The Verdict Is In

Andrea Norris Kline ’08 vows she will never again complain about a jury summons – not after learning about Texas women’s hard-fought battle for the right to serve on a jury. As a student she conducted an independent research project for Crista DeLuzio, associate professor in the Clements Department of History. Kline’s research was used to establish a Texas historical marker in Dallas honoring the women who fought for the right to serve on a Texas jury.

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Andrea Norris Kline (left) and Christa DeLuzio, associate professor in SMU’s Clements Department of History, with the Texas historical marker.

Although in 1920 the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote, it left to each state the decision to grant women the right to serve on juries. As a result, Texas women gained the right to jury service in 1954 – 34 years after receiving the right to vote.

“I have a newfound appreciation and sense of pride in participating in our local government,” says Kline, a history major and now an eighth-grade American history teacher in Lancaster, Texas.

Kline used U.S. census records, newspaper archives and Texas Legislature records to document the history of jury service in Dallas County.

After the 19th amendment was ratified in Texas, as well as in much of the South, women campaigned for educational opportunities, rights for married women and access to public positions, DeLuzio says. By the 1930s, the Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club, The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas League of Women Voters made it their priority to gain the right for women to serve on a jury. The first resolution brought before the Texas Legislature was defeated in 1949. However, Texas voters approved an amendment placed on the November 1954 ballot to establish jury service rights for women.

“Most of us want to create our own place in history,” Kline says. “We make decisions that seem right for us and our community. Little do we know about our influence on future generations. These women made the decision to actively and proudly take their place in Dallas history.”

Kline and DeLuzio worked with the Dallas County Historical Commission to draft a proposal for a historical marker to be placed on the east side of the Old Red Courthouse, now a county historical museum in downtown Dallas. The marker was unveiled October 30.

Kline brings her enthusiasm for history to her classroom, dressing as a pioneer woman for her unit on westward expansion and wearing a tri-cornered hat during discussions about Colonial times. She also draws on her SMU experiences to make history come alive for her students.

“SMU opened opportunities for me, which I now share with my students, ” she says.

She attended SMU with the help of scholarships from the Mustang Band, Dedman College and her church. A History Department scholarship enabled her to spend a summer in England at SMU-in-Oxford.

“A lot of my students have never been past Lancaster,” she says. “When we talk about the English colonies, I show them my photos of Buckingham Palace, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. I like to give them something personal so they know they can go and see the world, too.”

Kline’s students gave her their approval when she told them about her role in the historical marker dedication – a standing ovation.
– Nancy Lowell George ’79

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