WAXAHACHIE — A field trip to Dallas for Lisa Minton’s WNGA World Geography class coincidentally turned into a journey back in time for WISD’s Secondary Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Andrea Kline. Minton’s A and B day classes visited the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and participated in a historical scavenger hunt Tuesday, Oct. 11 and Wednesday, Oct. 12.
“Our first stop was to the Human Rights Initiative and they learned about refugees and asylees. The second part of the trip, the scavenger hunt, I created for them in downtown Dallas at Dealey and Founders Plaza,” Minton said. “In those areas I had them take a “selfie” with what they were looking for and apply the information geographically. They might’ve been looking for sequent occupancy or some aspect of a cultural trait or landscape.”
It just so happened that Kline was making a stop by WNGA where she spoke with Minton.
“I was visiting with Mrs. Minton, and she mentioned the field trip to the Human Rights Initiative and it peaked my interest. I was curious to hear her stories about the trip especially with the political climate we are in,” Kline explained.
After she “invited herself,” Kline met Minton and her B day classes in Dallas to tag along.
“I drove up to Dallas and tagged along with the group. At the end of the day I found out we were doing the scavenger hunt and that’s when I realized they were using historical markers,” Kline said.
As a senior at Southern Methodist University, Kline held an intern position in which she would research, coordinate, write and produce a historical marker for a location in the City of Dallas.
“I asked Mrs. Minton if she knew if the marker I made was there. She then asked me what I meant by my historical marker. I explained that when I was in college, I did all of the research and worked with SMU and the Texas Historical Commission to put one up. That’s how we figured out that my historical marker was one of the answers for the scavenger hunt, so I had the chance to tell the students about it,” Kline said.
Research for the marker began her last semester before student teaching in the fall semester of 2007.
“It was for an internship that the History Department at SMU. I needed some hours for my last semester, and I was able to do the internship for those hours. I had a college advisor that I worked with and I checked in with her frequently,” Kline said.
The marker is for the first women to serve on a jury in Dallas County, Adelyne Dransfield, in November of 1954.
“It was an in-depth process of research and in the process, I learned a lot about how state laws are written. Women received the right to vote in 1920, but it wasn’t the end-all, be-all. They actually handed off a lot of rules and regulations to the states which filtered down to county laws. The right to serve on a jury was handed down to the counties and in 1954 a state law was passed and the counties followed,” Kline said.
She explained how she didn’t know “what she was getting herself into” when she accepted the historian internship but is very grateful that she did.
“The professor who explained the project to me was incredibly passionate about women’s rights and it got me thinking about my role as a woman and the role we played in the past. I thought it would be neat to look into and the more and more I researched it, the respect I have for the woman multiplied,” Kline stated.
Before 1954, it was illegal for a female to serve on a jury.
“Names were placed in a hopper, they would turn it and then pull your name. If a woman’s name sounded or even half-way sounded masculine they were required to show up to serve jury duty,” Kline explained. “Women, knowing that it was illegal, showed up anyways. Now I hear people complain about jury duty, but there were people who were willing to do it.”
This brought about a new mentality for the former student and “opened her eyes.”
“I explained to the students that those women had lives, children to take care of and had jobs. They had to take an unpaid day to show up when they knew they couldn’t serve. It’s really pretty impressive,” Kline said.
Historical Marker 15464 states, “During this time, local newspapers drew attention to the issue by reporting on women who were called to jury duty by mistake, and the Dallas Morning News pointed out the absurdity of a system that would allow female district judges but denied those same women the right to sit on a jury. The amendment to the Texas Constitution requiring that women serve on grand and petit juries was finally approved by voters on November 2, 1954.”
Though not “officially added” to the Dallas County jury until August 1955, women who were “mistakenly” contacted to serve had the right to do so for the first time.
“In the early 1950’s, there was a judge in Dallas County who decided to sit an all female jury, even though he knew it illegal. He sat it for a prostitution case for a woman, and the case was thrown out, but he made a point that there was no harm done with a jury of the woman’s peers,” Kline said.
Dransfield was legally appointed to as a juror in Dallas and was selected by all men.
“She’s a very well-respected woman in the political world. I was talking with a small group of young ladies after the field trip and it was incredibly surreal to explain this to them,” Kline said. “I explained that women were allowed to go to the voting location with their husbands, but they were not allowed to step foot in the building. Women receiving the right to vote in the 1920’s is a huge shift in the whole paradigm that is America and how we view things like ethic and moral issue.”
The marker is located by the main entrance on the east side of the Dallas County Courthouse, also known as the “old red courthouse” on Main Street.
“I graduated SMU in 2008 and began teaching in Lancaster in 2009. I was in the middle of my first year teaching when I got the phone call telling me that it was approved. It was surreal,” Kline said. “Honestly when we first applied for it, we thought we would get a small 4-inch by 6-inch plaque. When we went to the unveiling of it, it was a large plaque on a post.”
“It started to show me the political process and how it takes time to make things happen and you have to want it. I think about what it would be like today if those women didn’t show up for jury duty when they weren’t supposed to. They weren’t taking a stand, protesting, throwing things, they weren’t doing anything but simply attempting to fulfill their civic duty. That what they saw it as and we don’t see it that way anymore,” Kline said.
Minton stated that Kline explained to the students that as well as voting, civilians have a civic responsibility to serve on a jury.
“I don’t think many people think about that. It was neat to tie in Mrs. Kline’s story in with what we were learning Before we left the classroom we discussed how women are not treated the same in other countries and places. It was such a neat set of circumstances that came together,” she added.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL