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Women on Juries

 
 
gollum
 
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 01:51 pm
When did women start serving on juries in the U.S.?
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Type: Question • Score: 3 • Views: 6,499 • Replies: 12
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contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 02:03 pm
@gollum,
gollum wrote:

When did women start serving on juries in the U.S.?


The answer usually given is 1870 in Wyoming, other states later. However Judith Catchpole, a young maidservant in colonial Maryland, was tried in 1656 for witchcraft and infanticide before an all-female jury.


Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 02:33 pm
From 1781 to 1807, women in New Jersey who met the property requirement could vote, and in 1790, the state legislature specifically stated that women who met the property requirement could vote. This invariably meant widows who had inherited sufficient property from their husbands--the property tax rolls effectively served as the suffrage rolls. Although i don't have any specific information, i'm sure that women could have been called for jury duty, although i have no idea if any were ever empaneled. In 1807, the provision for female suffrage was dropped from new voting legislation and in 1844 they were specifically prohibited from voting--it made politcians nervous, i suspect.

As the United States did not formally exist until the act of confederation in 1781, i would say that would be a good avenue of investigation.
0 Replies
 
gollum
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 02:43 pm
@contrex,
In the movie "Twelve Angry Men" (1957) why are there only men on the jury? In the movie "Made For Each Other (1939)," why does James Stewart address the gentlemen of the jury?
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 03:19 pm
@gollum,
Quote:
In the movie "Twelve Angry Men" (1957) why are there only men on the jury? In the movie "Made For Each Other (1939)," why does James Stewart address the gentlemen of the jury?

Those decisions were made by the playwright, and/or the screenwriter, for their own dramatic purposes.
gollum
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 04:49 pm
@firefly,
I think you are right. The playwright and screenwriter have discretion to write their scripts as they choose.

However, I thought that in those two productions (esp. 12 Angry Men) the writer was trying to portray how it really was at the time.

On second thought, I believe that for many years homemakers could obtain a waiver from service.
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Dec, 2011 05:41 pm
@gollum,
Here's some interesting info about female jurors in Massachusetts
Quote:
Women Jurors

Women did not become eligible for jury service in Massachusetts until 1950. In 1920, soon after the Nineteenth amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchised women, the Massachusetts House of Representatives asked the Supreme Judicial Court for an advisory opinion regarding whether that amendment required women to be eligible to serve as jurors. The Court responded that women would be eligible for jury service only if the legislature enacted a new law that specifically provided for women jurors.

Following lengthy legislative and political battles, Massachusetts enacted in 1949 a bill making women eligible for jury service. However, this law permitted a woman to choose to have her name omitted from the jury list and to be excused from rape and child abuse cases if she would likely be "embarrassed" by hearing the testimony or discussing it in the jury room. When this limited-eligibility law went into effect in 1950, Massachusetts was the 39th state to permit women to be seated on a jury.

In 1975, the United States Supreme Court ruled that excluding women from the jury pool violated a person's right to a fair trial by a representative segment of the community. In 1979, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that particular traits, including race and gender, could not be used to strike potential jurors. This landmark decision, Commonwealth v. Soares, is considered to mark the end of permissible gender bias in the selection of jurors in Massachusetts.
http://www.mass.gov/courts/sjc/jury-system-e.html


So, it was not until 1975 in Taylor v. Louisiana, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1880 Strauder decision by ruling that states could not exclude women from jury duty based on sex alone, that women were allowed to serve on juries in all states.

So, your assumption about what went on in the mid-50's is probably correct. Some states might have allowed women to serve on juries, but not other states. But, by making the jurors in Twelve Angry Men all male, the playwright, Reginald Rose, had a jury composition which would seem familiar to all viewers in the audience, including those who lived in states which did not permit women to serve on the jury.

The play Twelve Angry Men is set in a jury room in a court in New York City, and Rose based it on his own experience as a juror in NYC on a manslaughter trial. Women were allowed to serve as jurors in New York at the time the play is set, but, as you already noted, they were often granted exemptions not given to men, so the number of women actually serving on juries might have been low.
The playwright choose to have an all male jury for his dramatic purposes. He could have accurately included women on his fictional jury of that time, but he chose not to.

Thanks for raising the question. It made me think about something I never really questioned before, like why that jury in Twelve Angry Men was all male. I simply assumed it was only for dramatic effect, to eliminate gender issues from the conflicts among the jurors. But, I do think you are right, it also reflected a common jury composition during the early 1950's.
gollum
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Dec, 2011 05:17 am
@firefly,
In order to find out the answers to questions like these, is there a method one can learn from a book or a course?
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Dec, 2011 09:40 am
@gollum,
I generally use Google and can usually find what I am searching for, sometimes by continuing to follow links I find in articles that my Google search returns.

For instance, I entered U.S. history of female jurors into Google, and this was one of the articles that came up.
http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/lhr/20.3/ritter.html

That article has a very extensive bibliography I could then use to find more information on the topic.

The best method, I think, is to keep narrowing down your search using Google until you find the answer or information you are searching for.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Dec, 2011 11:58 am
@firefly,
It does help to know something about the subject in advance. So, for example, i knew that New Jersey had given women the vote in the 18th century, so it was relatively easy to get the exact info i wanted. However, not everything is online, and it may be necessary to visit an actual library. More importantly, there is only so much time i will spend searching for answers for other people, who can do searches just as easily as i can.
0 Replies
 
Hjarloprillar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Dec, 2011 07:29 am
@gollum,
12 angry men
good point [ and a good movie]

Gone with the Wind .Another point of the top of my head were any woman in that jury? Did they pick males be cause men believe anything. Being dumb as posts.

An excellent tread topic

Prill
Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Dec, 2011 08:40 am
The jury was all male in Twelve Angry Men because Ten Angry Men and Two Pissed Off Bitches wasn't as good a title.

Joe(Neither was Seven Retired Grouches and Five Shrews Who Couldn't Get Out of Jury Duty on a Hot Tin Roof, er, Day in New York.)Nation
0 Replies
 
gollum
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jan, 2013 05:37 pm
@Hjarloprillar,
What jury was part of Gone With The Wind?
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