Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 16

Here’s my Friday Flash Fiction Entry for this week.

This is this week’s picture prompt:

first-woman-jury

First Woman Jury, Los Angeles, Nov 1911. PD photo by Library of Congress.

The required story element the conflict between man (not gender-specific) and self.

what struck me about this picture were two things: the empty chair and the hats! How varied and amazing they are. I would have liked to write a story about those hats, but unfortunately my knowledge of millinery etiquette in US at the time is non-existent, so I didn’t dare venture into that territory.

On the other hand, I stared at that chair and wondered what the women were looking at, the camera? the accused? the victim?

Well,I decided they were looking at the photographer, and the following dialogue ensued in my mind…

 

The Empty Chair 

 

“Smile ladies. This photograph will make history. The first woman jury. You are indeed privileged.”

“Please wait. I’m afraid you can’t take the photograph yet, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Someone is missing,” said the woman next to the empty chair.

“Who’s counting? Smile, I haven’t got all day!”

“We have to wait for Hazel. There has to be twelve in the picture,” she insisted.

“Where did she go?”

“Her husband needed his lunch.”

“What?”

“She had to prepare lunch for her family.”

“Her duty is to the community. She has been appointed to be on the jury.”

“I’m afraid her husband only understands it’s his lunchtime.”

“Does he realise she could have serious problems for not fulfilling her municipal duties?”

“She’ll be back soon, I’m sure,” the woman implored.

“Your honor,” started the photographer. “I suggest calling the police to bring her back.”

“If her husband’s lunch isn’t on the table, she’ll have more serious problems than a visit from the police,” explained the woman.

The gavel hit the sounding block as the judge glared at the photographer, “We will adjourn until four o’clock. You can take your photograph then. Tending to her husband is far more important than a simple speeding motorcyclist. Don’t you agree, Young man?”

****

I wonder how the men of the time accepted women on the jury? And even what women themselves thought about it?

Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then, and I can imagine the emotional struggle each woman fought to reconcile the  advances in civil rights for women and their traditional obligations to their families.

According to the Library of Congress the photograph shows: the first all-woman jury in California who acquitted the editor of the Watts News of printing indecent language, on Nov. 2, 1911. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2009 and Los Angeles Times, Nov. 3, 1911)

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