SWEETWATER COUNTY — March is Women’s History Month, and in observance the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River is presenting a series of profiles throughout the month from Sweetwater Women, by Christine Alethea Williams and Brigida R. Blasi.
Sweetwater Women, which covers the lives of over 100 women who figure prominently in Sweetwater County history, is available in paperback at the Sweetwater County Museum bookstore and from Amazon.
Louise Spinner Graf and a 1950 Murder Trial
“A murder trial, convened on May 8, 1950, is famous not for the crime but for the people who sat on the jury. Otto Long was charged with the shooting death of Joe Pearce during an argument on the road between Rock Springs and Green River in 1949.
“Although women served on juries in the Territorial years of 1870 and 1871, and on a civil case in one recorded instance in 1891, the frequency was rare.
“After statehood in 1890, it took a law enacted by the Wyoming State Legislature in 1949 to allow women to serve on juries. Louise Spinner Graf was the daughter of one of the earliest pioneers of Green River. One of six women who served on the first jury to empanel women in the state of Wyoming, she is also believed to have been the first female jury foreman in the United States.
“Other women jurors at the murder trial included Donna Schultz, Kathryn Auld, Mrs. Dave Rauzi, Mrs. D. G. Marshall, and Mrs. John Wilde. Since there had never been a coed jury in Sweetwater County before, courthouse caretaker Bill Hutton had to improvise segregated lavatory facilities for the women. After deliberating for one hour and thirty-five minutes, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The attorney for the defense, Walter Muir, was said to blame the loss of his case on ‘those damn women on the jury!’
“Louise died at age 93 in 1997 and is buried in Green River.”