In Utah, the 24th of July marks a time of celebrating the state’s unique history. Which means, it’s a perfect week to celebrate one of Utah’s most interesting women, Desdemona Stott Beeson.
Desdemona was born in Eureka, one of Utah’s many silver mining towns, in 1897. During a time when men’s and women’s roles were very polarized, Desdemona wanted nothing more than to be a part of the mining industry, and not just as a cook or boardinghouse keeper, as most women around the mining industry tended to be, no sir. She wanted to explore the mines themselves and see the veins of silver.
Growing up in a mining town, most of her male relatives were involved in silver mining. She would tag along with them whenever she could, riding mine elevators deep down into the earth and watching the men hammer away.
After high school, she wanted to study engineering and geology at the University of Utah. Remember, this was around 1916. Her parents managed to talk her out of it and she ended up studying the less male dominated degree of psychology. When she graduated, she moved to another silver mining town, Alta, where she met her husband – the Stanford-educated Joseph Beeson. Soon after their marriage they discovered a large ore body in the Emma Mine and together they managed the mine until it went bankrupt.
The outbreak of the First World War meant opportunity. Joseph went to Europe as an engineer and Desdemona made her way to Stanford to finally pursue her studies in engineering and geology. It was an uphill battle to maintain respect among the faculty and staff and thankfully she was up for the fight.
With her credentials securely tucked under her belt she proceeded to join her husband to manage an independent mining venture in Bingham, Utah. When Joseph was away on geologic consulting, she managed the day to day operations of the mine, including correcting and firing men who couldn’t use safe and proper procedures.
Throughout her life she traveled with her family from mine to mine, facing discrimination to do the thing she loved, and doing it anyway.
From my back porch I can see the terraced hills of the famous Kennecott Copper Mine in Bingham Canyon and am thrilled that a woman full of grit and determination made a difference in Utah’s mining history.