Idaho History July 28, 2019

Idaho Women on Jury Duty


First Women on Jury Duty and in the Legislature in Idaho

by Evan Filby

All-woman Jury – Library of Congress

On October 4, 1897, Idaho saw its first trial in which women sat on the jury – they having been granted equal suffrage the year before. Quoting historian Hiram T. French: “The women who, with W. R. Cartwright and R. F. Cooke, served on this jury were Mrs. R. E. Green, Miss Frances Wood, Mrs. Boyakin, and Mrs. E. J. Pasmore.”

All the women included in that first jury had been active in the Idaho women’s suffrage campaign. Mrs. Richard E. Green owned the Meridian Creamery. Her husband was a trained civil engineer, managed the Ridenbaugh Canal for a time, and had business interests in Boise and Nampa.

Miss Frances Wood was very active in various Boise social and civic-improvement organizations, and served for many years as Deputy Clerk for Ada County. She also campaigned for the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote nation-wide.

Mrs. Boyakin’s husband was Adoniren J. “Jud” Boyakin. A long-time newspaperman, Jud had come to Idaho in 1864, originally working at the Idaho Statesman. From around 1877 until his death in 1899, he was owner and editor of the Idaho Democrat newspaper in Boise.

Mrs. Edward J. Pasmore worked in the advertising department for the Women’s Edition of the Idaho Statesman. Her husband, Professor Pasmore, taught music and singing, and had given speeches supporting women’s suffrage.

The trial they sat for involved a suit brought by Dr. Richard M. Fairchild against the Ada County Commissioners. He had billed the County $125 for an inquest and an autopsy he had performed. They had refused to pay the full amount, offering him just $25. An earlier trial had ended in an impasse, so the judge directed that a mixed jury be assembled for a new attempt.

The Idaho Statesman reported on the trial the next day, October 5, 1897. The panel selected Mrs. Green as their Foreman. The results showed their inexperience, but also a deep concern for law and justice. After over six hours of deliberation, they emerged and Green told the judge they could not agree. When she briefly described the problem, with some key details, the judge said, “You must not disclose the nature of your deliberations.”

Mrs. Green replied, “Well, that is the way we stand.”

According to the Statesman, “Miss Wood spoke up, saying it all hinged on one point.” There was some confusion about what evidence the county had actually presented. It seemed to boil down to the County Attorney’s opinion that “the services were not worth so much.” After some thought, the judge observed that “the county had introduced no witnesses” so there really was “no evidence on its side.”

Minutes later the panel returned from another session in the jury room and awarded the doctor the full amount.

Aside from immediately serving on juries, women quickly tested their newly-won vote. In 1898, three women – Clara Campbell, Hattie Noble, and Mary Wright – won election to the Idaho House of Representatives. They did not serve a second term, and it was not until 1915 that another female was elected.

source: South Fork Companion
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Women Pioneers, Silver City, Idaho


Twelve women posed on a porch. They appear to be part of an organization or club as several are wearing similar jackets-perhaps to indicate rank within the organization-and ornamental pins. Three of the women are identified as Julie Allen, Maud Lewis (Carruthers) and Alice Townsend.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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The Owyhee Nugget, Silver City, Idaho, 1908-01-03

First Woman Jury Impaneled at De Lamar

The Weiser Signal copies a dispatch from Denver, reading as follows:

Dec. 21. [1907] – It took six good women and true just ten minutes in Justice Carlon’s court to find for plaintiff in the now celebrated case of Victor Porel against Mrs. James W. Wallwork. Besides being the first case ever tried before a woman jury, first in all the history of the world, the action had other highly interesting features.

The case was a suit case. Victor Porel, “tailor to gentlewomen,” as his sign says, made $60 suit for Mrs. Wallwork, which she alleged, did not fit and refused to pay for. He sued for his money and when the suit was fitted in court, the women jurors pronounced it a “lovely fit.”

The Signal then goes on to say:

The above dispatch sent out from Denver appeared in the Oregonian last Sunday. The main importance of the item is that it was the first woman jury ever impaneled to try a case, and this is a mistake. The first female jury that ever graced a court room was impaneled in Weiser on Monday, April 18, 1898, in Judge Mitchell’s court. The jury was composed of Mrs. J. H. Hanthorn, Mrs. N. M. Hanthorn, Mrs. Shaire, Mrs. N. B. Robertson, Mrs. Frank Hopkins and Miss Frances Galloway, and any of the ladies you ask about it will have a faint recollection of the matter.

The case itself was a difference between two neighbors who fell out about some fruit jars and some sewing. In the argument that followed one of the women, a Mrs Abshire, received an upper cut on the point of the jaw and had her assailant, a Mrs. Smith, arrested. She was hauled into court before Judge Mitchell and called for a jury. At the suggestion of I. F. Smith, Dan Kerfoot, the sheriff, secured a jury composed entirely of women. Frank Harris, the present prosecutor, prosecuted the prisoner and C. M. Stearns appeared in her defense. After a long and solemn deliberation the prisoner was declared not guilty by the jury who recommended that she and the complainant both be reprimanded. The case caused considerable stir at the time and many different stories were printed over the state concerning it.

Whoever sent out the Denver dispatch must certainly be very young or a new comer to the west, as any western paper of date will show it and a glance through their files will refresh them.

Both the Denver dispatch and the Weiser Signal are wrong.

The first case tried by a woman jury and where both the complaining witness and the defendant and all the jurors were women was tried at De Lamar, this county, November 18, 1897.

Mrs. M. G. Stiles was the complaining witness and Mrs. Litetia Reagan the defendent. The editor of Nugget was then a justice of the peace in De Lamar, and the trial was brought in his court.

The charge was for disturbing the peace. The two women had a quarrel about chickens in their adjoining door-yards in the lower town of De Lamar, then known as “Toughtown” which ended in the defendent being accused of throwing rocks and the complaining witness bringing out a rifle and admitting in court that she told the other woman she could “pick a hair out of her head with it.”

James W. Pascoe, the only one of the parties not now living, was deputy sheriff at the time, and when the trial came up and a jury trial was called for he was handed a summons, when he asked if women were eligible to serve and the J. P. said, “certainly.”

“Then I will get women’s righters,” he replied. Whereupon he summoned Mesdames Morgan Keltner, Francis Crosson, Mary Morgan, Grace Somerville, Verna Lee, and Catherine Franks, who all promptly came into court and were sworn in as jurors.

The little court room was literally packed with onlookers. The judge then called upon the sheriff and admonished him to see to it that the strictest order was maintained, and it was done. No trial ever was held when stricter decorum prevailed. Six witnesses – all women, were examined, and the complaining witness made a short plea, and the case was given to the jury.

There being no room to which they could retire to make up their verdict, the court room was cleared and they locked in and told to rap on the window for the sheriff when they reached a decision.

Forty minutes afterward court was again called and a verdict reading, “We the jury find the defendant not guilty as charged. The judge discharged the defendent, thanked the jury and made each of them out a certificate for their pay. Some of the ladies, we believe, still retain those certificates as souvenirs of the first women’s jury.

source: The Owyhee Nugget [h/t SMc]
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Idaho Pioneer Women


unknown woman, unknown location or date.

courtesy Bruce Longmore on FB:
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Twin Falls’ First Female Jury Decides 1912 Case

Twin Falls News September 26, 1912, December 5, 1912

Whether or not women could lawfully serve on Idaho juries was still unclear in the early 20th century. A holdover from Territorial law stated that a trial jury consisted of a “body of men.” Yet, the 1896 Suffrage Amendment to the Idaho Constitution held that women citizens were qualified electors, suggesting that they could also serve on juries. Individual women are known to have served on Idaho juries by 1897. In Twin Falls, the first recorded all-female jury was selected in 1912 in the court of Probate Judge James W. Shields.

The case involved a female defendant, Mrs. Edward Bolts, who lived on a ranch northwest of Twin Falls. She was charged with drawing a revolver on fellow rancher Arthur J. Requa and striking him with the gun. Requa had purchased the Bolts farm and was preparing to assume possession in early 1913.

On the day of the incident, he went to the farm with his wife and son to drop off some produce, which he intended to store at his new property. As he headed for the root cellar with a box of apples, Mrs. Bolts came from the house brandishing a revolver. She was adamant that he could not store goods on the property, while he claimed they had an agreement allowing him to store his belongings at the farm until he took possession. In the ensuing argument, Bolts struck Requa with the gun, but later denied that she pointed the gun at him. Requa left the scene, went into town, and filled a complaint against Bolts.

The case came to trial in the court of Judge Shields and was prosecuted by County Attorney Alden R. Hicks. Bolts was represented by William P. Guthrie, and claimed self-defense. The most notable aspect of the case, however, was the jury of six local women who found Bolts guilty of the charges. In honor of the auspicious occasion, the Amos Studio took a photograph of the court scene with the female jurors. The photo was planned “to hang in the halls of justice” as a memorial to the woman jurors.

Idaho Legal History Society Newsletter, Summer 2013

source: ID AHGP [h/t SMc]
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Jury of Women Hearing Case in Justice CourtChickenThieves1-a

Evening Capital News, Dec. 17, 1912

The Fate of Two Men Charged With Stealing Chickens to Be Decided by Six Women.

Woman’s Jury Selected.
Mrs. Caddie M. Bates.
Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery.
Mrs. Gralow.
Mrs. W. S. Chipp.
Mrs. John Fackson.
Mrs. John W. Veatch.

By dinner time this evening, the fate of F. J. Robinson and Fred D. Meilcke, charged upon complaint of Ernest L. Avery with the theft of two fowls on the morning of Dec. 15, will be in the hands of the above women, who comprise the first women’s Jury to try a case In the city of Boise in many years.

Promptly at 2 o’clock the six women, who had been summoned for jury duty on the case, were in their seats. Mrs. Emily Savidge and Mrs. John Driscoll were among the number, but both wore dismissed by J. B. Eldridge, attorney for the defendant, and in their places Mrs. Caddie Bates and Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery, the latter being in the court room when the case was called, were taken and the jury accepted.

The women were quick in answering the questions of the attorneys and declared that while they had read something of the case, none of them had formed any opinion and stated that because the charge was that of chicken stealing it would not in any way affect their verdict.

In his opening statement to the jury, Tom Coffin, deputy prosecuting attorney, stated that the state would show that the chicken house of Mr. Avery had been broken into the morning of Dee, 15, and that a Plymouth Rock rooster and a white hen had been stolen; that Avery had found where both had been killed near the coop, and had traced the blood and feathers to the gravel office near the river, where the defendants were found picking the fowls, and an officer had been sent for. He further stated that the state would show that the defendants had made contradictory statements relative to securing the chickens which were found in their possession.

The case then opened with Mr. Avery as the first witness, his testimony being similar to the statement made by the prosecuting attorney.

The women seem to be paying the strictest attention to all questions asked the witness, and all seemed alert to the situation and ready to deal out justice when the case would be finally submitted to them.
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Women on Jury Refuse Pay for Their ServicesChickenThieves2-a

Evening Capital News, Dec. 18, 1912

Decline to Increase Costs of the Case After Finding Two Men Guilty of Petit Larceny.

After deliberating 25 minutes in the, petit larceny case of F. J. Robinson and Fred D. Meilcke charged with stealing chickens, the jury of women, hearing the case returned a verdict of guilty last evening and then touched with pity and a spirit of the Christmas season, in the next breath offered to pay the fines of the defendants with the money they received for jury services. Three votes were taken by the jury after being locked up to consider the case. The first vote stood three for conviction and three for acquittal. A short argument was then held, a second vote taken in which the jury stood five for conviction and one for acquittal and the next vote resulted in an unanimous verdict guilty, which was signed by the foreman, Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery.

None of the women jurors was aware that they were to receive pay for their services and when Judge Bower announced that he would have their jury certificates ready in a few minutes entitling each to $2.25 for sitting on the jury, they immediately re-assembled, held a whispered consultation and then offered to pay the fines of the men they had convicted with the money, but Judge Bower refused to permit them to do so.

At 10 o’clock this morning the court pronounced judgment, fining the defendants $15 each to cover the costs of the prosecution, except the Jury fees, which were not included. Judge Bower wishing to carry out the spirit of the jury in his decision.

A remarkable instance in the case was the fact that the women jurors were all on time and there were no delays as is often the case when men jurors are summoned.

source: ID AHGP [h/t SMc]
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Twin Falls County Courthouse in Twin Falls 1915


Copyright Idaho State Historical Society
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Proposed Legislation
By the Idaho State Federation of Women’s Clubs.

5. A bill amending the present laws so that women and men shall be equally eligible for service on juries. This is simply an offer by the women to serve on juries, not an application for the job.

source: Payette enterprise. (Payette, Canyon Co., Idaho), 14 Nov. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
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March 6, 1943 Governor Signs Jury Bill


While a delegation from Idaho Business and Professional Women’s clubs looked on, Saturday, March 6, Governor Bottolfsen signed House Bill 162, granting Idaho women the privilege of serving on juries if they so desire. Left to right are Mrs. Myrtle Enking, Idaho state treasurer; Miss Margaret Sinclair, president of the Boise BPW; Mrs. Maud Cosho of Boise; Mrs. Lloyd Fenn of Kooskia, member of the Orofino club; Mrs. Mabel Adamson, chairman of the legislative committee of the state BPW; and Mrs. Gordon Lee of the Boise club.

source: Idaho State Historical Society courtesy Idaho Statesman [h/t SMc]
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Women in United States Juries

The idea of women sitting on juries in the United States was subject to ridicule up until the 20th century.

(click image for larger size)
Original drawing for “Studies in expression. When women are jurors” cartoon by Charles Dana Gibson. First published 23 October 1902 in Life on pages 350–351

Some states allowed women to serve on juries much earlier than others. States also differed on whether women’s suffrage implied women’s jury service.


The jury of matrons was an early exception to the exclusion of women from juries. Stemming from English common law, matrons in the American colonies were occasionally called upon in cases involving pregnant women to offer expertise on pregnancy and childbirth. William Blackstone spearheaded the idea of women’s exclusion as a result of “propter defectum sexus” (based on the defect of sex), and his beliefs were integrated into the legal systems of the United States, including the ideals of coverture. Women’s place on the jury would be challenged for decades with arguments including their lack of intelligence, emotional stability, and need to tend to home life. Women would find themselves in between the two ends of the spectrum: full legal right to participate on a jury or barred from participation.

Most arguments for exclusionary policies relied on the belief that women had other preceding duties in the home. The belief that women were too sensitive or incompetent to be jurors was also widespread. Some opponents of female jurors sought to shield women from the unpleasant content of many court cases. At a time when women were beginning to assert their sameness with men, the movement for jury rights often required them to emphasize their differences, arguing that men and women were not interchangeable.

(click image for larger size)
“Woman are too sentimental for jury duty” (1915)

The movement to include women on juries largely coincided with the women’s suffrage movement. However, when women gained the right to vote, it was not automatically clear that women also had the right to serve on juries. In fact, with federal women’s suffrage came many questions about women’s citizenship like whether women could remain citizens after marrying a foreigner, hold a political office, or serve on a jury. The movement for women’s jury rights has been described as “something very like a second suffrage campaign.”

As jury trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution by the phrase “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” and the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, gender representation in American juries have mainly been decided by Supreme court rulings.

With current state legislation, all-female juries are possible.

“The jury of the future–One that might temper justice with mercy” (1903)
(click image for larger size)
Charles Dana Gibson (American illustrator, 1867-1944) 1903 pen and ink on paper illustration for Collier’s Weekly; published in the artist’s collection The Weaker Sex (1903)

Portrayals of women as jurors

The media portrayed female jurors in both positive and negative ways as women throughout the country pushed to gain the right to serve on juries. This mirrors the ways in which women’s suffrage was displayed in the media. Many of the same arguments both for and against women’s suffrage were used in the case of women’s jury service. For example, an argument against both suffrage and jury service was that both would be disruptive to women’s’ responsibilities in the home. In addition to this, it was believed that jury duty might not be suitable for women and their perceived delicate nature. Some media portrayals claimed that women would be swayed by handsome male criminals and allow guilty men to walk free. The opposite argument was that men were already being swayed by the beauty of some women criminals, and that women on juries would temper this occurrence.

“Women juries for women criminals.” (1914)
(click image for larger size)
Editorial cartoon that depicts the possible difference between how a male jury would convict a woman criminal versus how a female jury would convict a female criminal. Date 7 March 1914, Source The Chicago Daily Tribune, Author John T. McCutcheon

excerpted from: Wikipedia
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Rockwell Video Minute: The Holdout

Norman Rockwell admired men and women who fearlessly stood by their convictions. Nowhere was that more evident than in his portrayal a jury’s lone dissenter.

source: Saturday Evening Post
[h/t Sandy McRae]

page updated July 2, 2020