Rosalind Poll Brooker (1928-2016) was a trailblazer for women in the fields of law and politics. In spite of polio and post-polio syndrome, Rosalind overcame every obstacle to become a tenacious lawyer and dedicated public servant. After her 1969 election to New Bedford’s City Council, Rosalind stated, “I’m not going down in history, I’m going up.” Rosalind rose up throughout her life and brought other women up with her.
Rosalind Poll Brooker (1928-2016) was born in Fall River to Anna and Israel Poll on September 28, 1928, but she is New Bedford’s daughter. Rosalind’s life in New Bedford was filled with firsts, as she became the first woman elected to its City Council, later to become its first female president. She also was the first female City Solicitor. The Poll family moved to New Bedford when Rosalind was very young, and Rosalind attended the Mt. Pleasant School and New Bedford High School. Despite contracting polio at age two and post-polio syndrome later, Rosalind fought through her physical challenges and excelled in school. Rosalind graduated from New Bedford High School in 1946, where she had been a member of the Honor Society, the Student Council, the French Club, the Debating Team and president of the Debating Society.
Rosalind graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1952, and she returned to New Bedford to practice law. Rosalind began her life of public service in 1969 when she was elected as a member of the New Bedford City Council. Although she was passed over on her first turn to be City Council president, Rosalind became its president when her turn came up next. Her colleagues have described her as tough, kind, fair and tenacious.
Mayor John Bullard appointed Rosalind as New Bedford’s City Solicitor. Bullard stated, “As a city councilor she had a strong personality. She was a great lawyer and a dynamic person. I was happy to appoint her as the first woman City Solicitor.” Rosalind became active in Republican Party politics beyond the local level, and was a confidant to Republican state and national politicians, including U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. Governor Francis Sargent appointed her as Administrative Law Judge and Governor Michael Dukakis reappointed her to that position. In 2005, a new public meeting room on the third floor of New Bedford City Hall was named in her honor.
Rosalind was a trailblazer for women in the fields of law and politics. Former New Bedford City Solicitor Irene Schall remembered Rosalind as an intelligent leader committed to advancing women attorneys. Rosalind Poll Brooker overcame every obstacle, whether physical or gender-based, to make her community a better place. On a daily basis, she practiced her favorite saying, “You fall down, you get up, you achieve.”
Rosalind was married to Samuel S. Brooker and had three children. She moved to Naples, Florida in her retirement and lived there for 28 years. Rosalind died on October 16, 2016, in Naples. She is buried at Tifereth Israel Cemetery in Dartmouth. Days after her 1969 election to New Bedford’s City Council, Rosalind stated, “I’m not going down in history, I’m going up.” Rosalind rose up throughout her life and brought other women up with her.
Learn more about Rosalind Poll Brooker in this story that is part of the digital exhibit Organizing New Bedford: Women Who Mobilized Change.
Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Research Fellow
Carvalho, Jonathan. “Three SouthCoast Women Reflect on Being ‘First’.” SouthCoast Today, 27 Mar. 2014, http://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20140327/NEWS/403270372.
The Crimson Log. New Bedford High School, June 1946.
“Rosalind Poll Brooker, 88.” SouthCoast Today, 17 Oct. 2016, http://www.southcoasttoday.com/obituaries/20161017/rosalind-poll-brooker-88.
Urbon, Steve. “Rosalind Poll Brooker Remembered as Tough, Smart, Fair.” SouthCoast Today, 18 Oct. 2016, http://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20161018/rosalind-poll-brooker-remembered-as-tough-smart-fair.