Rights and responsibilities: Jury duty anyone?

Header photo caption: Crowd of women register for jury duty after gaining the right to vote, Portland, Oregon, 1912. Members of crowd include Marie Equi and [presumed from context of photo in source!] Abigail Scott Duniway. 1912
Source OPB, Author: Gardiner P. Bissel, Oregon Journal

Just two hours into my time awaiting possible jury duty this week, I was dismissed. Hmm. I kind of expected it: maybe my profession, but more likely, the fact that my spouse is an elected official. Or, of course, it could have been a host of many things that put me in the category of the 15 or so others who weren’t selected for the day’s trials, thanked, and told to gather our things and leave the building. Because I didn’t even make it through the first selection, I didn’t enter our Clackamas County Courthouse on this day.

It did, however, make me think about early Oregon juries. I admit it –  I hadn’t ever recognized before that the first time Oregon women were allowed to sit as jurists was when we got the vote in 1912. This was a big year as women could not only vote and register as a juror, but we could own property, sue and be sued, vote in school elections, and so forth. (Learn more from the Oregon History Project.) It should go without saying, that it is even more difficult to accept the fact that people of color didn’t win the undeniable right to vote in Oregon until 1927.

Our Clackamas County which today comprises 1,879 square miles including more than 15 towns, cities, and designated places from Wilsonville to the Stafford Hamlet to Estacada, was named after the Clackamas Indians. It was one of the four original districts created by the Provisional legislature on July 5, 1843. Back then, Clackamas County covered four present-day states, even reaching into one Canadian province. By 1844,  the Columbia River was made the northern boundary, and finally, the 1853 U.S. Congressional Act that created the Washington Territory enclosed Clackamas County within the present-day boundaries of Oregon. One year later in 1854, we were granted the boundaries that exist today. I wonder how many current Clackamas County residents know this?

Our Clackamas County courthouse, that I didn’t actually enter this week,  was constructed beginning in 1935. Before it was erected county records were kept in a few different Oregon City locations. Two of the locations burned but the county records were saved. In 1884,  a frame and concrete structure was built at a cost of $145,000. In 1935 the county records were moved temporarily to rented quarters while a new courthouse was built. Using construction grants available through the Works Progress Administration the current courthouse was completed in 1937.

And today, this eve preceding the gathering of so many women around the world – in support of diversity and inclusion – early Oregon juries remain yet another reminder of our history, and the things that we have gained, as well as the distance we have yet to go.

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Header photo caption: Crowd of women register for jury duty after gaining the right to vote, Portland, Oregon, 1912. Members of crowd include Marie Equi and [presumed from context of photo in source!] Abigail Scott Duniway. 1912
Source OPB, Author: Gardiner P. Bissel, Oregon Journal

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Clackamas County Courthouse on Main Street, Oregon City.

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Any trip over the Arch Bridge deserves a few moments to view Willamette Falls. Best on foot.

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