My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Tuesday—Yesterday afternoon in spite of the pouring rain, a very patient judge lectured a room full of women with or one or two men thrown in for good measure on the subject of jury service. Outside the rain came down in sheets and Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Mrs. David Gray and I, ran from our car to the door of the County Court House.

When the judge finished giving the necessary information he asked for questions and it was then we discovered what a patient and courtly gentleman he really was. To him the questions probably seemed quite unnecessary but every one of them bore on a point which some woman present was interested in. We discovered for instance, that juries are drawn at different times in different counties. We also discovered that you must be on the assessor's list to be drawn as jurors. One woman had a difficult time grasping the fact that property which you rented and did not own, would not place you upon this list. Furthermore, we found we would have to make application to be placed on the list of jurors.

I discovered that I had been laboring under a mistaken impression when I thought that people everywhere received only three dollars for jury duty. I do not know now whether it varies in different places but in Dutchess County one gets five dollars per day and an extra one dollar and a half after six o'clock with accommodations added if you stay all night.

I had not attended the morning session when under this same judge, the drawing of a jury took place. He took great pains to explain to the women that if at any time a lawyer excused them from service when they had not asked to be excused, that they need not feel that this was in any way an insult. It simply meant that for some special reason of his own he did not think they would be impartial in the case. One woman promptly said that she did not think that the attorney should have that privilege, but as it is a law it must continue to be the attorney's privilege until the law is changed!

New York State does not have a mandatory law, the law allowing women to serve on juries is a permissive law!

We had a jolly birthday dinner for one of the members of the household last evening, after which the President's party left for Washington and the household seemed very small and very quiet after their departure.

Today dawned clear and beautiful and I almost wish I had stuck to my original intention of motoring to Atlantic City, but yesterday was so disagreeable that I decided to journey by train. Mrs. Scheider and I left Hyde Park at seven-thirty this morning. We are in New York for an hour between trains and will reach Atlantic City about two o'clock.

E.R.
TMsd14 September 1937, AERP, FDRL