Polly Rosenbaum

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Drachman, Sally
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Freestanding Bench

There was only one Polly; virtually no one would argue to the contrary.' ̱Rose Mofford

Edwynne Cutler Rosenbaum, nicknamed Polly due to the resemblance with the optimist Pollyanna, was an educator as well as a legislator. Her behind-the-scene efforts as an advocate for education, historic preservation, and the recognition of women make Polly Rosenbaum a legendary figure in Arizona's history.

Polly Cutler was born in Ollie, Iowa, on September 4, 1899. Originally, she had ended up in the mining town of Hayden to teach typing, shorthand, history and civics. She arrived in Tucson in 1929 in search of adventure, full of her usual exuberance. Due to Depression Era economics, she was laid off and found a job as a secretary at the Inspiration Copper Company. In1939 she was lent out to the Arizona State Legislature. While working there, she met William G. 'Rosie' Rosenbaum, a state legislator from Globe, and they married the same year. After his untimely death at age sixty of a heart attack in 1949, she assumed his seat in the legislative, finishing his term and running for office herself. As a conservative Democrat, she strived to be bipartisan. She once said, 'My husband taught me that you must respect the other person's viewpoint, even if it is different than yours.' Polly served forty-six successful years in the Arizona State Legislature becoming the longest serving member of the House.

Among many of her accomplishments, Polly chaired the House Administration Committee for sixteen years, successfully passed a bill to provide education for homebound students, and from 1973 to 1995, served as Speaker Pro Tem on the legislature's opening day. She advocated for the Arizona Mineral Museum, preservation of the Evans House, renovation of the Carnegie and State Capital buildings, as well as for the construction of a new State Archives Building. Polly also challenged sex discrimination in 1968, when she and seven other women lawmakers edited the Arizona State Constitution to eliminate the word 'male' as a requirement for becoming an elected state official. Former Governor Rose Mofford, co-worker and friend, spoke highly of Polly asserting, 'She brings a lot of wisdom, sincerity and years of experience to the Legislature.'

One of Polly's greatest contributions to women was the establishment of the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame. She believed the state should honor the women who had built Arizona's libraries, schools, and other community institutions. In an interview, she stated, 'The things these women have done to make this stateÌÐThe women really won the West, not the men. The women are the ones who got the libraries and worked for the schools.' Additionally, she was involved with the Women's Plaza of Honor, speaking at the First Women's Studies Advisory Council Extraordinary Women's Luncheon in 2001.

Polly's achievements were well recognized: 'Woman of the Year' in 1974, 'First Lady of the Arizona Legislature' in 1982, 'Arizona Historymakers' in 1997, which are just a few among the many honors. She also was awarded honorary degrees from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University.

Rose Mofford fondly remembers Polly as escape artist, 'When Polly was executive secretary for a savings and loan office in Globe, it was housed in the Tonto Hotel building. One day Polly went to the storeroom at the back of the building. The door locked behind her and she could not get out. Pounding and yelling did not bring help, so she piled up boxes to climb on and crawled through the transom above the door to the Army Recruiting Office next door. She returned to her office covered with dirt and very disheveled. Her approach to her colleagues was ÌÇYou didn't hear me. You didn't even miss me.''

Living for 104 amazing years, Polly died in Phoenix on December 27, 2003 remaining active right up till the end of her life. Although she never had any children, she looked over the state of Arizona as though it were her own family for more than seventy years. Her astonishing life is reflected in her abservation, 'Your attitude means everything. If you think you can do something, you can.'

Written by: Nettie Silleck, April 2007