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Friday, July 29, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury -- Editorial Reviews: The Oregon Journal -- "They Have Done No Worse"

In the last of the three Portland newspaper editorial reactions to the December 4, 1912 all-female "experimental" jury, the Oregon Journal weighs in with a bit of equity about the process and the verdict.

"We have had a jury of Oregon women," the editors noted in an editorial titled "The First." Those who read about it will be chiefly impressed that it failed to agree." But it took an hour and forty minutes, "to convince the members that agreement was hopeless. Was it because it was a woman?" they asked? Or (and they could not resist taking a jab) "because of the blandishments of 'Pike' Davis in his tearful appeal with its sprinkling of modest references to his efforts as a pillar of suffrage?"

But then the editors ask some important questions. Was it because the defendant was clearly not alone and was being set up to take the blame. "Perhaps the jurors for acquittal reasoned that the woman was an instrument in the hands of underworld men, and that she was brought to bay while the men escaped."

Perhaps the evidence was not there to prove guilt. And there was, perhaps, an equal argument for both points of view. Lawyers thrive on such things, they said.

"It might have looked better to a waiting world for this first jury of Oregon women if there could have been an agreement. The news has gone to the country, and the disagreement will bring out a chorus of 'I told you so.'"

But, the editors insisted, "juries of men do the same thing. Groups of judges" including those serving on the United States Supreme Court "similarly perform."

"The women of the first Oregon jury have the satisfaction," they wrote, "of knowing that they have done no worse."

"The First," Oregon Journal, December 5, 1912, 8.

And so? The next blog post will explore how the fallout about this "experimental" all-female jury may have influenced the Oregon Attorney General's decision about women and jury service . . .

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Portland's Experimental Woman Jury -- Editorial Reviews: The Evening Telegram -- "Why Drag Women Into the Filth of It?"

We've seen the Oregonian's editorial about the experimental all-woman jury in Portland. Now here is the reaction of the other Republican-leaning daily, the Evening Telegram.

In "The Woman Jury" the Telegram editors decried the "stage effect" of the trial, but emphasized that "like men jurors they could not agree" on a verdict. Therefore, the editors concluded, there was "not the slightest evidence that women are better fitted than men" for the trial of cases of other women, "and if that's the fact why drag women into the filth of it simply because it is possible to do so?"

Women may eventually "constitute the best tribunal for the trial of cases of this sort" but "at all events id does not appear that there is anything to be gained by breaking down the barriers of womanly delicacy, which must be done every time that women who are worthy are called upon to sit in a case like that of yesterday." (The case involved accusations of prostitution).

It appears that the Telegram editors feared most that women on juries would be harmed, would lose their "womanly delicacy."

In the final paragraph of the editorial the editors reiterated their concern about the theatrical, staged aspects of the experimental woman jury, noting that "thoughtful people" would not conclude that it was "edifying." But they also signaled ambivalence about women's jury service as a right of citizenship. "If women vote with good judgement they may also render good jury service. But the selection of women for such service should be made with discretion."

"The Woman Jury," Evening Telegram, December 5, 1912, 6.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury -- Editorial Reviews: The Oregonian -- "Don't Depend Too Much On Their Being Fools"

All three of Portland's major daily newspapers provided extensive coverage of the first all-female jury on December 4, 1912 just weeks after the achievement of woman suffrage. And all three weighed in with editorial commentary after the fact.

Today -- the Oregonian. This Republican-supporting morning paper had been editorially opposed to woman suffrage until the death of editor Harvey Scott (brother of Abigail Scott Duniway) in 1910. The paper's editorial views about lessons learned in "The First Woman Jury" might best be characterized as damning with faint praise and halfhearted

The first lesson for the Oregonian editors was that women would not automatically support a lawyer because he had supported the votes for women campaign. As we've seen, W.M. Pike Davis was one of the defense attorneys at the trial and he used his suffrage credentials in his argument. The Oregonian got back at him in the editorial.

"The account of the various antics performed to beguile and bemuddle the first woman jury makes at least one thing perfectly clear," they wrote. Women jurors cannot be depended on to give their verdict to a lawyer because he worked for suffrage. They may give it to him for his good looks or his elegant manners or his dulcet voice. That remains to be seen. But lawyers who have hoped to win all of their cases for the next year or two by pleading that they made stump speeches for suffrage are clearly doomed to woeful disappointment."

The second lesson -- some women might eventually make good jurors but they are easily distracted. The women jurors "gave some attention to the evidence and the judge's instructions though perhaps did their job as jurors. "We are persuaded that the women gave some attention to the evidence and the judge's instructions, though perhaps not very much." The editors acknowledged that this was a very public trial with a media following and this "must naturally have diverted their minds" from the task at hand.

"It is only by experience," they continued, "that some women can be taught that an oath is a little more serious than a new ribbon and that to be chosen foreman of a jury is not quite the same sort of distinction as to take a prize at bridge whist." The editors acknowledged "these lessons will be learned in time. Some men need them quite as much as any women."

And the third argument was that "it is unsafe to treat women like simpletons" (though to this reader's eyes the Oregonian had done just that) "even in the most novel situations." The editors warned "politicians seeking women's vote not to depend too much on their being fools. The sex has belated specimens, no doubt, whose vanity is more conspicuous than their common sense, but their very prominence proves their rarity." In the final analysis, to the Oregonian editors, "with women as with men, the appeal that wins in the long run must not be too superficial or utterly silly."

"The First Woman Jury," Oregonian, December 6, 1912, 12.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury Part XI: Oregonian Claims Facing a Woman Jury is Deterrent to Crime

As part of its coverage of the December 4, 1912 all-female jury I've been blogging here, the Oregonian printed this accompanying article suggesting that a "woman jury in Municipal Court" was a deterrent to lawbreaking. Whether the story was true or not it contributed to the debate going on in the city about the impact of this "experimental jury."

Captain Brown of the U.S. Steamer Leelenau had docked at the Irving dock at the foot of Dupont Street in Portland with improper lighting and unsafe gangplanks. The patrolman on duty told him he would have to comply with regulations or face arrest and fines.

"From his berth, whither he had retired early, Captain Brown commended the parolman to a 'warm climate.'"

"'They have a woman jury in Municipal Court,'" the patrolman told him, "'and you will have to face that.' Instantly," the Oregonian reported, "the captain raised his hand to his whistle and the watchman came running." He ordered repairs to be made. "'I won't face a woman jury in any court,'" the captain said, '''and me 60 years old.'"

"Woman Jury Has Effect," Oregonian, December 5, 1912, 12.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury Part X: Oregonian Coverage Continued: "Mrs. Duniway Absent" and "Gloved Hands Take Oath"

We're reviewing the extensive Portland newspaper coverage of an all-female "experimental jury" in Municipal Court on December 4, 1912. In addition to featuring Leone Cass Baer's account of serving on the jury, the Oregonian provided a long article about the trial, part of which I excerpt here.

This excerpt provides some additional information about the trial. We learn that the first order of business was the clerk calling "the name of Abigail Scott Duniway, under a pre-arranged agreement to give her the honorary position of being the first woman in Oregon to be called into a jury box." As we've seen, Duniway was not the first -- Hattie Corkett of Bend, Oregon served as foreperson on a jury the week of November 25, 1912. Duniway was not present for her honorary position.

The Oregonian used a dramatic and class-related image to describe the first all-female jury. "Ten gloved hands were raised" as the jurors swore to tell the truth in voir dire and as they were empaneled. And the drama continued: "It was just the same old sordid story, so threadbare to male jurors, but throbbing with novelty and interest to the new arbiters."

Excerpt from "Unable to Agree, Woman Jury Quits," Oregonian, December 5, 1912, 12.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Portland's "Experimental" Woman Jury Part IX: Leone Cass Baer Reports on Her Experience with Jury Duty for the Oregonian

The Oregonian provided extensive coverage of the December 4, 1912 Portland trial with the "experimental" all-female jury. One of its features was an account of jury service written by columnist and drama critic Leone Cass Baer, who was one of the ten women on the jury.

Cass Baer used humor to create a lively picture of the day. The court "sent the biggest policeman on the force to serve me," she said, and "one half as large would have been as legal." She learned a new vocabulary ("pinched" meant being arrested) and joked about what she felt was defense attorney Pike Davis's grandstanding. "It seems everybody in Portland but that jury of women and Mr. Piker Davis and oh, maybe Mr. Farrell, are grafters."

She also challenged the way the media had inflated the case. "While the crowd was trying to tack the individual juroresses onto the libelous, fac-simile, after-taking pictures the papers have published, we went through the necessary form of telling each other who each other was." And one, "whose picture in the paper had seemingly been made from a cut of Lydia Pinkham" (whose very maternal picture acccompanied advertisements for her nineteenth century vegetable compound and contraceptive) "looks really more like Edna May" (a glamorous actress known for her beauty) "after you see her."

All of the newspapers had hyped the large crowds and worried that the floor would collapse. But Cass Baer wrote of the "sea of faces about us. (N.B. It wasn't exactly a sea--but at least a small ocean.)"

Is seems quite possible that in her account of "Going-a-Courtin'" Cass Baer demystified the courtroom and the process of the trial for other women readers, women who would themselves be possible future jurors. "Judge Tazwell talked to us and gave us our instructions," she wrote. "D'ye know, I think I'd like my next divorce case tried before him. He's so gentle, and so sensible, and he doesn't waste words." She ended her story as the jurors set off to deliberate. "Just what went on in that room I promised nine perfectly nice women I would not tell. But, gee -- I wish I dared."

"Jury 'Woe' is Told: Leone Cass Baer Writes of 'Going a-Courtin','" Oregonian, December 5, 1912, 12