Dakota Datebook

Female Jury

Friday, December 12, 2008

 

Women have served in various important roles throughout history. However, it took women years of effort to obtain many of the equal opportunities we take for granted today. Even though they could own land, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that women won the right to vote. Therefore, it was the dawning of a new era for Ward County in 1922 when the very first woman jury member was called to serve. By this date, Miss Carrie J. Doolittle, from near Berthold, had started her new position and had even begun deliberations over cases.

Carrie was proud to become the county’s first female jury member of the district court. She came from a long line of empowered females: Her grandmother, mother and aunts all had worked for years for equal rights for men and women, and she was rightly proud to represent some of the progress her family sought.

However, Carrie said from her own experiences as a member of the jury that many changes would be needed, if that progress was to continue. It’s the little things that no one thinks of that matter, really. In this case, the jury room was not equipped for mixed company. It was a little room at the end of the hall, just to the left of the stairs going up into the courtroom, and it lacked many conveniences, such as beds and separating walls. It had been made for the men who would serve as jurors, and it had worked well for them, but it was not thought to be as suitable for Carrie and future lady jurors.

But even worse, if the jury had to remain out all night, Carrie would have to stay all night in that tiny room with eleven men.

The court was aware of this matter, though, and was watching out to prevent such a situation from arising. At one point, one of the judges withheld his charge to the jury because it was late in the day, trying to keep them from beginning deliberations late and possibly needing to stay out for the night.

They even offered Carrie a female bailiff, if she desired it.

They kept her comfortable, and, for her part, she had an open mind and did what she felt was her duty-though, she said, “I wouldn’t care to take it up as a life profession.”

By Sarah Walker

Sources:
Minot Daily News, Thursday Evening, December 21, 1922
Minot Daily News, Saturday Evening, December 9, 1922, p. 2

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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