The Half Citizen: The Texas Women's Jury Movement, 1920-1954

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



Date of Award

Spring 2015


After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1920, which removed sex as a qualification for voting nationwide, many celebrated the perceived equality between men and women. However, in many states including Texas, voting women arguably still lacked full citizenship. In Texas, a gender-specific legal definition barred women from serving on juries by declaring that a lawful jury consisted solely of twelve men. Due to this interpretation and Texas law, a state constitutional amendment was required for women to serve. From the 1920s to 1954, women organized and advocated for women's jury rights. While historical scholarship covered the woman suffrage movement extensively, the women's jury movement remains largely overlooked. This study will examine the Texas women's jury movement as part of a larger women's rights narrative and place it into context regarding other jury movements during the period in the United States.Women's organizations, primarily the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs (Texas BPW), worked together to push jury rights legislation through the Texas Legislature to be voted on as a state referendum by the public. After a narrow defeat on a state referendum in 1949, Texas women had to broaden their justifications for jury service to appeal to more traditionally-minded women who were largely against the measure. Women's organizations began expressing support for exemptions for women based upon caring for small children or other dependents. Through elaborate grassroots organization, a second referendum passed in 1954.


Jessica Brannon-Wranosky

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History