The History of Women's Jury Service in Washington
Washington State Bar News, No. 59, No. 3, p. 12, March 2005
10 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2008 Last revised: 10 May 2010
Date Written: July 28, 2008
From 1883 to 1887, women in the Washington territory served as jurors just as they do today. But unlike today, their presence was a source of great legal and social contention. Critics claimed that allowing women to serve as public decision-makers in the state's courts was a misguided experiment that violated the laws of nature, and would lead to dire consequences for family and society. A backlash followed that removed women from juries.
This article describes the decade-long tug of war between the Washington legislature and the Washington Supreme Court over the related questions of women's right to vote and their right to serve on juries. The ability of women to serve on juries was twice upheld by the Supreme Court in 1884, but it was stricken down in 1887 in a decision that also led to disenfranchisement. The legislature responded with a new bill to re-enfranchise women in 1888, but this was invalidated later that same year. The state constitution was ultimately amended in 1910 to extend the vote to women, ten years before a similar amendment was made to the U.S. constitution.
Suffrage did not immediately translate into equal jury service for Washington women, as various provisions led to women being chronically underrepresented on juries for much of the twentieth century. A sex-neutral jury service statute was finally adopted in 1967.
Keywords: Women's Suffrage, Sex Discrimination, Sex Equality, Jury Duty, Nineteenth Amendment, Statutory Titles, Single Subject Rule
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation