A Short Biography
The daughter of a steelworker and a seamstress, Jean Hay grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. She married her high school sweetheart in 1966 and saw him off to two tours of duty in Vietnam. The couple moved to Maine in 1972 to go ‘‘back to the land,’’ farming 22 acres they bought from Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the popular homesteading book Living the Good Life. They had two children, a boy and a girl. The couple divorced in 1979.
In 1975, Jean became a reporter and later a bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News, leaving that position in 1985 to become a commercial organic farmer in Blue Hill. Always an environmental activist, Jean was an organizer in the fight to keep AES, a multi-national energy company, from building a coal-burning electrical generating plant in Bucksport, within 35 miles of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.
In 1992 Jean served as press secretary for Jonathan Carter, a Congressional candidate for Maine's 2nd District who was running as a member of the Green Party. In 1993 she went to work in the office of Maine’s Democratic 1st District Congressman Tom Andrews of Portland.
Finding those two experiences inspirational, she ran for Congress in Maine’s Second District in 1994 and for U.S. Senate in 1996, both times running as the progressive candidate in the Maine Democratic primaries. Her first book, Proud to Be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal, was published at the end of the second political campaign to help retire campaign debts. It is dedicated to Helen Nearing.
Jean's second book is titled: A Tale of Dirty Tricks So Bizarre -- Susan Collins v Public Record. It is an inside look at the 1996 U.S. Senate race in Maine. Its revised third edition was published in 2008
Jean was a regular columnist for the Aroostook Democrat for four years until the fall of 2000, and has written for the Maine Progressive, Feminist Times, Yankee Magazine, the Rhode Islander, Maine Times, Penobscot Bay Press, The Progressive Populist, and Farmstead Magazine. Returning to college in 1997 to finish up her degree, which had been interrupted during the Vietnam War, she graduated from the University of Maine with honors in May 1998.
She served as managing editor of The Enterprise, Bucksport, Maine's hometown weekly newspaper, until February 1999, when she briefly worked for a small book publishing company in Monroe, Maine, and then for two years was a commercial sales rep for Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion.
Jean's third book is titled: Meanwhile, Next Door to the Good Life. It is about Jean's homesteading days on Cape Rosier in Maine, and how Helen and Scott Nearing impacted her life. First published in 2003, it's revised 10th anniversary edition has been well received.
In 2006, Jean went back into politics, challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe as the Democratic Party's nominee, becoming the last Democrat to do so. Senator Snowe won that race, but retired from politics in 2012.
In 2000, Jean married David Bright, a former reporter, editor, and agriculture columnist for the Bangor Daily News. Now retired, they live on a 30-acre farm on Dixmont where they grow garden seedlings and have about two acres of berries (high-bush blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries) for pick-your-own and which they wholesale to natural food stores and ice cream makers. Jean's two children and David's two daughters are now adults, and they have two grandsons.