Bosone, Reva Beck


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Bosone, Reva Beck

Reva Beck Bosone was Utah's first woman judge and the first woman elected to the House of Representatives from that state.

"If a legislator … is a weakling who succumbs to the lush crooning of certain lobbyists, blame the constituency, which should have been more interested in sending a qualified candidate."
—Reva Bosone

Bosone was born April 2, 1895, in American Fork, Utah, the only daughter among the four children of Christian M. Beck and Zilpha Chipman Beck. Her father was of Danish extraction, and her mother was a descendant of the 1847 Mormon pioneers and of the Mayflower pilgrims. After attending elementary and high schools in American Fork, Bosone went to Westminster Junior College, in Salt Lake City, and in 1919 received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She married Harold G. Cutler in 1920. They were divorced one year later. From 1920 to 1927 she taught in several Utah high schools.Inspired by her mother's admonition that a country is no better than its laws, Bosone decided that the best way to serve all the people was to become a lawmaker. Bosone was one of two women who entered the University of Utah College of Law in 1927 to "read law." While she was studying law, Bosone married fellow law school classmate Joseph P. Bosone in 1929. In 1930 she became the fourth woman to graduate from the University of Utah law school. In the same year she gave birth to a daughter and opened her own law practice.

In 1931, after her husband graduated from law school, the couple established the law firm of Bosone and Bosone in Helper, Utah. In 1932 Bosone became a candidate for the state legislature. After conducting a door-to-door campaign with her two-year-old daughter in her arms, she was elected to the Utah House of Representatives from Carbon County. Bosone was reelected in 1934 and in 1935 was elected majority leader. She became the first woman member of the influential Sifting (Rules) Committee, as well as its chairman. As a member of a group known as the "Progressive Bloc" Bosone played an integral role in the passage of a minimum wage-and-hour law for women and children and of the Utah child labor constitutional amendment. Her efforts in these areas were aided by Frances Perkins, labor reformer and U.S. secretary of labor, and from eleanor roosevelt,wife of President franklin d. roosevelt.

After leaving the Utah Legislature in 1936, Bosone returned to private practice for a short time before being elected a Salt Lake City judge in police and traffic court. In her judicial position, to which she was reelected until 1948, she instituted what were then extraordinary traffic fines: $300 for drunken driving and $200 for reckless driving. During her tenure on the bench traffic cases more than tripled but only three appeals from her judgments were sustained. At the same time Bosone, theorizing that alcoholism was an illness rather than a moral failing, began to refer offenders to Alcoholics Anonymous and to make efforts to institute a government program for treating alcoholics.

Bosone, who divorced her husband in 1940, remained active touring a number of states as chair of a World War II Civilian Advisory Committee and serving on the Salt Lake County Welfare Commission. In 1945 she was an "official observer" at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco.

In 1948 Bosone defeated incumbent William A. Dawson and became the U.S. representative from the Second Congressional District of Utah. At the time there were eight other women in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. While serving in the House, Bosone was the first woman appointed to the Interior Committee. In 1950, Bosone was reelected after defeating Ivy Baker Priest a Republican who later became the second woman to hold the position of U. S. Treasurer. After her reelection Bosone pushed for legislation to remove Native Americans from government guardianship and sponsored water and soil conservation initiatives for the West.

Bosone ran for reelection in 1952 and in 1954 but was defeated both times by former incumbent Dawson. The campaigns, conducted in the nervous atmosphere of the Cold War, were hard-fought with Bosone facing charges of accepting kickbacks and being a Communist sympathizer. After her loss in 1954 she returned to private law practice until 1958, when she became legal counsel for the Subcommittee of Safety and Compensation of the House Committee on Education. In 1961 Postmaster General J. Edward Day appointed her a judicial officer and chairwoman of the Contract Board of Appeals for the U.S. Post Office Department. In this position, which she held until her retirement in 1968, Bosone was authorized to make final decisions for the department in Obscenity cases and Fraud cases.

Throughout her professional life Bosone had a special interest in the problems of alcoholism and juvenile delinquency. Her work in these areas resulted in her being elected to Utah's Hall of Fame in 1943. In 1947 and 1948 she was director of the Utah State Board for Education on Alcoholism. Previously, during World War II, she was an active member of the United War Fund Committee of Utah and of the Veterans Central Welfare Committee.

Bosone was a pioneer in the use of television as a communication medium. In 1953 she moderated a program called It's a Woman's World, which received the Zenith Television Award for excellence in local programming. Her long and distinguished career was highlighted in a 1977 television documentary, Her Honor, the Judge.

Bosone received numerous recognitions and awards for her contributions to the worlds of law and politics. In 1965 her name was on the list of possible nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. The University of California at Berkeley conferred on her the Distinguished Service in Government Award in 1970 and Westminster College awarded her an honorary doctor of humanities degree in 1973. Also in 1973 she received an award for her efforts to raise the status of women in Utah. In 1977 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utah. Bosone died in Vienna, Virginia, on July 21, 1983.

Further readings

Drachman, Virginia G. 1998. Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press.

Governor's Office on Families. Available online at <www.families.utah.gov> (accessed June 2, 2003).

Matthews, Glenna. 1992. The Rise of Public Woman: Woman's Power and Woman's Place in the United States, 1630–1970. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

National Education Association Journal. 1949. April.

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Available online at <www.clerkweb.house.gov> (accessed June 2, 2003).

Utah History to Go. Available online at <www.historytogo.utah.gov> (accessed on June 2, 2003).

Cross-references

Alcohol "Alcoholics Anonymous" (Sidebar); Perkins, Frances; Roosevelt, Anna Eleanor.