Thank you, Rosie

Rosie Perica Mofford


Rose Mofford, Governor of Arizona, 1988-1991
Rose Mofford, Governor of Arizona, 1988-1991

2020 marks the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States. We continue our series to recognize and honor leaders among Arizona women by expressing our thanks and appreciation to Rose Perica Mofford.

Born in 1922 to Austrian immigrants who settled in Globe, Arizona, the youngest of six children, Rose Perica Mofford never forgot her roots. Her father worked at the copper mine. Her mother ran a boarding house. Rose wanted to be a doctor, but the expensive education was out of reach for her family.

Globe High School
Globe High School

She was valedictorian and class president at Globe High School. As an athlete, she played basketball, golf, and tennis, but especially softball. She is in the softball hall of fame. Today there is Rose Mofford Sports Complex at 25th Avenue in Phoenix, a venue for softball, soccer, tennis, basketball, and volleyball which also includes a dog park. In her hometown of Globe, there is a Rose Mofford scholarship for students graduating from Globe High School. There is a Rose Mofford Way in Globe. A portion of Route 60 between Apache Junction and Globe is named the Rose Mofford Highway.

Her career as a public servant began when, as a teenager, she collected 1500 signatures on the nominating petition for Joe Hunt for State Treasurer. After winning the election in 1941, Hunt asked her to be his secretary. After her work with Hunt she worked as an assistant to Secretary of State Wesley Bolin for 22 years. Next, she worked at the Department of Revenue and for Arizona Highways. 

Arizona’s Constitutional provisions governing succession to office intervened to change Mofford’s career for the first time in 1977. Article 5, §6 states:


It began when Governor Raul Castro resigned to become the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, moving Secretary of State Wesley Bolin into the position of Governor. Governor Bolin, Mofford’s former boss, appointed Mofford Secretary of State.


Mofford ran successfully for election in 1978 and was re-elected in 1982 and 1986. Arizona’s Secretary of State’s office handles elections, lobbyists’ registration, many of Arizona’s official filings, trademarks and trade names, notary public commissions, the Uniform Commercial Code file of every secured loan in the state, rule-making records, and other publications. When Mofford became Secretary of State, it was all done by hand. She computerized the processes, after first insisting that the designer of the new computer system practice doing the work of every employee in the office. Every employee was cross-trained. She proudly reported that her changes resulted in faster public service.

During Mofford’s tenure as Secretary of State, the office was filled with her collections of Arizona treasures and culture. Her office housed her vast collections of Kachinas (now spelled Katsinas to better approximate the pronunciation in the Hopi language), paintings, native gems and stones, and even a stuffed coiled rattlesnake named Rupert. Her vast collection of historical and personal items is now housed at the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum in Globe-Miami.

Bruce Babbitt
Bruce Babbitt, Governor of Arizona, 1978-1987

Governor Wesley Bolin died a few months after taking office and Arizona’s Constitution touched Mofford’s career again. Because Mofford had not been elected to the office of Secretary of State, she was not eligible to become Governor. Instead, the law of succession to office named Attorney General Bruce Babbitt as Governor. Mofford continued to serve as Secretary of State. Her personal charm and nonpartisan approach to her office earned her a good working relationship with state leaders of both parties.

Every day on her calendar was booked with events and invitations to speak, and she cheerfully traveled the state. The little spare time she had she would spend with friends, sewing, reading, or making ornaments for the Capitol’s Christmas tree. Her charitable work was legendary. Among the service organizations she belonged to were the Assistance League, Midtowners Business and Professional Women, Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, Foundation for the Blind, Freedoms Foundations at Valley Forge,

A Rolodex

Soroptomists Club, Arizona Women’s Commission, Arizona’s Olympic Committee, and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. She chaired projects for the United Way, the Cancer Drive, and the Red Cross. She was a board member of the State Employees Credit Union, the Arizona Girls’ Ranch, 4-H Clubs, and the Arizona Arthritis Foundation. In those days people kept track of business and professional contacts on cards in a Rolodex. Mofford had four, comprised of some 4000 names of friends and professional colleagues, often with a tidbit of personal information to remind her to ask about the family dog or an ailing family member. She often credited her success to “roots, religion, and Rolodex”.

After 47 years as a public servant, unprecedented events unfolded. In 1988 Governor Evan Mecham was impeached by the Arizona House of Representatives. While Governor Mecham faced an impeachment trial in the State Senate, Mofford became the Acting Governor. She was careful to express no opinion about the trial or her political future. When the State Senate convicted Mecham and removed him from office, the Arizona Constitution determined Mofford’s career once again, and she was sworn into office as Governor. She was the first woman Governor in Arizona history.

Arizona Governor Rose Mofford at a meeting of the Arizona-Sonora Commission
Arizona Governor Rose Mofford at a meeting of the Arizona-Sonora Commission

Shortly after her inauguration as Governor, Rose Mofford seemed to stumble, literally and figuratively. As Governor, she faced daunting issues, including an economic downturn and collapse of the real estate market. Voters had just rejected a referendum to create a paid Martin Luther King holiday, continuing the national notoriety that started when former Governor Mecham had rescinded it and causing the NFL to take Arizona out of contention to host the 1993 Super Bowl. An investigation by the press revealed that while Secretary of State, Mofford had failed to include a series of loans, landholdings, and partnership interests in her financial disclosure filings. The errors were an embarrassment because the Secretary of State is the office that monitors politicians’ financial disclosure statements and it raised questions about her competence as Secretary of State and Governor. Mofford apologized and filed amended reports but endured critical press and an investigation by the county attorney. Following the investigation, the county attorney announced that he would not file criminal charges. During this time period, Mofford fell off a speakers’ platform at a public event in Yuma, suffering a concussion and plunging her into a lengthy recovery.

Within a few months, however, she was promoting her priorities, appointing agency directors to fill vacancies, and balancing the budget. She drew praise for her selection of highly competent staff. As an April 19, 1988 editorial in the Phoenix Gazette stated:

The new staff mirrors the governor: reassuring, familiar, low-key, capable and not particularly partisan. Yet individually and collectively,  the staff has a high level of expertise in the affairs of state…This group promises to offer sound, pragmatic advice that will help the governor avoid dangerous waters. That’s just what the state needs as it recovers from a period of political upheaval.

She was traveling again to meetings and events, where her personality and skills shone. She developed a funding mechanism to keep the Major League Baseball Cactus League in Arizona. She formed the Governor’s Alliance Against Drugs, established the Governor’s Youth Commission Against Drugs, and oversaw the creation of Arizona’s first statewide Drug Prevention Resource Center. She pressed for higher bonding limits for rural highways and promoted statewide economic development through the Arizona Economic Council. She appointed many qualified women to executive leadership positions and the judiciary. She said she was most proud of her efforts on behalf of education, health, the elderly, the disabled, and children. You can read all of her Executive Orders here. By November, 1988, she was viewed favorably by 80% of Arizonans. Many people remarked that she was the Governor Arizona needed.

She chose not to run for election in 1990. After serving as Governor for 3 years and continuing to face criticism that she was merely a caretaker Governor she told reporters, “This one I have to call for Rosie” and retired from public service. “I think I could have won, she said later. It’s not conceit, honey. I got to know a lot of people. But the job’s a back breaker. I earned my retirement. I was at the Capitol for 51 years.” In recognition of her long service, the portion of 17th Avenue between Wesley Bolin Plaza and the State Capitol in Phoenix was named Rose Mofford Way.

Rose Mofford Way
Rose Mofford Way. 17th Avenue between Adams and Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ.

After leaving office in 1991 she devoted a full schedule to charitable and civic activities. “My social life is cutting into my laundry,” she liked to say. It turns out she wasn’t referring to her own laundry, but rather the donated clothing she gathered, washed, and bagged for shelters. In 2004 she was honored by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce with the Arizona Heritage Award. In 2012, the year of Arizona’s centennial, she was named Woman of the Year by AZ Magazine, despite having spent the 2-hour interview proposing names of other women worthy of the honor. Eventually she accepted the honor. It was hard for her to turn anyone down.

What made Rose Mofford a beloved public figure for so many years? It was her warm, generous personality, her integrity, and her hair.

A few anecdotes describe her generosity of spirit. Just prior to the Arizona State University graduation ceremony in 1989, a reporter for the campus newspaper asked for an interview. Mofford readily agreed, then said, “C’mon with me and I’ll introduce you to Walter Cronkite.” That was typical of how she treated people. As Secretary of State, she proudly displayed a Corn God Katsina that was a thank you gift from a Mexican-American family facing deportation. All of their records had been lost in a house fire, but Mofford personally combed through files of the Secretary of State and found the documents that showed that they were legal residents. Another time, she sent a Katsina to a new graduate whose father had died before being able to keep his promise of giving him a Katsina as a graduation present.

She loved to make people laugh. Sometimes she would tell an audience that she knew they were wondering how old she was. “Well, I’ll tell you,” she’d say, “I’ve been in government for 42 years. I started when I was four.” For years she sent Christmas cards to the names in her Rolodex, usually with a caricature of herself wishing everyone a joyous holiday. The year she became Governor, the card featured a caricature of her as the Winged Victory statue atop the Capitol dome, wearing a toga and showing plenty of thigh. While some members of the Legislature were in a tizzy over the undignified portrayal, Mofford ordered an extra run of Christmas cards to be printed.

Rose Mofford at the inauguration of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano in Phoenix
Rose Mofford at the inauguration of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano in Phoenix

She was a dedicated public servant. Her office of the Secretary of State worked in a nonpartisan manner with Governors of both parties and provided efficient and professional service to the public. “Let’s face it,” said former Governor Sam Goddard of the years she worked as Wesley Bolin’s assistant in the Secretary of State’s office, “she ran the place”. Although she did not seek the office of Governor, she brought her characteristic calm, hard work, and dignity to her duties.

Best of all was her hairdo. She was tall, with mascara-heavy false eyelashes and snowy white hair arranged into a perfect beehive. She had a standing appointment on Saturdays at 7:00 a.m. with the same hairdresser for 32 years. Mofford was instantly recognizable around the Capitol complex, which was a good thing because she knew the answers to all of the visitors’ questions. Her hair invited comparisons to soft-serve ice cream and was irresistible to cartoonists. Whenever Steve Benson, the Arizona Republic’s editorial cartoonist would put her in a cartoon, she would call him directly. He tells the story:

She’d say, ‘This is Mother Mofford, Steve. What do I have to do to get a copy of that cartoon?’

I was so frustrated. I’d say, “What do I have to do to get under your skin?”

And she’d reply, “You can’t, I wear too much makeup.”

With a heart as big as her hairdo, Rosie, as she preferred to be called, was an Arizona icon.


She died peacefully at home in Phoenix on September 15, 2016, at age 94. She was buried at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery in Phoenix.  In lieu of flowers, her obituary suggested donations to community service organizations, including St. Mary’s Food BankSt. Vincent de Paul, and Hospice of the Valley.

Arizona’s Ever-Changing Constitution

What’s with all these propositions?

Arizona’s Constitution can be amended in 3 ways. The Legislature may vote to put a proposal on the ballot (Referendum). Second, the voters may submit a petition with the required number of signatures (Initiative).  Regardless of the means of getting on the ballot, if a majority votes for the proposition, it becomes law and the Constitution is changed. The 3rd method is for the Legislature to propose a Constitutional Convention. In that case, the voters must approve the Convention and any revisions that the Convention recommends. These routes to change our Constitution make for some vibrant, interactive, and often rowdy election cycles!

At the State of Arizona Research Library we have lots of materials about the Arizona Constitution. You can browse the Minutes or the Records of the Constitutional Convention of 1910.


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You can compare the Arizona Constitution with the U.S. Constitution with these publications from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

You can see how the Arizona Constitution has changed over the years at our Constitution Timeline here.

You can study the work of experts who have analyzed the Constitution by viewing these titles (and more) in our Reading Room or borrowing them through your public library via interlibrary loan. The Toni McClory book is also available for free as an ebook through Reading Arizona!

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And you can vote! There are 3 proposed Constitutional amendments on the ballot for the 2018 midterm election on November 6, 2018.  Here’s the publicity pamphlet for this year’s General Election.

Arizona General Election Canvass

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan issued the official canvass of results for the 2016 General Election.

Secretary Reagan reported 2.6 million Arizonans voted in the general election, making it the highest number of ballots cast in state history.  While there were a historic number of votes, turnout was about average at 74% ranking 6th highest in Arizona history.

1.       1980       –    80.1%        Reagan – Carter
2.       2008       –    77.7%        Obama – McCain
3.       1992       –    77.2%        Clinton – Bush
4.       2004       –    77.1%        Bush – Kerry
5.       2012       –    74.4%        Obama – Romney
6.       2016       –    74.2%        Trump – Clinton

Demographically, women made up 55% of Arizona’s electorate while 18-24 year olds made up 6%.  The average age of the Arizona voter is 55.

For more, visit:

To see past election canvasses, check out the Arizona State Government Publications Collection on the Arizona Memory Project: