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History made when women were allowed to serve on jury

November 16, 2018

A photo that appeared in the back story section of the Nov. 1 edition of the Clearwater Record-Ewing News generated a lot of discussion on the paper’s social media channels.

The photo, which originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 1968 edition of CREN, featured six women who made history by reporting for jury duty.

The first women to ever serve on an Antelope County jury included Betty Thiele, Clearwater; Norma Maple, Orchard; Nora McClaran, Orchard; Norma Carlson, Elgin; Lois Schuchardt, Elgin and Iva Brinkman, Plainview.

They joined Norm Larabee, Don Douglass, Wayne Shrader and Lyle Bentley, Neligh; John Kemmel, Brunswick, and Duane Reinke, Clearwater, to hear a district court case.

According to an article in the Oct. 30, 1968 Neligh News and Leader, 35 jury summons were sent. Six were excused before the trial date.

NNL quoted District Judge Geoerge Dittrick as saying, “This is a special occasion since this is the first time in the history of Antelope County that a jury has been empaneled consisting of both men and women. This is further evidence of the progress of the day and age in which we live.”

Antelope County Clerk of the District Court Judy Cole said women gained eligibility to serve on juries in Nebraska in 1943.

Wyoming first allowed women to fill jury positions in the 1870s.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, but it wasn’t until 1973 that all 50 states passed similar legislation.

During a recent interview, Larabee said the case included a broken fence, cattle and trampled corn.

“We had to decide if the fences were bad and how much was owed to the landowner for damaged corn,” Larabee said.

At the time, NNL reported the case involved Lee Potts, plaintiff, Robert Mahood, defendant and Elizabeth Johnson, third party defendant, for alleged damages to a corn crop by cattle from an adjoining pasture.

“We talked with Smoky White at Neligh Lumber to find out what corn was worth,” Larabee said.

The trial lasted approximately two days.

Larabee said that while performing their civic duty, jury members ate two noon meals and one evening meal at the Imperial Steakhouse.

“Twelve people drew jury fees. The total of jury fees and meals wasn’t much different from the settlement reached,” Larabee said.

A verdict was not included in the 1968 edition of the Record-News or Neligh News and Leader.

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