Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The Usual Crime"

"The Decay of Lynching
(Grand Junction Sentinel)
Lynchings fell off in 1914. There were only fifty-two cases in the United States, the smallest number in any year since the records have been kept. Aside from this general indication of a growing respect for law and order, a scrutiny of the record develops some less gratifying facts. First of all, it should be noted that if “the usual crime” were ever regarded as a blanket justification for the institution of lynching, it must now be definitely discarded. Relentless statistics declare that only seven lynchings out of the fifty-two came within the category of chivalric murders for the protection of womanhood and only five of the victims in these cases were colored."

-Steamboat Pilot, January 27, 1915, page 4

A friend told me that sometimes when I write, I speak a different language. We traced the source to the constant research I do reading old newspapers. The quaint, archaic English practiced by turn-of-the-century papers is a far cry from the tight, concise writing journalism emphasizes today. Additionally, social mores required the use of strangely-turned phrases that wouldn't offend Victorian readers' sensibilities. For example, "the usual crime." This one is elusive. I have to imagine, by the context, that they refer to rape. Even better: "chivalric murders for the protection of womanhood?" Compared to the USA Today, these men were Shakespeare!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Women on a jury? Ha ha ha, how novel!

The case of inquisition in lunacy of Mrs. Elizabeth Hutchinson was heard in the county court Thursday. The novel feature of the trial was the the fact that the jury box was filled with women. Judge Morning gave Deputy Sheriff "Billy" Leahy permission to summon women as jurors. "Billy" was delighted and soon had a sufficient number of the fair sex subpoenaed to try the case. "Billy" is happiest when he can show his gallantry to the ladies. The jury was comprised of Mesdames Kate Starr, Katie Pully, Mary Criswell, Mrs. Charles McCormick, Alice Reagen and Miss Maud Keller. Mrs. Starr was foreman. Mrs. Hutchison was committed to the state insane asylum at Pueblo.

[From the Routt County Republican, July 1, 1910.]