What America Looked Like: First All-Female Jury, 1911

When a Los Angeles newspaper editor was charged with obscenity, the verdict lay in the hands of these 12 women

woman-jury.jpg

Library of Congress

A century ago, these 12 ladies, fabulous hats and all, sat in a courtroom in Los Angeles and decided the fate of newspaper editor A.A. King. The charge was obscenity: in his paper, The Watts News, King had quoted an insult hurled at him by a city councilman. (According to an article in the next day's Tacoma Times, the insult in question "cast aspersions on King's parentage, with the condemnation of the Creator prefixed.")

At the time of the trial, American women were still eight years away from being able to vote in national elections. But California granted suffrage in a special election on October 10, 1911 -- just 23 days before the the trial began -- and an obscenity trial seemed a good opportunity to call on female judgment.

Fortunately for King, these newly empowered women weren't especially fainthearted: they deliberated for just 20 minutes before finding him not guilty. "Our verdict did not mean that we approved of such language," the youngest juror, 22-year-old Nellie Moomau, told the Tacoma paper. "It meant that we believed the defendant was honest in his endeavor to aid the public when he printed the article." She added, "It isn't half so shocking to read such language in the privacy of our homes as it is to hear it on the streets."

Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in National

Just In