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Margaret Adams Rockwell  (b. 1890, d. 1982)
Margaret Adams Rockwell Adams Hotel
Margaret Adams Rockwell owned and ran the Adams Hotel at 50 E. Adams St. in downtown Phoenix, considered the central meeting place for Arizona's politicians. She also became involved in politics, leading the Republican Woman's Club, serving as Arizona's Republican national committeewoman and, by running for Congress, she earned the unofficial title of "Mrs. Republican."

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Politics and Government & Women at Work

Margaret Adams was born in Illinois but moved to Arizona in 1894 with her parents. Her father, John C. Adams, a prominent businessman, built the Adams Hotel on Central Avenue and Adams Street and served as mayor of Phoenix in the 1890s. At that time, Phoenix was still a small town where a young Maggie could ride her pony by herself, hunting rabbits on the main streets. She grew up in the hotel, which was frequented by distinguished visitors like writer James Fenimore Cooper, as well as national political figures like presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and U.S. President William McKinley. With its reputation for the best food and whiskey in the Southwest, the hotel also became the primary meeting place for local politicians.

In 1912, Maggie married a young Yale University graduate, Foster Rockwell, and the couple divided their time between Phoenix and Long Island, N.Y., raising two children, John and Elizabeth, until Maggie's father died in 1932. They then took over full-time management of the Adams Hotel. Raising a family and running a business kept Margaret Rockwell busy until 1944, when she decided to make use of her political knowledge gleaned at the hotel over the years and enter politics.

Early Arizona politics was dominated by Democrats, so Margaret Adams Rockwell was primarily charged with building and holding together a weak Republican Party. As a leader of the Maricopa County Republican Woman's Club in the 1940s, she registered voters and encouraged candidates to run for office at a time when very few candidates could be found to challenge Democrats. She was selected Republican National Committeewoman from 1948-1956, and worked to promote a group of activists known as the Young Republicans, which included future U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle, and U.S. Rep. John Rhodes. She also served on the national Republican executive committee. In 1944, the party drafted her to run for the U.S. Congress, and her platform included support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Although she viewed herself as a "sacrificial lamb," with no chance for victory, she was the first woman nominated by the GOP in Arizona to run for Congress. Both of her children, John and Elizabeth, helped run the Adams Hotel, and her grandson Jack Adams also worked there. Today, Wyndham owns what was once the Adams Hotel. Daughter Elizabeth, better known as Betty, served for 23 years as a representative from Maricopa County in the Arizona House of Representatives.

For more information: Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883-1950 by Heidi Osselaer.

Photo Credits:
Photos courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tempe.

 

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