For the first time in the history of the commonwealth, women sat on the jury of state court as superior court convened in Edgartown Tuesday for a three-day September term. Women were represented on both of the juries impaneled at the session.
Women have sat on juries in federal courts in this state, but so far as any state court is concerned, the Vineyard this week made history. Both Judge Vincent Brogna of Newton, who presided, and District Attorney Maurice M. Lyons of New Bedford, made formal recognition of this fact.
According to Judge Brogna, most communities are holding the new statute as to woman jurors in abeyance until their courthouse facilities have been altered to accommodate both sexes. He congratulated the Vineyard on putting the law into effect so quickly.

Trouble in Orienting

A short, white-haired, distinguished-looking jurist, Judge Brogna had trouble throughout the session orienting himself to the presence of the women. He constantly addressed the jurors as “gentlemen of the jury,” only occasionally adding, “and, er, ladies.” At one point he explained: “It’s rather difficult, ladies and gentlemen, to remember the ladies, since this is the first time I’ve had to remember them.” Lawyers arguing before him had similar difficulty.
Court was opened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with prayer by the Rev. John E. Denehy. The grand jury, Henry K. Burgess of Vineyard Haven as foreman, then retired to hear presentments by District Attorney Maurice Lyons.
The initial civil case to be heard resulted from suits brought by Mr. and Mrs. Hervey E. Luce of Vineyard Haven against the town of Tisbury. In separate writs, Mrs. Luce sought compensation for injuries sustained in a fall on Main street a year ago, while her husband’s suit demanded payment from the town for consequential damages thereby incurred on his part.
James A. Boyle, Superior Court clerk, drew the names of twelve jurors, and three women were chosen on the panel. Mrs. Lida R. Fuller of Oak Bluffs, however, was challenged by the plaintiff, leaving Mrs. Hazel B. Childs and Mrs. Mildred H. Randolph, both of Oak Bluffs, to represent the distaff side in a case, which, for their presence, made Vineyard history.