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Women were not considered full citizens in Alabama in 1965

In 1965 Judge Annie Lola Price, the first woman to serve on the high court of Alabama as Chief Court of Criminal Appeals, was quoted in a news story by News Staff Writer Jean Quillen of the Anniston Star, “Women are not full citizens of Alabama until they are allowed to sit as jurors.”


Women were considered property

It may be hard to imagine now, but before 1965, only men served on juries in the State of Alabama.  Annie Lola Price was a Judge yet she, herself,  was forbidden by the Alabama State Law to sit as a juror. On Jan 12, 1951, Annie Lola Price of Cullman became the first woman to serve on the Alabama Court of Appeals when she is appointed to the court by Gov. Jim Folsom.  In 1952 Price was elected to the three-person court and served the state as an appeals judge until her death in 1972.

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In 1819 when Alabama became a state, women were still considered property of their husbands, comparable to that of livestock.

A sumter county grand jury 1902 (ADAH)A Sumter County, Alabama Grand Jury, with lawyers, officers 1906 – The following men are pictured: Jack Roberts, T. F. Seale, Dr. M. B. Cameron, Judge P. B. Jarman, E. N. Kring, James R. Jackson, C. Hooks, F. I. Derby, J. P. Spratt, L.D. Norville, Tom Hunter, C. J. Brockway, William B. Henagan, W. B. Oliver, Woodie Beville, Joseph Wrenn, W. T. Atkins, W. L. Cockrell, R. L. McDonald, R. S. Mason,Sid War, Hugh Davis, T. P. Tate, and D. O. McKinley – (Q8980 Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution which was ratified in 1920 gave women the right to vote and made them free to hold public office and to sit on federal juries.

Women Ask President for Equal Rights Legislation. Fifty prominent members of the New National Woman’s Party called at the White House today to ask the president’s aid in passing an “Equal Rights Bill” in the next Congress. The bill would give women full equality in the government service, give married women citizenship in their own right and make women of the District of Columbia eligible to serve on juries, equal guardianship rights, and equal rights of inheritance and contract. Photograph shows suffragists with President Harding at the White House. (Underwood & Underwood Studios – Library of Congress 4/6/1921)

Alabama defeated the 19th Amendment

Alabama, however, was one of six states that voted against the 19th Amendment in a 1919 vote, along with Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Six more states had unique situations such as not holding sessions until 1921.

Even though it was Alabama voted against ratification, the women in Alabama could legally vote because enough states had ratified the the 19th Amendment for it to become part of the Constitution. Decades later on September 8, 1953, Alabama finally ratified the 19th Amendment.

19th Amendment

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Still not allowed on juries

Alabama could vote, but by Alabama State law, they were not allowed to serve on juries in state court. It wasn’t until November 18, 1957, that a woman was allowed to serve on a federal jury in Alabama.  Prior to 1957, since Alabama law prohibited women from jury duty in state courts federal court juries had to comply with the same qualifications as those fixed in the various states.

women too sentimental for jury duty - 1915 (Library of Congress)Women too sentimental for jury duty published by artist Kenneth Russell Chamberlain – 1915 (Library of Congress)

Civil Rights law in 1957

The Civil Rights law in 1957 changed this ruling and women were allowed on the federal court. The first three women chosen to serve on a jury in U. S. District Court were: Mrs. Olive Andrews, wife of an insurance man and a member of the League of Women Voters; Mrs. Alma M. Glover, wife of the manager of a Montgomery plumbing and heating company; and Mrs. Alsie M. Bell, mother of two; all of Montgomery. Mrs. Glover was a secretary and the other two were housewives.1 Eight other women’s names were included on the 49 member jury list called for that term for criminal court.

Some reasons the Alabama Legislature gave for women not be allowed to participate in jury duty were related by News Staff Writer of the Anniston Star Jean Quillen in her article in the The Tuscaloosa News Jun 14,1965.

  • We don’t want our women on lock-up juries sleeping in the same room with men jurors.
  • There aren’t separate bathrooms.
  • Women should be spared the sordid details of criminal testimony.

In the same article, Quillen quoted Judge Price again. “I know of only about four counties that provide overnight quarters for their juries in the courthouse. Jurors were usually taken to a hotel or motel,” where men and women can be housed separately.”

when women were jurorsWhen women are jurors by Artist Charles Dana Gibson ca. 1902 (Library of Congress)

Federal Court rules

In February 1966, a federal court, in a ruling unprecedented in the nation’s history, ordered Alabama to start putting women on juries in state courts. At the time, Alabama was only one of three states with a law that kept women off juries in state courts. The other two states were Mississippi and South Carolina.2

Last state to prohibit women

Finally, after decades of argument, late in 1966, Alabama became the last state to eliminate prohibitions on women serving on juries.

In October 1966, Irene Plummer Wilbanks, a former British subject who became a naturalized citizen ten years prior, signed a little yellow card and became the first woman in Etowah County to register for jury duty. She was the wife of Etowah County Jury Commissioner C. L. Wilbanks and watched with interest as the Legislature debated, then made a law allowing women to be subject to jury duty.

The first to serve

The names of two ladies listed below in 1966 newspapers were the first women to serve on juries in their respective counties.

  • In October 1966, Louise Holt was the first woman called for jury duty at Montgomery, Alabama. She was a assistant clerk of the Alabama Supreme Court.
  • In December 1966, Mrs. John E. Willingham of Tuscumbia was the first woman called for jury duty in Colbert County, Alabama. She was a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club that worked hard to get legislation passed for women to serve on juries. 3

1“Alabama Women Serve On Jury, First In State”, Gadsden Times, November 18, 1957

2Thomas, Rex, “Alabama Ordered to Halt Discrimination on Juries”, The Telegraph, Nashua, N. H., Feb. 8, 1966

3Prince, Lucille, “First Woman in Colbert Called for Jury Duty,” The Florence Times, Florence, Alabama, Dec. 30, 1966

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Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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54 comments

  1. I have to wonder, given the women’s situation, why ONLY blacks demand a “celebration & parade” on this anniversary . Women were granted the exact same rights as the blacks, yet women demand no active celebration. Only in Alabama, only in Alabama…does anyone raise a commotion & fuss which draws news & protest groups, slams the state & sets racial tones back 50 years. Yes, I wonder…?

    1. Because Alabama is so backwards and behind the times. Afraid to move forward and give people the same rights they have.

    2. I’m 31 and I remember living in segregated apartments in 1990. Stuff like this still exists.

  2. Your kidding me,that is ridiculous.

  3. I’m 66 years old, and I can still remember when women had to be married and have husbands signature to sign a contract for a loan or mortgage. I was so proud of myself, when at the age of 25 I was able to buy my own mobile home, in NC, with just my own signature. Getting credit in your own name was not easy, even in the 70’s because most institutions still enforced the old ways of doing business

    1. I remember those dsys as well!

    2. me also, i remember starting out getting a loan for 100 dollars from my credit union, i paid that back, waited a few months and went back and borrowed 150, i slowly built up my own credit, without my husbands……..

  4. Yep. orphans were mostly kids whose fathers was dead; mothers were not people so the kids [and property] were taken by the state and the women became beggars or prostitutes if her family would not take her in

    1. husband also owned the wife’s body until resently – my husband had to sign the hospital and doctor papers for my tubal back 30 years ago [which I did get 20 years ago without his signature]

    2. Wow! Didn’t know that.,

    3. I must have lived in Georgia or Tenn never experienced that.

    4. I bought all our cars in 70s in Tenn my husband always busy working.

  5. How ignorant society was back then in their notions and conclusions concerning women.

  6. Some men still have this attitude towards their wives .

    1. They are called Southern men.

    2. Ha ha you are right Darlene .

    3. Not just to wives but to women in general. Have you ever had a service man that tells you something can’t be done, or tell you need to buy a new something, when you get them back with your husband there the same service person sings a different song! Grrrrrr

    4. I am married to a Southern man and he does not have that attitude and I know many other Southern men that do not.

    5. My very Southern gentleman husband is nothing like this. He respects me, my intelligence, my abilities and talents. We operate as a team, respecting each other. So be careful painting with such a wide brush. All Southern men aren’t like this.

    6. Stereotype much? Geez. I don’t know one Southern man like that.

    7. Wow!! Really??
      I’ve been in alabama all my life…i’m 50 years old…ummm…yall stereotype much??

  7. I personally wish we were back in those days, they were simpler and easier. People were more happier.

    1. I don’t think everyone was happier .

  8. […] of men. The following comments on Alabama Pioneers facebook page on a story about the history of Women’s jury rights in Alabama made me realize the severe restrictions on women’s citizenship even as late as the […]

  9. For some reason, I did not realize this……..

  10. Regions Banks still has this attitude. We have joint check and a credit card. I had to get a replacement card and they wanted to speak to my husband to get his permission. Needless to say they did not get it.

  11. Isn’t this crazy Andrea Vieau Timpa? Thought u might enjoy this interesting tidbit 🙂

    1. I’m not surprised. Sadly the South has always been reluctant to accept change.

  12. As late as 1987, as a married woman, I attempted to buy a car in Opelika, AL and after the haggling was over and I had the deal worked out they refused to sell to me until my husband came and signed! I left. I DROVE TO GA. I BOUGHT THE SAME vehicle. I DROVE back to that dealer and honked the horn and said ” i just bought this in Georgia with No man’s signature you idiots. He isnt even employed right now.”

  13. I’m older than you Connie and my mother signed her on loans for years prior to 1965. I don’t think she was ever kept from doing things and I finished high school in 1965.

  14. Are we sure it was 1965 and not 1865??? The men in the picture do not look like that time but a like maybe 1800’s.

  15. We still don’t have equal pay in the entire US.

  16. In many states after that women did not own the clothes on their backs.

  17. This picture was certainly taken before 1965.

    1. The date of the picture 1906 is included in italics under the picture on the website.

  18. Karlie Concord this is what l was talking about

  19. I’m guessing this is 1865.

  20. In 1970,in Virginia, children were property of their fathers.

  21. I think someone has the wrong date here.

  22. I opened my first bank account on my on when I was a senior in high school 1969!

  23. Since there seems to be some question about the dates in the article, I thought I’d clarify them. The picture of the men is from 1906 as stated in the caption. Here is one of the news articles quoted in the article from Dec. 30, 1965. Women could serve on federal juries but were banned from state juries until 1965.

  24. This is another news article quoted from Feb. 1966.

  25. I remember in 1964 when I applied for a job at an insurance company, I was told that I could never reach the level of advancement as an underwriter because that position and any higher position was reserved for men only because they had to support their families.

  26. Alabama Pioneers my mother used to tell me to make sure my husband included me on is credit cards so I’d have credit! I thought she was daft. I’ve lived a long time not realizing how recently women have gained very basic freedoms.

  27. THAT’S THE YEAR I GOT MARRIED & I DID NOT KNOW THAT!!!!

  28. For those doubters, my parents neighbor’s were husband and wife. She inherited land from her family in Alabama, but she could not own it, it had to be owned jointly with her husband, and that was 1970’s in Alabama!

  29. Well aren’t you glad all that’s over!

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