Beatrice "Bea" Marion Olson was born June 25, 1916 in Badger, Iowa. She was one of ten children of Olaus and Ida Olson. In 1920, the Olson family moved to a homestead near Belfield, North Dakota. Bea Olson earned a teaching certificate from Dickinson State College in 1935 and taught in the Stark County school system before marrying Gilman F. Peterson on June 25, 1937. Gilman Peterson was a native North Dakotan, born April 14, 1913 in Hettinger County. The couple had five daughters and owned Flag Staff Farms, near South Heart, North Dakota. On this 3300 acre farm, the Petersons planted grain and raised cattle.
Bea Peterson began a long career in journalism in 1949, writing for several western North Dakota newspapers and Lutheran Church periodicals. She was active in the North Dakota Press Women organization, serving as its president in 1964. She was twice awarded the Press Woman of Achievement award in 1974 and 1981.
Peterson was active in North Dakota politics and the Democratic/Non-Partisan League party. She served this party in several different capacities: chair of the Democratic National Committee Women's Caucus (1979-1980); Democratic National Committee Woman for North Dakota (1972-1984); delegate to the North Dakota Constitutional Convention (1972); and candidate for the North Dakota House of Representatives. She was voted the Democratic Women for all Decades honoree in 1980 and North Dakota Woman of the Year by the North Dakota Women's Coalition in 1975.
Bea Peterson was appointed to various state and national committees dealing with women's issues and agriculture. She was a supporter for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in North Dakota; a delegate to the World Conference of the United Nations, Decade for Women (1980); a board member of Rural American Women, Inc.; and member of the National Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee, 1977-1981. In addition to these appointments, she served on the North Dakota Medical Advisory Committee, the U.S. SALT II Advisory Committee, the North Dakota State Advisory Committee for Civil Rights and the North Dakota Criminal Justice Commission, to name a few.
Peterson's community service was also extensive. She was an active member of Daglum Lutheran Church for over forty years, member and director of the North Dakota State Mental Health Association, charter member and president of North Dakota CowBelles, regional alumni director for Dickinson State College, and contributor to several Stark county history books.
Bea Peterson moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in 1986 to be closer to family. She died on May 2, 2000.
Hendrickson, Lucille. "Bea Peterson" in Women on the Move. Edited by Pearl Andre. 1975.
Hunke, Linda and Jason Yecoshenko. "Bea's Busy Life" in Dakota Days. Dickinson: LEAP, Dickinson Public School District, 1986.
The Bea Peterson Papers have been divided into four series:
Series 1: Biographical Information
Series 2: Newspaper Columns and Feature Articles
Series 3: Political and Community Activities
Series 4: Photographs