Jean Stead

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Jean Laura Stead (30 May 1926 – 2 December 2016) was an English reporter, national news editor for The Guardian, and labour historian.


Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Jean Stead trained as a reporter on The Yorkshire Post, working as a reporter for 10 years in Leeds and London. In 1963, she joined The Guardian as a reporter, specialising in writing about housing and the homeless, immigration and race relations, and occasionally a columnist on the women's page. In 1968, she became a deputy to news editor John Cole, then succeeded him as news editor[1] from 1970 until 1979. Stead was later appointed Special Projects Editor, supervising investigative reporting, book serialisation, and specialist columns, such as those concerning legal affairs and motorcycling. She became known for her international correspondence covering the motorcycle Grand Prix in Europe.

Stead also wrote extensively about the nuclear disarmament movement in Europe, particularly in Germany, at the height of the Cold War. She was threatened with arrest, and her exit visa was taken from her after she interviewed dissident writers under house arrest in the Soviet Union, while covering a Scandinavian women's peace march across the Soviet Union. Stead wrote the first articles about the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp protest against the siting of American Cruise missiles at the base, and its significance for feminism.[2]

From 1983-88, she was The Guardian's Scotland correspondent, covering the national miners' strike, the Ravenscraig steelworks and shipbuilding on the Clyde, as well as Scottish politics and the nationalist movement. From this work she published in 1986 the book, Never the Same Again, an account of women's involvement in the miners' strike.

After her retirement in 1988, Stead returned for a short time as archaeology correspondent after archaeologists protested at the burial of the Rose Theatre site and the original Shakespeare Globe Theatre. She also wrote a number of articles about major discoveries nationally and internationally, including at the site of the Berlin Wall. Stead edited the current affairs journal, The New Reporter, from 1994 to 1995, designed by her husband, John Bourne.

In 2006, she was one of the organisers of a 25th anniversary exhibition of the Greenham Common women's protest. Stead was the UK co-ordinator for Grandmothers for Peace International, based in Elk Grove, California, which opposes nuclear weapons, and led protests against the Iraq War. She served as an adviser to UKLAW, a committee to help Afghan women which was established by Joan Ruddock.

Personal biography[edit]

Jean Stead was born May 30 1926 at Huddersfield, Yorkshire, only daughter of Harry and Jessie Stead, later of Kirkburton, Yorkshire. Harry was a Royal Artillery regimental officer in both world wars, and in charge of east coast defences in the latter part of the second war. Jessie was a Hobson, her ancestors thought to include Joshua Hobson, the Chartist and socialist who led the opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and wrote revelatory reports about appalling workhouse conditions in Huddersfield and edited the Northern Star. Her brother Peter was a fighter pilot in the last war and afterwards one of the founders of Yorkshire CND. He was a pioneer of constructivism, working with St. Ives artists and others on his designs and opened the Symon Quinn art gallery in Huddersfield. He and his father were directors of the family building contractors which had built most of the 19th century mills in Huddersfield.

Jean, because of early illness, was educated at home and then at the public girls' boarding school Hunmanby Hall, and later studied economic history at the local college.

Stead was married for nearly 60 years to John Bourne, a journalist. They have two children and three grandchildren and lived in London and Cornwall.

She died on 2 December 2016 at the age of 90.[3]


  1. ^ McNay, Michael (18 October 1999). "Obituary: Maggie Conlin". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Stead, Jean (5 September 2006). "The Greenham Common peace camp and its legacy". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Jean Stead obituary