaching in Hayden, Polly discovered the town had no library, so she worked to ensure the state's rural areas were served by a library system. She helped develop Arizona's community college system and advocated for the renovation of Phoenix's Carnegie Library and the Arizona State Capitol Building. She led the fight to acquire a permanent home for the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum and for years urged construction of a state archives building.
Fittingly, when the state's new archives building opened in 2008, it was named for the woman who had done so much to preserve state history, the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building. It is located at 1901 W. Madison Street in Phoenix. The building is open to researchers. Call for hours.
For more information: http://www.lib.az.us/awhof/women/rosenbaum.cfm
Polly Rosenbaum - Courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Record, Archives Division, 01-9451