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Rosalind Wiener Wyman

b. 1930

by Amy Hill Shevitz

Rosalind Wiener Wyman was, in her words, “born a Democrat.” She was the youngest person ever elected to the Los Angeles City Council and one of the youngest elected officials of a major United States city.

She was born on October 4, 1930, in Los Angeles, the second child and only daughter of Oscar and Sarah (Selten) Wiener. Her mother, a significant role model, studied pharmacy at night during the Depression so she could share professional duties in the family drugstore with her pharmacist husband. Sarah and Oscar were avid New Deal Democrats, introducing their daughter to political life at an early age.

Rosalind Wiener Wyman graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1948 and the University of Southern California in 1952, with a B.S. in public administration. She became politically active in college, leading to the council nomination the year of her graduation. She was the first woman council member in thirty-seven years and the first Jew in fifty-three years.

In 1954, she married attorney Eugene Wyman, a graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School and fellow Democratic activist. Their children are Betty Lynn (b. 1958), Robert Alan (b. 1960), and Brad Hibbs (b. 1963).

While on the city council, Rosalind Wyman was the first female acting mayor, and she played a pivotal role in bringing the Dodgers baseball team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1957. Controversies over the arrangements contributed to Wyman’s defeat for a fourth term in 1965, as did the opposition of conservative Democratic mayor Sam Yorty.

After leaving office, Wyman continued her involvement in political and public affairs. She responded to her husband’s unexpected death in January 1973 by redoubling her political work. During the 1974 congressional campaigns, she became the first woman to head a major party’s fund-raising efforts. Popular with rank-and-file Democrats, she was chair and chief executive officer of the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, the first woman to fill this position for a major party. She has been a convention delegate every presidential year (except one) since 1952. Always interested in increasing political opportunities for women, Wyman cochaired the senatorial campaigns of Dianne Feinstein.

Wyman’s national appointments include the UNESCO Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was employed as a movie industry executive and consultant to Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley. She has been a board member of many arts, social services, educational and health organizations, and has received numerous awards.

Rosalind Wiener Wyman is a strong, even controversial, personality. Naming her Woman of the Year for 1958, the Los Angeles Times called her “not a namby-pamby, self-sacrificing, ‘unselfish’ woman—[but] a woman who believes people should have what they enjoy.” In addition to pioneering female activism in traditional party politics, she helped open the southern California political establishment to people, many Jewish, from the entertainment industry.

Wyman has received many Jewish community awards, chaired fund-raising events, and served on the board of American Friends of the Hebrew University. In harmony with her political commitments, Wyman’s deepest Jewish involvements have concerned intergroup relations. Vice-chair of the Community Relations Committee of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Council, Wyman has advocated Jewish community engagement with the widest range of civic affairs.

On July 8, 2003, the fiftieth anniversary of Wyman’s election to the Los Angeles City Council, Dianne Feinstein addressed the Senate, paying tribute to this “truly remarkable woman”: “For many years now, Roz has worked tirelessly, for her family and friends, for the City she loves, for the State of California, for the Democratic Party, and for women everywhere.”

Bibliography

Berges, Marshall. “Home Q & A: Rosalind Wyman.” Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1978, sec. 2C, p. 74+; Chall, Malca. “‘It’s a Girl’: Three Terms of the Los Angeles City Council, 1953–1965, Three Decades in the Democratic Party, 1948–1978.” Oral history. Transcript, Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; “A ‘Born Democrat’ Plans the Party.” NYTimes, July 16, 1984 (reprinted in NYTimes Biographical Service, 1984 ed., 1043–1044); Feinstein, Dianne. “A Tribute to Roz Wyman.” Congressional Record, July 8, 2003; Hicks, Cordell. “Woman of the Year: Rosalind Wyman, a Civic Force at 28.” LATimes, January 18, 1959, sec. 4, p. 1; Lewine, Frances. “Democrats Count on Rosalind.” LATimes, April 20, 1973, sec. 4, p. 13; Moore, Deborah Dash. To the Golden Cities (1994); Vils, Ursula. “Convention Chair Another in Life of Firsts.” LATimes, July 7, 1983, sec. 5, p. 1+; Who’s Who in American Politics, 13th ed. (1991); Who’s Who of American Women. 12th ed. (1981).

How to cite this page

Shevitz, Amy Hill. "Rosalind Wiener Wyman." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/wyman-rosalind-weiner>.

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