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ROSE S. SILVER

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Birth Date: 1908
Birth Place: Vienna, Austria
Passed Away: 1994

Honored By

Donor names:   Sara Cohen
Naomi Karp
Date submitted: April 4, 2008
Gift: Arch with Seating
Location on plaza map: A1
Areas of Achievement: Education, Law, Family, Public Service
 
Women Lawyers ~ Women Leaders Arch

In 1918, Rose emigrated from Austria to Detroit to join her parents, who had emigrated earlier and opened a few clothing stores. Rose was well traveled at the time and instantly excelled at school, especially in debating. She won every debate award Detroit had to offer. She graduated from high school early but still a semester later than planned, because her debating coach convinced her father to let her stay an extra semester for an important inter-scholastic debate. She was chairman of her high school’s student council and met her future husband, James Silver, while monitoring the halls. They became friends and studied together: the already brilliant Rose tutored James and cured him of stuttering, and he drew her biology assignments for her. Their relationship reached a critical point when James needed to move to Tucson to seek out experimental treatment for tuberculosis. Rose and some of James’ family moved to Tucson in 1927. While others around him in the sanatorium were dying, the weather and special lung treatments at Saint Mary’s Hospital cured James.

Rose knew she would be a lawyer before she graduated from high school. Her father dropped her off at a library when she was a teenager and asked her to read all she could about bankruptcy to help him. She did. The judge she spoke to granted a continuance so her father would not have to declare bankruptcy. She had dreams of becoming a history teacher, but her father insisted on law school.She was admitted to a law school in Detroit, but had to leave that school to move to Tucson with James. When she tried to get into the University of Arizona’s law school, the dean of the law school hesitated at first saying that she was taking the place of a man who needed the job to earn a living. She was eventually admitted, was the only women in her class, and graduated second in her class. She was also one of the first women to pass the bar in Arizona and perhaps the only woman to practice law in 1931. After graduating, the dean called Rose into his office to tell her he had misjudged her and tried to compliment her by saying she thought like a man. Rose had a hand-typed index card in her files that read: "Any woman who aspires to be equal to a man has low expectations."

Even with the credentials Rose had coming out of law school, she had trouble finding a job. At one firm, they were willing to hire her, but told her “…but what would we do with you as a lawyer? A woman lawyer? We would have to put you somewhere in the back room where the public couldn’t see you.” She turned down that position. Because Rose had taught bar-review courses at her home, her husband was able to take and pass the bar without attending law school. They opened their own office together, and as Rose states “worked very well together.” Word of mouth about Rose’s quick legal mind, focus on ethics, and her and her husband’s sheer kindness brought them more and more clients.

A major shift occurred in Rose’s legal career when she joined the Pima County Attorney’s office in 1964. In 1969, Rose became the first woman County Attorney in Arizona. In 1972 the County Board of Supervisors made her the head of the Civil Division in Pima County. Rose was not only known as one of the sharpest legal minds, but she also she also was know for her ethics and service on ethics committees. In the 1990’s “Rose Silver Day” was declared in Tucson to recognize all of her achievements.

In addition to her legal work, Rose was a model of public service and dedication to her family. If Rose Silver had a single personal motto it might have been “do and be the best you can.” But like most comparisons ‘best’ is a relative term. She focused on her family and their needs, so to Rose, “best” always meant what was best for her family. She proved this by earning “Mother of the Year” in 1960. She was proud to see each of her five children finish college and become professionals. Her service went beyond her family and legal work: her fabulous speaking voice and love of reading led her to record audiotapes for the blind. She was also a coveted speaker for N.O.W, the Urban League, the YWCA, and many local classrooms.

Her dedication to learning was at times as unconventional as her flamboyant hats and shoes. Her daughters tell the story of when they were taken out of the classroom to watch a trial that their mother thought was important for them to see. Their principal demanded her daughters make up the actual time missed because they had been taken out of the learning environment. Rose’s response was to demand back “what makes you think learning only takes place in your four walls?” As usual, Rose won.

Information Sources:
Sources: Sara Cohen; Naomi Karp, Interview with Rose Silver (interviewer, Mary Melcher), available at the University of Arizona College of Law Library

Prepared by: Lyn Stewart-Hunter, University of Arizona Rogers College of Law (Class of 2010)