|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
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.
Photos courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tempe.