Jean Bedford was born at Cambridge, England, and moved to Australia with her family as a small child. Bedford attended Monash University during the 1960s and later worked in journalism. After moving to Papua New Guinea with her first husband in 1969, she trained as a teacher of English as a second language. But her marriage failed and she moved back to Australia where she continued teaching. Here she joined the historian turned crime writer, Peter Corris, eventually marrying him after a brief separation in the 1980s. During the late 1970s, Bedford began to write short stories, publishing her first collection in 1979. After working as literary editor for the National Times between 1980-82, she won the Australian/American Stanford Writing Scholarship in 1982. Since then she has won a number of grants and has been a writer-in-residence at several institutions.
Bedford has written many short stories and several novels. She often uses her childhood home on the Mornington Peninsula as a back-drop for explorations of the disadvantages and complexities facing modern women. But other settings such as Sydney, Papua New Guinea and Brisbane have also been employed. She has also written historical novels, most notably Sister Kate (1982) which tells the story of the Kelly gang from Kate Kelly's perspective. Turning to crime fiction in the 1990s, Bedford wrote several novels and short stories in that genre. She also edited several collections of short crime fiction. Jean Bedford is currently (2002) a lecturer in the Writing Program at Southern Cross University.