It took a decade of work before South Carolina finally decided in 1967 to allow women to be jurors in state courts.
Sarah Leverette, soon to turn 96, recalls the fight and the mindset that prompted one male legislator to say that one practical reason to not change state law was, “Well, we don’t have ladies’ restrooms in courthouses.”
“We looked at each other,” Leverette said of her League of Women Voters colleagues who testified before legislative committees, “and said, ‘Well, put them in.’
“That’s descriptive of the attitude in those days,” Leverette said.
Women had been serving on federal juries in the wake of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which created the prospect of white women sitting on those juries along with African-American men.
“(T)he South Carolina movement became strategic very late in the history of women’s struggles to sit on juries,” wrote Holly J. McCammon in her 2012 book. “This, along with the traditional gender culture in this Southern state helps explain why South Carolina was one of the last states to grant women jury rights,” McCammon said in “The U.S. Women’s Jury Movement and Strategic Adaptation: A More Just Verdict.”
Mississippi was the last state to change its law in 1968.
Leverette, one of the few Palmetto State women with a law degree in 1943, said the state chapter of the league took on the challenge of changing state law. “It never got anywhere,” she said of stumbling blocks in the General Assembly. “We just kept working on it.”