CONTACT
Jessie Gray Bevan  (b. 1873, d. 1963)
Jessie Gray Bevan Oliver House, Bisbee, Arizona
As an advocate for miners and working women, Jessie Gray Bevan served two terms in the Arizona House of Representatives (1930 to 1934) where she helped enable women to work as probation officers, retain teachers' retirement benefits and popularize the notion that women were qualified to serve on juries. A miner's widow, Bevan also became the first woman appointed to the House Mines and Mining Committee and negotiated passage of safer mining regulations.

Region: Tucson and Southern Arizona
Theme: Women at Work, Women in Politics and Government

Jessie Gray Bevan relished every minute of her two terms in the Arizona House of Representatives despite initial opposition from her hometown's most powerful voices, the Bisbee Daily Review and Phelps Dodge Mining Co., who objected to women working in politics. However, Bevan proved women eminently suited to serve. In a letter she wrote, "I am having the time of my life in the Legislature, and you can imagine how I felt when I was invited to the luncheon given by Gov. (W.P.) Hunt in honor of Gov. (James) Rolph {cq} of California on Sunday and walked down the stairway of the Adams Hotel with Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr." Among other initiatives, she introduced a bill prohibiting state officials from accepting loans (read bribes) to run their departments, and worked to fund a home for underprivileged girls.

Born the sixth in a family of 11 children—10 girls and one boy—to Robert Gray and Jessie McComie who homesteaded a small farm outside Salt Lake City, Jessie attended Westminster Academy, graduated from the University of Utah and taught for six years before marrying John Bevan in 1901. The couple lived briefly in Jerome, Arizona, then in Ely, Nevada, before settling permanently in Bisbee in 1913. They considered the mining community a healthful place to rear a family. Sadly, all five of the Bevans' children died by or before the age of 10. In 1930 John succumbed to tuberculosis after a 12-year illness.

Jessie chose not to run for the Legislature again in 1934, opting instead to try for Justice of the Peace. She lost, losing as well in two more tries for the State Legislature. To support herself, Jessie operated the Victoria Boarding House in Bisbee's Brewery Gulch, charging guests $1 a day. Later she purchased a second boarding house, the Oliver House, and ran it until well into her 80s.

Always community minded, Bevan helped found the Bisbee Business and Professional Women's Club and held numerous city and state BPW offices. Despite great personal tragedy and hurtful political defeats, Bevan never lost her can-do spirit. "Age is a state of mind, and thank God, mine is clear," she said. Jessie Bevan died in Bisbee at age 91. In 2006 she was inducted posthumously into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame.

Visit the Oliver House in Bisbee which is now operated as a bed and breakfast inn at 24 Sowles Avenue.

Photo Credits:
Jessie Gray Bevan - Courtesy of Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum

 

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