Search This Blog

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hattie Corkett First Woman Juror November 1912

In her chapter on women and jury service in No Constitutional Right to be Ladies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998) Linda Kerber reminds us that many women considered the call for jury service to be a second suffrage campaign. This was true for many Oregon women, including Hattie Corkett of Bend.

Hattie Corkett, Oregonian, November 30, 1912, 6.

As we've seen, the question of whether woman suffrage meant that Oregon women could also serve as jurors was not, apparently, officially settled. In some communities court staff called women to service soon after the election.

In Bend during the week of November 25, 1912 Hattie Corkett became the first woman in central Oregon and indeed perhaps the first woman in the state to serve as a juror after the November 5, 1912 election.  According to the Bend Bulletin two other women, Mary E. Coleman and Mrs. C.D. Brown, were called but not selected. Corkett's five male "co-jurors made her foreman, or rather, forewoman." On November 26 "about half of Bend quit work" to attend the trial to see Corkett.

The Oregonian noted: "That she happens to be an ardent suffragette, and worked for the suffrage amendment during the recent election, adds further to the interest of her unique position."

The coverage of the trial (regarding who owned a calf and who was liable for its expenses) in both the Bend and Portland papers reflects the interest in women jurors but also questions about their entrance into the male domain of the jury box. The Bend Bulletin reported that "the new order of things was introduced at the outset by Justice [Ward H.] Coble, whose first case it was, by a graceful announcement that inasmuch as the fair sex was to participate, smoking would be tabooed in the court room. He also warned against careless use of language, a warning that had to be repeated on several occasions as the trial progressed, eliminating or at least expurgating some of the proffered testimony."

"Choose Woman Jury Foreman," Bend Bulletin, November 27, 1912, 1.

"Bend Woman First," Oregonian, November 30, 1912, 6.
A week later Portland began its own dramatic experience with women and jury service that would also highlight the complex and strong feelings in support of and in opposition to women's expanded civic roles. Stay tuned for the story of this "experimental jury" that includes an "honorary subpoena" for Abigail Scott Duniway, reporting by juror and Oregonian columnist Leone Cass Baer, and a controversial role for suffrage stalwart William M. "Pike" Davis.