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Jean Bessant (1883–1952)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Jean or Jane Bessant, née Mackay also known as Jean Besant (1883-1952) cashier and political activist

Birth: 12 December 1883 in Brisbane, Queensland, daughter of Scottish-born parents John Mackay (1832-1900), shipwright, and Annie Campbell, née Manson (1861-1893). Marriage: 10 February 1922 in Registrar General’s Office, Sydney, to fellow Communist activist Bernard Bob Bessant (1893-1941). Death: 30 October 1952 in Brisbane, Queensland. “had no religion” 

  • Active in the struggle against conscription in 1916 and 1917.
  • Joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1920 and remained an active branch member until her death.
  • In 1931 toured Queensland as organiser for workers’ international relief and with her husband on behalf of the Militant Minority Movement.
  • Organised women against evictions in east Sydney and to petition for a fair rents court in 1938. Contributed to the Workers’ Weekly (Sydney) and Tribune.
  • In Sydney in January 1939 attended recruiting meetings to urge enlistees to overthrow the Australian government. In 1940 spoke at anti-conscription rallies.
  • Member of the Federated Ironworkers’ Women’s Auxiliary.
  • Moved from Newcastle back to Queensland after her husband’s death in 1941. Worked as a food process worker.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Bessant, Jean (1883–1952)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Bessant, Jane
  • Besant, Jean
  • Mackay, Jean

12 December, 1883
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


30 October, 1952 (aged 68)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Political Activism