|Andrea Norris Kline and Crista DeLuzio with Texas Historical Marker. Photo: Kim Ritzenthaler
Andrea Norris Kline vows she will never complain about a jury summons.
She learned about Texas women’s hard-fought battle for the right to serve on a jury as a student at Southern Methodist University as part of an independent research project for Crista DeLuzio, associate professor of history. Kline’s research was used to establish a Texas historical marker honoring the women who fought for the right to serve on a Dallas County jury.
Texas women earned 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, now an eighth grade American history teacher in Lancaster, Texas.
19th century: Jury service was top priority
Voting and jury service were top priorities of the women’s rights movement in the 19th century, says Crista DeLuzio, who teaches women’s history classes at SMU.
“Activists believed that with voting, they would inherit the right to perform other civic duties, including serving jury duty. This assumption proved to be incorrect.”
The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote, but left granting women’s right to jury service to each state.
Kline used U.S. census records, newspaper archives and Texas legislature records to document the history of jury service in Dallas County.
First Texas resolution was defeated
By the 1930s, however, the Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club, The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Women Voter’s League made fighting for the right to jury service a priority. The first resolution brought before the Texas Legislature was defeated in 1949. In 1953 the Texas Senate passed a resolution to bring women’s right to jury service to vote as an amendment on the November ballot.
Kline’s study documents ongoing battles by Dallas County women to be added to the jury pool in a timely way. Women were not officially added to the Dallas County jury pool until August 1955.
“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 openly, 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 place on the east side of the Old Red Courthouse, now a county historical museum in downtown Dallas. The marker was unveiled October 30.
On the day of the dedication, Kline’s students noticed she was dressed for a special occasion. After she explained the importance of jury service and her role in creating the maker, Kline’s eighth-graders gave her a standing ovation. — Nancy Lowell George