Women on the Jury, Oh My!

Historically Speaking

Donna M. Street

November, 24, 2013

Women on the Jury! Oh My!

Writing this column is a work of love.  There is so much material from which to choose.  Some topics need lengthy research and time to construct and properly arrange.  It is a holiday week and I have been busy.  It is Sunday night and I just don’t want to spend the whole night writing, so in the tradition of some of my former students, I will just copy something which has already been in print.  Unlike some of them however, I will give full credit to the writers.  The History of Dade County, Georgia Volume II was published in 2011.  It contains 410 articles which were submitted by folks with family and other ties to Dade County.  It was begun in 1995 or 1996.  It went through several incarnations.  Things like this happened.  The book was almost finished and down to envelopes filled with the copy and the company which had been hired went out of business and kept the generous deposits which had been paid.  Well, that threw the Historical Society into a tailspin.  Sue Forrester, Claude Owens, Sonny McMahan and many others continued the quest.  Sue passed away in 2005 after her long battles with cancer and the book still wasn’t finished.  There are still probably people who wonder when they are going to get the book they paid for, but that book never existed.  The late Bill Marshall put some “front money” in a bank account to start over and Verenice Hawkins began a plodding effort to finish the book.  As soon as we retired, she enlisted me, her daughter and our best friend and many other folks to type, grammar-check and spellcheck the articles submitted.  We were not commissioned to check the accuracy and authenticity of the articles as that was not the goal of the book.  With a book of family history, there can be a lot of discrepancies and information that is thought correct at the time. There are mistakes and inaccuracies, but this is a truly delightful and entertaining book.  The article which is printed below is making its third time in print.  It is article one of Volume II, in the community section.  It was first seen in print in the Dade County Times, August 28, 1955 (which was owned and operated by a woman during the 40’s and the 50’s, but that is another story for another day) .  It was entitled ‘Miss Ersaline’ Carroll was the First Woman in the County to Qualify.

Revision of the Dade County Jury Boxes was completed this week.  The Jury Commission composed of D. T. Brown, K.D. Teet, J. C. Pace, H. Kenimer, C.M. Bodenhamer and W. H. Pullen, met for four nights reviewing the names on the Tax Digest and assembling the names of those to be put into the Traverse and Grand Jury boxes.

For the first time in history, women’s names were entered.  Out of over one hundred women in the county who are eligible to serve on the jury, about 25 had written in they did not wish to serve.  From the over 70 women left, the names of 14 were put into the Traverse Jury Box and they will be called for jury service.  No women’s names were put into the Grand Jury Box.

All women in Georgia, who are on their county’s tax digest, by an act of a previous state on their county’s and also the legislature, are eligible to serve Federal Jury.  However, the act reads that if they do not wish to serve, they can so notify the Clerk of Court before the jury box is revised.  This is to be done every two years in each county.

Dade’s new Traverse Jury now holds the name of over 570 white men, 14 white women and two colored men.  The Grand Jury Box has the names of approximately 228 white men.  This seems like a comparatively small number of freeholders’ names in the jury. 

The September term of the Superior Court is only a little over four weeks away and these will be the names to be drawn for that court.

‘Miss Ersaline’, as she was known to those who were her students, was also the first woman in Dade County to become a school principal.  She was a great advocate of learning in all forms. She was also on the Dade County Library Board and is one of those responsible for securing the funding for a public building to house our library.  She was quite a ground breaker in her day; in fact she was quite a gal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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