Christine Marin, Ph.D.

Trailblazers 2011

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Mary Rose Wilcox

Mary Rose Wilcox with husband Earl Wilcox signing a Chase Field I-beam during construction. Photo courtesy of Mary Rose Wilcox

Mary Rose Wilcox takes great pride in her mining-town roots of Superior, Arizona.

Her family has been a source of inspiration: her grandfather Juan Garrido was a miner with the Magma Copper Co. He died at the young age of 47 from silicosis, the lung disease common among those working underground. Her father John worked to form a labor union to negotiate for fair wages for mine workers and end the pervasive discrimination so common in his community.

Mary Rose also looked to her mother Betty for encouragement. She volunteered with numerous organizations and the Catholic Church to help those in need; she also served on the Superior Historical Society and as a Girl Scout troop leader. Her dedication to the community became a path her daughter would follow.

Mary Rose left Superior to pursue a degree in social work from Arizona State University. At the time, she wanted to “save the world.” Little did she know then she would make history by becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Phoenix City Council (1983 – 1993) and on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (1993 – present), blazing the trail for other women and community-minded leaders.

Like many of her peers at the time, she was inspired by Cesar Chavez and the civil rights movement. Soon after arriving at ASU, she married Earl Wilcox who, like her, wanted to contribute to the greater good. Earl would eventually become a state legislator and justice of the peace.

Mary Rose’s career began in the 1970s, developing job training programs for the poor for an initiative administered by the Department of Labor. Her work caught the attention of then Sen. Dennis DeConcini, and she joined his staff as a caseworker. She later became his special assistant and liaison with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Throughout the years, Mary Rose has faced numerous adversaries who sought to topple her from her position. She has proven to be a fearless opponent and a savvy, well-heeled political adversary.

She serves on numerous boards and commissions and has achieved national recognition for her path-breaking work with organizations such as the Hispanic Women’s Corporation, the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, among many others.

Mary Rose Wilcox is a civil rights advocate, a community leader, an entrepreneur, yet she likes reminding people that two of her most fulfilling roles are that of mother to Yvonne, and wife to Earl, her life and business partner.

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