Search This Blog

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