Who Was California’s First Woman Judge? A Puzzlement

April 17, 1913, California's First Woman Judge

April 17, 1913: Clara Jess, described as the first woman in California to be appointed as a judge, resigns after a year. She was the recorder of Daly City and functioned like a justice of the peace, according to an A.P. story in The Times.

Jess was sued on allegations of false imprisonment after jailing the town marshal for a day because he refused to serve a warrant on a friend.

“Miss Jess does not believe that women are temperamentally unfitted for the bench but she is disappointed at the lack of support she received from women voters,” the A.P. story says.

Jess said: “There is nothing in the emotions or impulses of women to prevent them from giving just as good decisions as men, but I doubt if they can stand the nervous strain of meeting the opposition they are sure to encounter, without the support a man in the same position would get from his friends.”

There are various claims for the first woman judge in California.

An Oct. 21, 1915, article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette identifies Orfa Jan Shontz as “the first woman judge in California.” She was presiding over cases involving women and girls, the story said.

In an earlier post, I identified Georgia Bullock (d. 1957) as the first woman judge appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Her 1957 Times obituary said that she was “”the state’s first woman jurist.”

And according to find a grave, citing a 1986 issue of the Colusa County Historical Society’s “Wagon Wheels,” Edna Jesse Keeran was the first woman judge in California.

Stay tuned.

K. Itsuda of San Francisco walks into a Sacramento restaurant and tries to order breakfast. Sorry, the waiter says, we don’t serve Japanese.

Itsuda returned after the proprietor arrived and asked to be served. The unidentified proprietor agreed, but said it would cost $10 ($234.51 USD 2013), which Itsuda agreed to pay.

Itsuda was in Sacramento for the debate on the bill to bar Japanese from owning land. “California legislators will make a mistake if they pass this law,” Itsuda said.

April 17, 1913, First Woman Judge

April 17, 1913, Expensive Meal

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1913, Crime and Courts, Immigration and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Who Was California’s First Woman Judge? A Puzzlement

  1. I haven’t been able to read it (because it’s expensive), but a recent book about Clara Foltz, the first woman admitted to the California bar (and the originator of the idea of the public defender), states that “opposition to women lawyers” was “well-organized.” I can imagine it would be even worse for a judge.

    The story about the restaurant caused me to look up the Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920; they mysteriously never covered those in my public school. Probably because they were so shameful.


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