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Using Classic and Contemporary Literature to Explore Themes in Law and Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  infidelity. She argued that female jurors might have been more understanding of her temporary insanity defense and the facts of the case. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, disagreed, and sustained the Florida law based in part on sexist reasoning. 20 Today, however, jurisdictions cannot automatically exclude women from jury pools and lawyers cannot use gender (or race) to systematically exclude women from juries. 21 When the students read Glaspell=s story, I ask them to consider the importance of having access to judgment by a jury of one’s peers. Several other questions are connected to the reading: What is the attitude of the men in the story toward women? Does Glaspell suggest that women view things differently from men? Do the differences between men and women in this story result from genetic aspects of gender, from life experience, or from the social construction of gender roles at the time of the story? Finally, did Mrs. Wright receive a jury of her peers? The lesson of this story is that the systematic exclusion of women from jury service for most of our legal history denied women equality in two ways: it prevented them from fully participating in our legal system as citizens in a democracy and when women were defendants in criminal or civil cases, it denied them a jury of their peers. Student Reaction and Instructor Assessment Overall, I was pleased by the student effort to learn and participate in the course. The small seminar format allowed all of us to get to know each other over the four weeks and to become comfortable with sharing our thoughts on the readings. We debated various 20 2 Justice Harlan wrote that the Florida law gave women “the privilege to serve but does not impose service as a duty.” He said that despite the “enlightened emancipation of women from the restrictions and protections of bygone years, and their entry into many parts of the community life formerly considered to be reserved for men, woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life.” 368 U.S. 57 (1961), at 62. 21 See Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975). Page | 19

Authors: Fliter, John.
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infidelity. She argued that female jurors might have been more understanding of her temporary
insanity defense and the facts of the case. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, disagreed, and
sustained the Florida law based in part on sexist reasoning.
Today, however, jurisdictions cannot automatically exclude women from jury pools and
lawyers cannot use gender (or race) to systematically exclude women from juries.
When the
students read Glaspell=s story, I ask them to consider the importance of having access to
judgment by a jury of one’s peers. Several other questions are connected to the reading: What is
the attitude of the men in the story toward women? Does Glaspell suggest that women view
things differently from men? Do the differences between men and women in this story result
from genetic aspects of gender, from life experience, or from the social construction of gender
roles at the time of the story? Finally, did Mrs. Wright receive a jury of her peers? The lesson of
this story is that the systematic exclusion of women from jury service for most of our legal
history denied women equality in two ways: it prevented them from fully participating in our
legal system as citizens in a democracy and when women were defendants in criminal or civil
cases, it denied them a jury of their peers.
Student Reaction and Instructor Assessment
Overall, I was pleased by the student effort to learn and participate in the course. The
small seminar format allowed all of us to get to know each other over the four weeks and to
become comfortable with sharing our thoughts on the readings. We debated various
20
2
Justice Harlan wrote that the Florida law gave women “the privilege to serve but does not impose service as a
duty.” He said that despite the “enlightened emancipation of women from the restrictions and protections of bygone
years, and their entry into many parts of the community life formerly considered to be reserved for men, woman is
still regarded as the center of home and family life.” 368 U.S. 57 (1961), at 62.
21
See Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975).
Page | 19


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