Wednesday, October 4, 2023

First Women on Jury Duty and in the Legislature in Idaho [otd 10/04]

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 [blog, Nov 3]. 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-woman Jury, Later. Library of Congress.

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. [ Photo of first women legislators.]*

In 1935, the first woman was appointed to the Idaho Senate, and four years later another woman won election to a seat. But only since the 1970s have women appeared regularly in the Idaho legislature.

* The Idaho State Historical Society holds the copyright on this photo and charges a usage fee. (As a member, I know the organization needs the money, but since my blog generates no income, I am not in a position to pay.)
References: [French]
Articles in the Idaho Statesman, Boise (1895-1921) … too numerous to list.
“Adoniren J. (‘Jud’) Boyakin: 1836- March 28, 1899,” Reference Series No. 568, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

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