She was one of the first women to practice law in Tucson. She once defended John Dillinger in a lawsuit and won. She fought to change laws she considered unfair, including search and seizure laws. She helped change Arizona adoption laws. She was the first female Pima County attorney.
With all of these achievements, what did Rose Sosnowsky Silver consider her greatest? Her answer was quoted in an article in the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1969: “My greatest lifelong achievement was not in a courtroom. It was in my marriage, my family and my home. There I’ve found my proudest day.”
Silver was born in Vienna and came to the United States at age 10. She came to Tucson in the late 1920s with her future husband, James Silver, and graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 1930.
She partnered with John L. Van Buskirk, who was shot in their office Oct. 1, 1946, and died several days later of his wounds. About that time, her husband passed the Arizona Bar and they became partners.
She was appointed to the staff of the Pima County Attorney’s Office in 1962, beginning the job in January 1963. Seven years later, she was appointed to the position of Pima County attorney by the Board of Supervisors, the first woman to hold the office. A year later, she was the first county attorney to be a great-grandmother.
She chose not to run for another term and became the legal adviser to the Board of Supervisors while at the same time she headed the civil division of the County Attorney’s Office under Dennis DeConcini. Ironically, the woman who pushed to change unfair laws was paid $7,000 a year less as legal adviser to the board than the man who preceded her. However, it was a $5,000 raise from her salary as county attorney.
She had hurdles to overcome as a female attorney in 1930, and even as a law student, but she overcame them all. She said, “As a professional woman, you have to be twice as good and twice as prepared,” according to an article in the Tucson Citizen in 1969.
She was proud to have been named Tucson’s Mother of the Year because she said it showed that she had done a good job as a mother even as she succeeded in her profession, according to an Arizona Republic article in 1974. We find conflicting stories as to the year she was honored but found a Tucson Daily Citizen article on the topic May 7, 1960.
She had five children and took 10 days off work for each of their births, having gone to the hospital from her office in most cases.
Her death in 1994 was noted by newspapers all over the United States.
But what about Dillinger? After he was captured in Tucson in 1934, he was served with a lawsuit by an insurance company. He asked for a female attorney.
Why is not known and, although still new at the job, Silver was the only female attorney in Tucson, so she took the case. She won and he paid her $1,500.
She also ended up with Dillinger’s blue Packard, which turned out to have submachine guns and other firearms hidden behind the seats. She had driven the car for two years before they were found.