San Mateo County History

First Feminine Jury In California

First Feminine Jury In California.

Twelve Good Women and True Find Mrs. Rudy Not Guilty.

Meant to Hit a Dog, but Broke Mrs. Pinto's Window.

In Daly City, a thriving little hamlet just over the southern boudnary of San Francisco, Mrs. S. Rudy was tried yesterday morning for disturbing the peace. The evidence was heard in Justice Ellis C. Johnson's court and twelve women sat in the jury box. And so, for the first time in the history of California, the fate of a woman accused of a misdemeanor was left in the hands of a dozen other women. Their verdict was "Not guilty," and the prisoner at the bar was thereupon acquitted and allowed to go her way rejoicing.

The case in question was of an extremely delicate nature and really needed the gentler judgment of woman-kind. It was the action of the people of the State of California against Mrs. Rudy, accused of distrubing the peace as long ago as March 6th, the charges being preferred by Mrs. Emma Pinto. Mrs. Pinto avowed that on the aforesaid 6th day of March the aforesaid Mrs. Rudy had, with malignant intent, heaved, hurled, pitched or chucked a brick, rock, stone or cobble through her (Mrs. Pinto's) kitchen window, which generally smeared up and destroyed a new supply of groceries which were on the kitchen table at the time, which broke her clock, and which, in bounding from aforesaid table, did narrowly miss striking her eight-year-old son. That was the charge.


Mrs. Pinto demanded the arrest of Mrs. Rudy on the very day the window was perforated. Judge Johnson, however, a man of kindly spirit, and believing the matter could be amicably settled out of court, did not issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused at the time. Mrs. Pinto, however, was persistent, and when she finally declared a day or so ago, that it was impossible to get any sort of justice in Daly City, Judge Johnson promptly had Mrs. Rudy placed under arrest and the trial was set for yesterday morning.

And because Judge Johnson had delayed the matter for nearly seven months, he believed that both complainant and defendant would be better satisfied if the case were tried by jury. Thinking further, he opined that because only women were implicated, a women's jury wouldn't be a half-bad idea, so he forthwith subpoenaed about one-half the female population of Daly City to his courtroom. All the names on the venire were placed in a cigar box and the Judge himself called the following:

"Mrs. Charles Mullen, Mrs. Adeline Ott, Mrs. Abraham Kornblum, Mrs. W.N. Flaherty, Mrs. F.S. Barker, Mrs. Rose Bodien, Annie O'Toole, Mrs. L.C. Mundelius, Rebecca Varskey, Mrs. W.J. White, RMs. Cecelia Worthington and Mrs. Gus Johnson."

None of the jurymen were challenged as they took their seats in a corner of the courtroom. If the fate of the nation depended upon their verdict they could not have been sworn in with greater dignity. Never in the history of any legal proceeding did a jury take itself more seriously.


Emma Pinto was the first witness. She reiterated all the charges sworn to by her in the complaint. She even went so far as to say that Mrs. Rudy had laughed in glee after having crashed the missle through the kitchen window and had exclaimed: "I'm even with you now."

At the conclusion of Mrs. Pinto's testimony the Judge informed Mrs. Rudy that she was at liberty to interrogate the witness. Mrs. Rudy hestitated a moment and then asked Mrs. Pinto:

"Where was your dog on the day your window was broken?"

"He was locked up in the cellar," was the reply.

"He was not."

"He was."

For a brief spell "Was-es" and "Was-nots" followed each other in rapid succession till Judge Johnson interrupted. "Ladies," he said, "we are here for the purpose of securing evidence, which simply cannot be accomplished unless order is restored. Let us quietly go about the task of finding out where the aforesaid dog was and just what he had to do with the breaking of the window."

"Well, anyway," Mrs. Pinto asserted, pointing to the defendant, "when I saw you after the window was smashed you were running up the street laughing to yourself."

"I was running away from your dog," snapped back Mrs. Rudy.


The next witness for the prosecution was Mrs. W.J. Clinton of Daly City. She corroborated Mrs. Pinto's evidence. She was grinding coffee at the time, and her kitchen window faced Mrs. Pinto's kitchen window, and she saw Mrs. Rudy throw a brick through the glass and she did not see any dog. In cross-examining this witness Mrs. Rudy made it quite plain that Mrs. Clinton might have been in a position that would have made it impossible for her to see said dog. Mrs. L. Botheron, the next witness, had only seen Mrs. Rudy in the neighborhood that day. At this point Mrs. Clinton, the witness of a few moments before, asked to be excused. "There's no one in the store," she explained, so the Court granted her request.

Mrs. Rudy took the stand as her own witness. She had no others. She spoke English with a Kolbdillian accent, but got away with it. Her testimony was to the point and convincing. "I was walking by Mrs. Pinto's house," she said, "the most peaceful woman in Daly City. Suddenly her dog makes a jump at me. I am afraid of dogs that do that. They make me all excitement. If I had twenty-dollar gold pieces in my hand at the time I would have thrown them at that dog. But I didn't. I picked up some stones to throw at him and maybe one of them broke the glass. It was an accident, pure and simplicity."

Mrs. Rudy had made her case clear. She had aimed at the dog, but lacked control.

That was nil as far as the testimony in the case was concerned. Judge Johnson instructed the jury, and there being no jury-room, the spectators, the Judge, the witnesses and the defendant all filed out to the sidewalk. The jury was "in" four minutes before a verdict was reached. Most of the time was taken up with electing Mrs. Charles Mullen foreman.

Those who had filed out filed back again. The foreman of the jury handed the Court a yellow slip of paper and the Court read:

"Not guilty."

Mrs. Rudy was congratulated by her freinds and the Judge thanked the jury for serving. And thus passed into history the first criminal action in California tried by a jury of women.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, November 3, 1911, page 7.

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