Select Page

The language of the law. Part Latin, part Greek, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

Once again, The Legal Genealogist has absolutely no idea what time it is.

Or even what day it is.

Once again, I’m Down Under, in Australia, for the 15th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry that gets underway in Sydney on Friday, March 9.

When it probably won’t be Friday where you are.

The International Date Line plays games with your mind. (It’s Monday, March 5, at my home right now. It’s Tuesday, March 6, here in Australia.)

In any event, you know what this means… time to write blog posts will be in short supply, not just because of the conference but because I’m going to get out and see something of this gorgeous country while I’m here — including a lovely visit with a Tasmanian devil. (My oldest nephew lives in Tasmania.)

But since nobody wants the blog to go totally silent while I’m off having fun with koalas, kangaroos and real-live Tasmanian devils, however, let’s continue having fun as time allows with legal alphabet soup (and — warning!!! — more than a few photos of Australia coming up over the time I’ll be here).

So, for today, J is for “JURY”.

Oh, so you think you know all about juries, do you?

Just because you know that a jury was a “certain number of men, selected according to law, and sworn (Jurati) to inquire of certain matters of fact, and declare the truth upon evidence to be laid before them.”1

And that the jury-box was the “place in court (strictly an inclosed place) where the jury sit during the trial of a cause.”2

And even that the jury-list was the “paper containing the names of jurors impaneled to try a cause, or it contains the names of all the jurors summoned to attend court.”3

Just because you know all that, you know that women didn’t sit on juries until they won the right to vote, right?



There was one special jury, way back in time, where the jurors had to be women.

It was called the Jury of Matrons, and its function was two-fold. In civil cases, where a widow said she was pregnant with her late husband’s child, this jury would be summoned to determine if that really was the case — since that could affect inheritance and dower rights. And in criminal cases, where a female convict subject to the death penalty claimed to be pregnant, she’d be examined and, if really pregnant, the sentence was stayed until the child was born.4

This jury first appears in the records back in the 13th century, and then ultimately disappeared in the early days of the 20th century.5

Women on a jury… in the 13th century…



  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 664, “jury.”
  2. Ibid., 665, “jury-box.”
  3. Ibid., “jury-list.”
  4. Ibid., “Jury of Matrons.”
  5. See “The Jury of Matrons,” The First 100 Years ( : accessed 5 Mar 2018).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email