Monday, 26 October 2009

Today in 1942 women finally allowed to be on juries

From NZ History:
The [Women Jurors] Act provided for women between the ages of 25 and 60 to have their names placed on the jury list on the same basis as men – if they so desired. New Zealand’s first woman juror was Miss E.R. Kingsman, who sat on a case at the Auckland Supreme Court in 1943. When she was interviewed by a National Film Unit crew, she raised the possibility that one day there might even be woman judges – a thoroughly radical idea at that time.

The introduction of women jurors was one of a number of important milestones for New Zealand women in the 1940s which were in part driven by the demands of war and the absence of servicemen overseas. The first women police officers completed their training in October 1941. In June 1945 Mary Anderson, who had been a Justice of the Peace since 1943, became reputedly the first woman in New Zealand to sit on a Magistrate's Court bench. In January 1946 Anderson and Mary Dreaver became the first women appointed to the Legislative Council.

Relatively few women took up the offer of voluntary service on juries in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1963 the Act was amended to include the names of all adult women on the jury list, with an absolute right of withdrawal. Later changes standardised the jury responsibilities of women and men. Today, everyone between the ages of 20 and 65 (with some exceptions) who is resident within a specific distance from a court is required to attend if summoned. A person may be excused if jury service would cause serious inconvenience or hardship.
Click through for links to further interesting articles about this issue.

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