Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chivalry Justice & The Heart Balm Racket - 1912


An early example of women on juries – in Washington state.

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FULL TEXT: A young and pretty woman sued one of the handsomest men in Seattle for breach of promise recently.

The plaintiff’s counsel-in-chief was a woman lawyer, famed locally for the persuasive quality of her eloquence.

There were seven women on the jury.

The plaintiff asked for damages of $27,500 and received but $1,500, which sum, in the opinion of the jury, was a correct expression in terms of dollars and cents of the value of the young man’s affections, and a sufficient balm to heal the young woman’s heart.

What’s the answer?

Did the feminine majority on the jury have so small an opinion of the worth of a handsome man’s affection? Or was it lack of sympathy for the fair plaintiff?

The plaintiff was Miss Ethel Peterson. The defendant was Ross L. Phillippi. Mrs. Leona W. Browne was counsel-in-chief for Miss Peterson.

The complaint sets forth that Phillippi and Miss Peterson became engaged to be married on December 15, 1908; that the defendant subsequently postponed the marriage day several times, and finally, in October, 1911, definitely refused to marry her.

The plaintiff’s counsel had 180 letters from Phillippi to Miss Peterson, though only part of them were introduced in evidence, one of them acknowledging the engagement.

On April 12, 1912, Phillippi married Miss Bernice Smith. Judge Tallman made no comment on the verdict of the jury scaling down the claim from $27,500 to $1,500.

[“Heart Balm Greatly Reduced By Women Jurors,” The Day Book (Chicago, Il.), Nov. 21, 1912, p. 13]

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For more on the Heart Balm Racket, see:


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For more on this topic, see Chivalry Justice Checklist & Links

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