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TJMHC honors legal pioneer in new exhibit

Rose Silver

A new exhibit, “Here at Our Sunset Gates: The Life and Legacy of Rose Silver,” has opened at the Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center (TJMHC).

Rose Sosnowski Silver was a Jewish immigrant from Vienna, Austria, who became the second woman to graduate from the University of Arizona College of Law. The exhibit title, “Here at Our Sunset Gates,” is inspired by the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Rose Silver had a long and distinguished legal career, including being the first woman to serve as a county attorney in Arizona. But her path to the legal profession was not smooth. Raised in Detroit, she began her studies at the University of Michigan law school. But when her fiancé, James Silver, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and advised to move to Tucson, she came with him and his family. She applied to the University of Arizona College of Law and was initially rejected because the dean of the college believed she would be “taking the place of a man.” She was later accepted into the program and completed her degree with high honors in 1930.

Even then, she had trouble finding a job with a law firm because of her gender. She began tutoring students who wanted to pass the bar exam, including her husband, and she and James set up a practice in 1935.

Her most famous early assignment was in defense of notorious bank robber John Dillinger after his arrest and capture in Tucson in 1932. Details of that case – and a wild story about the Packard car Dillinger gave her when he left Tucson – are part of the new exhibit, which will be on display through October 2022.

TJMHC open hours through May can be found here – advance registration is required. Over the summer, as TJMHC plans new exhibits, visits will be open by appointment only. Call 520-670-9073 or email [email protected].