Twin Falls' First Female Jury Decides 1912 Case

Whether or not women could lawfully serve on Idaho juries was still unclear in the early 20th century. A holdover from Territorial law stated that a trial jury consisted of a "body of men." Yet, the 1896 Suffrage Amendment to the Idaho Constitution held that women citizens were qualified electors, suggesting that they could also serve on juries. Individual women are known to have served on Idaho juries by 1897. In Twin Falls, the first recorded all-female jury was selected in 1912 in the court of Probate Judge James W. Shields.

The case involved a female defendant, Mrs. Edward Bolts, who lived on a ranch northwest of Twin Falls. She was charged with drawing a revolver on fellow rancher Arthur J. Requa and striking him with the gun. Requa had purchased the Bolts farm and was preparing to assume possession in early 1913.

On the day of the incident, he went to the farm with his wife and son to drop off some produce, which he intended to store at his new property. As he headed for the root cellar with a box of apples, Mrs. Bolts came from the house brandishing a revolver. She was adamant that he could not store goods on the property, while he claimed they had an agreement allowing him to store his belongings at the farm until he took possession. In the ensuing argument, Bolts struck Requa with the gun, but later denied that she pointed the gun at him. Requa left the scene, went into town, and filled a complaint against Bolts.

The case came to trial in the court of Judge Shields and was prosecuted by County Attorney Alden R. Hicks. Bolts was represented by William P. Guthrie, and claimed self-defense. The most notable aspect of the case, however, was the jury of six local women who found Bolts guilty of the charges. In honor of the auspicious occasion, the Amos Studio took a photograph of the court scene with the female jurors. The photo was planned "to hang in the halls of justice" as a memorial to the woman jurors.

Sources: Twin Falls News: September 26, 1912, December 5, 1912

Idaho Legal History Society Newsletter, Summer 2013

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