Tales from the Morgue: Women on juries?

2014-02-10T09:00:00Z 2014-07-13T15:49:40Z Tales from the Morgue: Women on juries?Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 10, 2014 9:00 am  • 

Once upon a time, juries consisted of men — usually white men. If the defendant was a woman, the jury still had only men. So much for a jury of one's peers.

The same could be said for any defendant who was not Caucasian, but this particular entry is about women.

It was debated in 1939 that women should be permitted to serve on juries. Whether the women actually wanted to serve wasn't really the question, but it could be argued that asking women to serve was fair to people of both sexes.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, Feb. 2, 1939:

 

WOMEN ON JURIES PLAN IS DEBATED
_____

PHOENIX, Feb. 1.—(AP)—The house of representatives staged a lively debate today, without reaching a conclusion, on the perennial question of allowing women to serve on juries in Arizona.

Said Representative Marvin E. Smith, Phoenix: "I can't conceive of any greater pleasure than having 10 or 11 good-looking babies on the jury."

Women vote, patronize barber shots and do almost everything else men do, argued Representative Walter Righetti, Phoenix, "so it's time to let them serve on juries."

Then Representative William Wisener, Yuma, who opposed the bill, suggested an amendment providing for women exclusively on juries, saying men, "have borne the burden long enough." Representative C. J. Carreon, Tucson, opposed him, and the amendment was withdrawn.

The bill was amended, however, by adding an emergency clause, on motion of Frank W. Sharpe, Jr., Douglas. Several members opposed this, fearing the bill might not muster the two-thirds vote required to pass it as an emergency measure.

Then the lawyers began opening law books to find out what the bill would do to existing statutes, and finally the bill was retained on the calendar until technicalities were clarified.

Rep. Marvin E. Smith is quite lucky he wouldn't be a defendant facing an all female jury after his remark. "Babies" indeed. Would he have made it a requirement that female jurors must be attractive?

And as for Rep. William Wisener, if his suggestion had not been made in jest because he opposed the bill, he might have been asked to cook all of the meals and do all of the laundry at his home because women had borne that burden long enough.

The Morgue Lady would like to see the movie "12 Angry Women." It would be a horror film.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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