Polly Rosenbaum Dead At 104

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Until her death Sunday, 104-year-old Edwynn Cutler "Polly" Rosenbaum was Gila County's former legislative superwoman.

As Arizona's longest-serving legislator, she spent nearly half her life in office trying to give a voice to her sparsely populated district before losing an election for the first time at age 95.

"Down through the years, the rural counties felt like they were sort of stepchildren to Maricopa and Pima counties, which kind of ran the politics," state historian Marshall Trimble said. "Polly was steadfast with making sure Gila County and Pinal County got their fair share."

With a flair for hard work, improving education, and preserving state history, the Iowa-born Democrat spent most of her life in the political arena.

She worked across partisan lines to even up a welfare health care package that overcharged Gila County, Dist. 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen said.

She won authorization to allow voters to decide on certain sales taxes for their respective counties that improved road conditions, Christensen added.

"She had the bulldog type of tenacity," he said. "When she got her teeth into something, she hung on until she got success from it."

Born Sept. 4, 1899 in Ollie, Iowa, Rosenbaum received her bachelor's degree in political science and history from the University of Colorado in 1922.

After teaching in Colorado, she moved to Hayden in 1929 and married Rep. William G. "Rosie" Rosenbaum 10 years later.

After a decade, her husband died and Rosenbaum took over his House seat where she stayed for the next 46 years.

"Polly was very much a minority (as a woman in office), but she was a hardworking person and respected by her peers," Trimble said. "With Polly it was her open honesty; if she disagreed she would look you in the eye and let you know."

And Rosenbaum fought hard for her rural constituency, putting people above party politics, said House Speaker Jake Flake (R-Snowflake), whose Eastern Arizona district encompasses Rosenbaum's former district.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of this great Arizonan," Flake said. "Polly was a true statesman who put her constituents first. She understood effective policymaking was about people, not partisanship."

And Gila County was no different.

"She took our message on many rural issues to the capital on ranching, grazing and forest issues," Payson Mayor Ken Murphy said. "We didn't usually win too many down there when it comes to the city of Phoenix versus rural Arizona, but she did a good job of influencing a lot of things at the capital."

It was after a seven-county district expansion in 1994 that Rosenbaum, at age 95, lost her winning streak.

"Because of her age, she wasn't able to spend as much time on the road," Trimble said. "People said she was just too old, and her body might have failed her a little bit but she was just as smart as she could be right up until the end."

But being ousted from the legislature didn't stop Rosenbaum from supporting education, libraries and Arizona history.

She began the Polly Rosenbaum Writing Contest for seventh- through 12th-graders and she critiqued the essays.

Famous for memorizing her speeches she gave in the House, friends say it was Rosenbaum's body, not her mind, that gave out in the end.

"I always felt safe when she was driving her car, even when she was 100," said friend and Payson resident Marguerite Noble, 93. "She was a capable woman who stepped in when her husband was gone."

Rosenbaum died Sunday after a brief illness, according to friends, and services will be kept private.

"She set some extremely high standards and I don't think they have been met yet by our representatives, but I think it's something for them to achieve," Christensen said.

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