Whenever men have ventured forth into new enterprises, there is a fundamental establishing path they seem to follow. This has proved true throughout the ages, and will probably ever be so.
One case in point is Virginia City, Nevada, which became a boom town area in 1859 after the Comstock Lode Silver Mine struck it rich. Miners move into an area to make money. A lot of money is the hope. Therefore the areas are rough and tumble with little civilized protocol and very few women. The first women who arrive are usually enterprising and adventuresome just like the men. They are out to make a living and hope to strike it rich in their own way.
One such woman was Julia Bulette. Born in 1832, she arrived sometime after the 1859 strike. In times like that, history has trouble sorting out truth from legend. Was she born in England, then moved to New Orleans as a child, then moved out west on her own later? Or was she born in Mississippi? Hard to tell from this distance from the times. Was she an elegant lady of the evening, or one of the many competing on the dirt and mud streets of Virginia City? Time has burnished her status, and again it's difficult to know the truth.
Whatever the circumstances, she apparently became quite popular among the local population. With her earnings as a prostitute she spent lavishly on herself, acquiring expensive clothing, jewels, and furs. It was said she also gave generously to the community, including the local fire department. At the time members of the fire department were quite often leaders of the community. In time (1861 or 1863?), she was made an honorary member of Engine Company # 1. In 1863 she was named "Queen of the Independence Day Parade," and rode the fire truck wearing a fire helmet and carrying a brass fire trumpet filled with fresh roses.
At the time and with the fresh riches brought to the community by its silver strikes, the place was quickly acquiring the patina of civilization. Meaning the city was now filled with families of wives and children. The ladies of the evening were now less publicly popular as they sashayed around town.
On the night of January 19, 1867, Julia was violently murdered and her clothing, jewels and furs were stolen. The male contingent of the City mourned her passing with a respect usually shown to those of high influence. The men of the fire department chipped in to buy her an expensive casket. The Metropolitan Brass Band played funeral dirges, and all the saloons were closed for the first time since President Abraham Lincoln died.
A year later John Milain, a French drifter and jewel thief, was captured and charged in her death. There was a quick trial and he was declared guilty. He was hung for her death April 24, 1868. As an odd side note on this man, it has been reported that during his time in jail from capture to execution, he was visited daily by many ladies of the community, bringing him cakes and wine. These were not Julia's peers; they were the wives of many influential men about town. He went to his death declaring his innocence of the murder, though he did admit that he went along to steal from her.
Was the man really innocent, or was he rushed to judgment by men greatly missing the well-liked Julia? I don't know.
I do know though that the women in the United States generally did not serve on juries until after they were given the right to vote in 1914. The question arises: If the women had served on that jury, if the jury was evenly divided between men and women, what would have been the deliberated verdict? Would he have been guilty, or innocent, or would there have been a mistrial? I don't know the answer to that question, but it does make one think wouldn't you say?
What do you think?