July 12, 2019

Senate Decades Series – 1970s Senator Rosalie Silber Abrams

A standing committee chair, a majority leader, and a cabinet secretary; Rosalie Silber Abrams left a mark in Annapolis previously unseen by any woman before her. The first female and the first Jewish Majority Leader of the Maryland Senate, Abrams was a clear and strong leader for the Maryland Senate in the 1970s.

Born in 1916, Rosalie Silber Abrams grew up in the roaring 1920s as the child of bakery owners Ike and Dora Silber. In the bakery, she learned firsthand the value of hard work as her family built the renowned East Baltimore institution that was Silber’s Bakery. Famous for their breads and cookies, the bakery would flourish and teach Rosalie lessons that she would take with her throughout her life.

As Rosalie reached adulthood, she would pursue higher education that would result in her graduating from the Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. Thanks to this training, she would foster a lifelong interest in healthcare. She would go on to serve her country as a nurse in the United States Navy thus beginning a lifelong dedication to the service of her country and her state.

Following her brief military service, Rosalie would return home to marry and to raise a family with her husband William Abrams. The two would welcome a daughter (Elizabeth) in 1954, and Rosalie would focus her complete attention on the welfare of her family. As her young family matured, she would soon decide to pursue a new avenue for service.

At the age of 50, Abrams decided to again answer the call to service that she had felt throughout her life. She would run and be elected to represent Northwest Baltimore in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1966. Just four short years later, she would be elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1970. Known for her dedication to healthcare reform, women’s rights, and environmental issues, Abrams brought a unique background to the Maryland General Assembly and that background gave her a keen ability to navigate the intricacies of the political process.

Abrams would leave the Maryland Senate in 1983 upon her appointment as the Director of the State Office of Aging by then Governor (and former Senate Majority Leader) Harry Hughes. Abrams truly thrived in the position and would serve three Maryland Governors (Hughes, Schaefer, and Glendenning) until her retirement in 1996. In 1999, she would receive the prestigious Maryland Senate First Citizen Award presented by Maryland’s Senate President. Abrams life and legacy endures today and someone who helped guide the Maryland Senate through the decade of transition and sometimes tumult that was the 1970s.