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Rosalind Wiener Wyman

Thank her for the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman, ca. 1953

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman at the council table, ca. 1953. Photo from the L.A. Daily New Negatives at UCLA Digital Library and Creative Commons.

In 1953, when Rosalind Wiener Wyman was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council, she was, at age 22, the youngest person ever elected to Los Angeles City Council and only the second woman (see Estelle Lawton Lindsey) on the council. She was the first Jewish Los Angeles councilmember in more than half a century. She was also the lead player in bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

Wyman grew up in what is now Koreatown (her parents ran a pharmacy), graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1948. While attending USC, Wyman became bitten with the political bug at the USC Democratic Club and working with Harry Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign. It was California congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas who really inspired Wyman and Douglas’ 1950 senate campaign. Wyman’s first elected office was on the Democratic County Committee.

After graduating from USC in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in public administration, Wyman took a job as a recreation director, with plans to attend to law school. The following year, however, she launched a grassroots campaign for a seat on Los Angeles City Council. One of her campaign pledges was to work to bring a long-awaited professional sports team to Los Angeles, an achievement she believed would help raise the status of the rapidly-growing city and bring its far-flung communities together. She organized an army of college students to help her canvass her Westside L.A. and Wilshire area district. In the 1953 primary, she upset the political establishment by winning a runoff spot against older, established male opponents. She then went on to win 52 percent of her district’s vote to win the runoff election. The Los Angeles Times headline declared, “It’s a girl!”

Wyman lost no time in laying the groundwork for a professional sports team in for Los Angeles. A week after taking her seat on the council, she introduced a resolution to call on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission to permit a local baseball game in the Coliseum to demonstrate that professional baseball could be played in the venue. In 1955, after hearing of Walter O’Malley’s desire to move the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, she contacted him with her first pitch for Los Angeles. O’Malley was initially unenthusiastic about moving his team to California, but, over the following two years, Wyman persisted in selling him (even while pregnant with her first child) and city leaders on making Los Angeles the new home of the Dodgers. In a 2017 KPCC interview, she related that, when Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson suddenly put her on the telephone with Walter O’Malley to make one final pitch, all she could think of saying was, “Mr. O’Malley, you won’t have rain-outs.” The Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles the following year, becoming the first Major League Baseball team west of the Mississippi River.

Wyman won reelection to city council in 1957 and 1961 and was elected by fellow councilmembers to leadership roles on the council. Her tenure on the council, however, came to an end with her reelection defeat in 1965. Some saw her loss as blame for the awful evictions of Latino residents in Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodger Stadium. Others saw her loss resulting from the bitter animosity between her and conservative Mayor Sam Yorty.

Wyman had been married to attorney Eugene Wyman since 1954, himself influential in Democratic politics. After his death in 1975, she again sought to win a seat on the council, but lost that campaign to Zev Yaroslavsky. She also ran unsuccessfully for the Board of the Los Angeles Community College District.

In 1984, Wyman served as chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco and co-chaired the senatorial campaigns for Dianne Feinstein. She also worked as a motion picture executive and consultant to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. She was appointed to the UNESCO Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Wyman has continued to be active in Democratic politics through serving as a superdelegate in the 2016 Democratic National Convention.