Strange Times 76: "The Blondes Are Fickle"

Before we start, there’s one extremely-not-strange article in this weekend’s New York Times: a glowing review of Westside! I can only hope that in around 700 years’ time, one of my descendants singles it out for mockery in “Strange Times 35,872.”

Today we’ve got stories of women serving in and sneaking out of court, and a well-intentioned but slightly muddled attempt at fitness relief in France. Practice your Swedish exercises for…

March 17, 1921

  • The eight Chicago White Sox players indicted for their role in the fixing of the World Series have their contracts terminated. If you’re interested in the Black Sox scandal, I’ve got the game for you.

  • After over six hours of play, the first game of the World Chess Championship in Havana between Capablanca and Lasker ends in a fifty-move draw. 

  • Although no date has been set for his return to Italy, Caruso continues “forging ahead,” his condition improving every day.

  • The Weather: Fair today; Friday, fair and probably warmer; fresh west winds. 

The purpose of this newsletter is not to impose modern standards of morality and behavior on the past. That would be unfair, and I don’t think Judge William Morris is listening to us, anyway. But I’m always interested when something happens that was considered egregious even in 1921, and these statements by Judge Morris—who was in the midst of striking a blow for the advancement of women before he remembered to be a jerk—certainly seem to qualify.

Blond women are too fickle for jury duty, said Justice William Morris yesterday in the Municipal Court of the First District, at 146 Grand Street, as he abruptly interrupted a dispute between two opposing attorneys concerning the personnel of a male jury with this comment:

“I think the best way to settle this matter is to call a jury of both men and women. I am sick and tired of hearing you men argue about the relative merits of jurymen, so I’ll put a quietus on both of you by making up a jury of three women and three men to adjudicate this controversy.” Justice Morris paused, adjusted his glasses, gazed toward the spectators in the court room, and continued: “There will be no blondes on this jury either. The blondes are fickle.”

Some of the women among the spectators stirred uneasily at this announcement, while several of them described as “pronounced blondes” by a court attendant hastily arose and glided through the door. Others hesitated and dropped back to their seats, as if uncertain of how they should classify themselves. But the brief commotion subsided when the justice directed the clerk to call “all brunette” women in the court before him for examination for jury duty.

Finally three women were chosen from the dark-haired group before the Justice’s desk and they passed immediately into the jury box. They were Mrs. Bessie K. Weinberg, Mrs. Jean Rudges and Mrs. Fannie Kaminsky, all living in the same house at 829 Beck Street, Bronx. The only protest to this enforced service came from one of the jury women, who said: 

“Judge, I’ve got to hurry home to get dinner for my husband.”

“That’s a very important duty, next to this,” replied the Court, “and we will expedite matters so that you may perform your task here and at home. I’ll waive my usual charge to the jury, and I’ll see to it that these lawyers put the evidence in quickly and cut out the oratory.”

Three married men were the other members of this mixed jury, said to be the first empaneled in the State, which was asked to pass on the claim of $761 by Harris Levine, a manufacturer, at 1 Bond Street, who sued to recover a remainder due on a clothing sale. The defendants, Hyman W. Alter and Joseph H. Jones, Washington Place, dealers, said the goods purchased were not according to sample. In three-quarters of an hour the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff 10 per cent of the amount of his claim. 

I hereby award Miss Anna White the Bertha A. Miller Award for Extreme Gumption and Moxie. I really, really hope she never gets caught, and goes on to become one of the great outlaws of her time. 

Half an hour before her scheduled hearing on a charge of shoplifting, Miss Anna White, who gave her address as 220 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, walked out of the detention room of the Women’s Court, passed through the half-filled court room into the probationary office and finally made her way through an exit that led to her freedom. A general alarm was immediately sent out by the police.

Miss White was arrested on Tuesday in the store of the National Outlet Company, at 119 West Twenty-fourth Street, where she is said to have taken some wearing apparel amounting to $8.65. She spent the night in the Charles Street Station and was taken to court in the morning. The address she gave proved to be fictitious. 

I love this short item because there’s not a thing about it that makes complete sense. Is there a specific woman Anne Morgan wants to bring here from France, or would she settle for just anybody? What precisely is physical fitness going to repair the devastation in France? And why were their Mohawk Indians there?

The answer, as always, is “Why not?”

A new departure of the American Committee for Devastated France was announced by Miss Anne Morgan in the Town Hall last evening. It is to raise funds for bringing to America a French woman who will learn our methods of outdoor recreation and health instruction for girls and young women and carry them out in her own country.

The Inkowa Club, composed of New York working girls, is co-operating with Miss Morgan’s committee in this work and held a benefit entertainment in the Town Hall whose proceeds will be contributed to it. Miss Morgan showed with moving pictures what has been done in the devastated regions of France, after which two Mohawk Indians, Oskenonton and his sister Chinquilla, sang the ancient songs of their race and imitated a war dance.