Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content
  • Click to view details about this Image

    Mrs Jean Beadle J.P. [picture], courtesy of SLWA online catalogue record.

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Beadle, Jean (1867 - 1942)

1 January 1867
Clunes, Victoria, Australia
22 May 1942
West Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Feminist and Social worker
Alternative Names
  • Miller, Jane (maiden name, 1 January 1868 - )
  • Miller, Jean


After being exposed to 'sweated labour' conditions while working in the Melbourne clothing industry during the 1880s, Jean Beadle was inspired to dedicate her life to the betterment of conditions for women and children. Known as the 'The Grand Old Lady of the Labor Party,' she was a founding member of the Women's Political and Social Crusade and the Labor Women's Organization in Victoria (1898), Fremantle (1905) and Goldfields (1906). She was also a delegate to the Eastern Goldfields District Council of the State Australian Labor Party. Beadle was one of the first women appointed as a Justice of the Peace in Western Australia, sitting for many years on the Married Women's Court. She was later appointed to serve as an honorary Justice on the bench of the Children's Courts. An official visitor to the women's section of the Fremantle Prison, Beadle also was instrumental in the building of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women. She was secretary, of the King Edward Memorial Hospital Advisory Board, from 1921 until her death. In recognition of her dedicated service the hospital annually awards a Jean Beadle scholarship.


Jane (Jean) Beadle was born on 1 January 1868 at Clunes in Victoria. She was a miner's daughter. In Melbourne as a young woman she began her life-long activism for labour and progressive causes. She married iron moulder Henry Beadle on 19 May 1888 and had three children as she continued her political and industrial work. In 1901 the family decided to migrate to Western Australia to 'make some money'.

Jean organised the Women's Labor League in 1905 at the port of Fremantle where she initially lived. When the family moved to Boulder in 1906, she formed the Eastern Goldfields Women's Labor League, with meetings held alternately in Boulder and Kalgoorlie. Prejudice was strong in some quarters, the Sun newspaper labelling the meetings a 'convention of cackle'. She knew that, if women were to play an equal role in the life of the labour movement, they had to be active in both political and industrial labour. And she had no time for the notion of women's frailty, insisting that 'sometimes, it's the man who's the clinging vine'.

As well as promoting labour causes, Jean and the League campaigned for a maternity ward at the Boulder Hospital, the registration of nurses and a foundling home for abandoned babies. She organised the goldfields shop assistants to fight for better pay and conditions (chiefly shorter hours).

She spoke at public meetings, organised fundraisers for strikers' families, ran public lectures, travelled around the goldfields' towns to establish League branches and represented the League on many labour bodies.

Jean Beadle was a labor leader, a fluent public speaker, excellent organiser and committed reformer and socialist. It was essential, she believed, to meet 'the real needs of the people' and to stop 'the waste of human life, of human abilities and capacities'.

When she left the goldfields in 1914 she donated her presentation purse of sovereigns to striking woodcutters.

In Perth she became chairperson of the Labor Women's Club, campaigning on issues including peace, disarmament, women's health, education, maternity allowances, pensions and child endowment. She was a committed anti-conscriptionist during World War I. She joined the State Executive of the Labor Party in the mid-1920s.

She was a special magistrate on the Children's Court and a foundation member of the Women Justices' Association. She was active in the establishment of the King Edward Memorial Hospital. For many years she was an official visitor to the women's section of Fremantle Prison. In the 1920s she was vice-president of the Workers' Educational Association. During the Depression, she served as treasurer to the West Perth Relief Committee.

It was a lifetime of labor activism.

She died on 22 May 1942, aged 74.


Organized a Victorian relief committee for the Broken Hill strikers
Founding member of the first Labor Women's Organization in Australia
February 1898 - 1901
Vice-president of Women's Political and Social Crusade
Jean with her husband, Harry, and family move to Western Australia
October 1905
Founding member of the first Western Australian Women's Political and Social Crusade (later the Women's Labor League) at Fremantle
December 1906 - 1911
Founding president of the Goldfields Women's Labor League
President of the first Labor Women's Conference
1915 - 1929
Honorary justice on the Children's Court Bench
1919 - 1942
Justice of the Peace
1921 - 1942
Secretary of the King Edward Memorial Hospital Advisory Board
October 1927
Presided over the second Labor Women's conference
1930 - 1935
President of the Perth Women's Branch of the Australian Labor Party
1930 - 1938
President of the Women Justices' Association
Invited by the Labor Women's Organisation to stand for Labor pre-selection for the Senate (unsuccessful)

Sources used to compile this entry: Birman, Wendy and Wood, Evelyn, 'Beadle, Jane (1868-1942)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2006,; Popham, Daphne; Stokes, K.A; Lewis, Julie, Reflections : profiles of 150 women who helped make Western Australia's history; Project of the Womens Committee for the 150th Anniversary Celebrations of Western Australia, Carrolls, Perth, Melbourne [etc.]:, 1979, 266 pp.

Related entries


Related Women

Archival resources

State Library of Western Australia, J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History

  • Papers, 1899-1962 [manuscript], 1899 - 1962, MN 914; ACC 3114A; ACC 3114A/27; Beadle, Jean (1867 - 1942); State Library of Western Australia, J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History. Details

Digital resources

Mrs Jean Beadle J.P. [picture]
State Library of Western Australia
SLWA online catalogue record


Anne Heywood and Dr Bobbie Oliver

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124