Used by permission from the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum
Born in South Cottonwood, Utah in 1872, the daughter of Scottish immigrants, Jessie Gray Bevan moved to Arizona in 1903. Raised on the family homestead and educated in Utah, she graduated from Westminister College and did two years of post-graduate work at the University of Utah. For six years, Jessie Gray taught school in Utah before marrying John Bevan, a miner from Jerome, Arizona. The couple lived in Jerome and Ely, Nevada from 1903 to 1913 when they moved to Bisbee. They had five children, but tragically, all of the children died before the age of 11, most likely victims of tuberculosis which also claimed John Bevan in 1930.
From 1913 to 1963, Jessie Bevan owned and operated two Bisbee boarding houses, the Oliver and the Victoria Houses, where she often charged only $1/day for a room and served many miners. She also became active in community and state organizations, including the Arizona Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Arizona Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Bisbee Garden Club.
Greatly interested in politics, Bevan ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona House of Representatives and the state Senate in the 1920s. Undaunted, she ran again in 1930. Facing stiff opposition, she won the close election, becoming the second woman legislator from Bisbee and the third from Cochise County. Bevan then became the first woman to serve on the House Mining Committee and worked to improve mining safety conditions statewide. She chaired the Child Welfare Committee and secured passage of a bill providing emergency appropriations for the state board of health’s child hygiene division. In the House, she introduced and secured passage of a woman’s jury service bill in 1931, but it was not passed by the Senate. This bill was finally passed by both bodies and signed into law in 1945. Bevan won a second term to the House of Representatives, serving until 1934 when she was defeated. She later ran unsuccessfully for Justice of the Peace and other House terms.
Jessie Bevan was named Bisbee’s Business and Professional Women’s Woman of the Year in 1955. She had been an active leader for decades in numerous organizations, such as the Lowell Woman’s Club, the YMCA, League of University Women, and the Eastern Star. At the same time, she continued running her boarding house into her eighties. Although she had suffered many personal tragedies, she retained an optimistic spirit, saying at the age of 88, “Age is a state of mind and thank God, mine is clear and I am interested in things.” She remained interested to the end, dying in 1963 at age 91.