The jury is in: Jennie Loitman Barron is a true hero!

14 Jan

The indelicacies of jury service would interfere with women’s ability to maintain the purity required by their [domestic] role in the home.

Jennie Loitman Barron

Hello SK fans!

We’re all about jury duty today, a subject prompted by My Publicist’s two days at Middlesex Superior Court. When we first saw the summons, we immediately thought her dark past caught up with us. A hairy moment. Then we took a deep breath, opened the envelope and saw she was being called to jury duty. Exhale.

Though she was there two days, she was not selected but “excused by the court.” We knew this was coming. She knew counsel for the plaintiff personally – a detail that took two bureaucratic-laden days to note. But that’s not the point of this post. Thanks to that bureaucracy, she had plenty of time to read the state-sponsored literature lying around, where she came upon a brief bio on Jennie Loitman Barron.

Who? Yes, we asked the same thing. A shame that some of the most influential movers and shakers for suffragette still fly so low under the radar. This is where SK comes in. Jennie Loitman Barron, the first female full-time judge in Massachusetts, spearheaded the national campaign that allowed women to serve on juries. You know, before this, my pub never much thought about women serving on juries.

That’s because they’ve been doing it since 1962, and that was the year she was born. How could she be expected to be so up on the news then? But now she knows that our right to serve on a jury materialized 40 years after we won the right to vote. Equality demands patience.

Granted, Utah allowed women jurors since 1898, but Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina held off until 1962, because the Civil Rights Act of 1957 forced it upon them.

I, like Jennie Loitman Barron, have always been a believer that one would want my opinion and those of my female peers, but not everyone was on board with that. Here are some documented reasons why gals should leave issues of justice to the boys: (Trust us, the sources are valid.)

  • Jurors, like the women lawyers would be degraded—first by “all the unclean” evidence they would be forced to hear in criminal cases;

  • Women lawyers will bring on women jurors (and that’s what you strong-minded women want); women jurors will be defiled by hearing dirty evidence and by being sequestered with male strangers;

  • Even worse, they would hear this evidence in the forced company of men;

  • The specter of the woman mingling in a new social relationship with men in that most intimate setting: the jury box;

  • Jurywomen would vote for the handsomest man;

  • Women as jurors would tend to support their fellow women;

  • the indelicacies of jury service would interfere with women’s ability to maintain the purity required by their [domestic] role in the home.

We don’t have time or space to discuss each point, and are woefully out of the loop regarding the intimacies of the jury box. Who knew!? We did glean one early argument for “jurywomen:”

'The Jury,' by John Morgan, a historical painting in more than one way.

‘The Jury,’ by John Morgan, a historical painting in more than one way.

“Once women invaded the courthouse as lawyers, then the only way to offset their bad effects on justice, would be to put women on juries. Upon such a panel the woman lawyer’s seductive and persuasive arts would be wasted.”

Jennie Loitman Barron to the rescue. First, a brief history on our Superhero:

Jennie Loitman was born in Boston to Russian immigrants in 1919. She excelled in school, graduating high school at 15, and finishing a law degree at Boston University three years later.  She married her childhood sweetheart Samuel Barron, Jr., a Harvard Law School grad. Together (and they did most everything together) they set up Barron & Barron law firm. Samuel maintained Jennie’s parents’ belief that women were equal to men, and his wife’s belief  that a woman defendant had a right to a jury of her peers, and that all women had a right to serve on juries as a privilege of citizenship.

Jennie served as president of Boston University’s College Equal Suffrage Organization. She traveled to New York City in 1917 where she spoke on street corners on the rights of women. She worked with the League of Women Voters to equalize marriage and divorce laws for women nationwide.

There’s more. She was the first woman to run for (and win) a seat on the Boston School Committee. Her campaign was “Put a Mother on the Boston School Committee.”  Jennie and Sam had three daughters. She brought her values for motherhood to the bench, and was eventually named “Mother of the Year” through the People to People program.

Jennie wrote the official statement for the League of Women Voters advocating women jurors, and to become notaries. (My pub’s a notary if you ever need one.)  It was not an overnight process, but her home state, and mine, approved the measure in 1950. As mentioned, there were some holdouts, but today, no jury is complete without an equal number of women on the panel.

In 1969, Jennie and Sam traveled the world to promote her “Mother of the Year” award, (which I think Marmee would have also qualified for.) Upon returning, Sam died suddenly.  Jennie suffered a fatal heart attack a week later. We believe her heart was broken.

We are thrilled that Jennie met the perfect partner early on and they had a wonderful, productive life together. We are very grateful that Jennie did the hard work to ensure that all of us have a voice in this country’s justice system.

xo, LMA


16 Responses to “The jury is in: Jennie Loitman Barron is a true hero!”

  1. mmds January 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Well said, Louisa May. I am smarter now, and I needed it. Thank you!

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      Gee, we wonder who MMDS is??!! (we actually had to think about it a bit.) Thanks for stopping by and commenting. hope to see you back here, lol, LMA

  2. sued51 January 15, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Very interesting! And yes, they probably accomplished more together than they would have apart…thank goodness she met her soulmate!

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      We know, isn’t the soul-mate story heartwarming. What a great lady Jennie was. xo LMA

  3. roughwighting January 15, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Fascinating! No, I never knew, and of course, this is not taught in American History, as it should be. When I tutored in Concord -Carlisle High School history classes, never a word about this. If nowhere else in this country, the history of Jennie Loitman Barron should be taught here!!! What a wonderful post – thank you.

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks Pam, I have to say that I think CC has an excellent history department despite Jennie being missing from the curriculum, hmmm. wonder if it has anything to do with the MCAS, state’s standardizing exams? xo LMA

      • roughwighting January 23, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

        I’m probably afraid it has EVERYTHING to do with the MCAS. 😦

      • louisamayalcatt January 28, 2014 at 8:39 am #

        true! sad, but true! LMA

  4. Clare Flourish January 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    A “Woman Correspondent” wrote in the Manchester Guardian in 1921, that One of the more experienced women before going into court said that she did not expect to like the work, but she thought it was very necessary that women should take their share in public life and in all civic duties. She believed, too, that the presence of women on juries would result in greater care being taken in cases where women were concerned. Some cases would be very unpleasant, but men had not shirked their duties and women must equally show a public spirit. These were the first women jurors in London.

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      Love it! thank you for sharing and stopping over from the other side of the pond, xo LMA

  5. Nancy Loderick January 15, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Well LMA – who knew? Funny thing, this was never taught in our history class. Come to think of it, I don’t think we learned about any famous women, except for Clara Barton maybe.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.


    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      Yes, if your generation is like ours, few famous women were highlighted in the regular classwork. Clara Barton is one, but we remember having to read about amelia earhart and helen keller on our own, well, that’s what we are here for, xo LMA

  6. soonie2 January 17, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    So sad that I had never heard of this wonderful woman. Very interesting and important stuff…thank you for sharing this!

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      thanks for stopping by. we’re thinking she’d look good on the next US issued postage stamp. xo LMA

  7. LB January 21, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    I can not believe that it wasn’t until 1962 that a woman sat as a juror! And that list of why women should not serve on the jury (or be in the courtroom) is just awful.
    Thank goodness for women like Jennie!!

    • louisamayalcatt January 23, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Unbelievable, isn’t it. actually, juries in Utah included women earlier, but it was not until 1962 that it was nationwide. that is pretty bad that we have to have a federal act to get all cross sections of society represented on a jury. thanks for stopping in, xo LMA

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