Jean Fritz and the Chicago Seven Trial
Image: A snippet of the first page from Jean Fritz's journal (large), which she kept during the trial. See the links below to read both journals.
Jean Fritz, a 51-year-old mother of three, found herself in the middle of one of the most publicized a controversial trial of her time. She spent four months sequestered in a hotel and separated from her family and the outside world as she, and the other eleven jurors, held the fate of seven young defendants in their hands.
“I feel so nervous tonight that I could die. Oh how I dread tomorrow.” These were the thoughts of Jean Fritz as she, and the other eleven jurors of the Chicago Seven trial, prepared to enter deliberations on the widely publicized and controversial case. 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the bloody riots that ensued as protesters clashed with the police.
Prosecutors indicted eight men with charges including conspiracy to incite a riot. The trial began on September 24, 1969 and lasted five months. During the trial, which became nothing short of a spectacle, defendants disrupted the court in several ways: they sang, recited poetry, and dressed up as judges and police officers. The judge ultimately ordered a defendant to be gagged and shackled to his chair, and all defendants plus the defense attorney were charged in contempt of court.
Jean Fritz sat in the jury box and observed the chaotic trial unfold. For months, she kept a journal of her thoughts and reactions to the case. Fifty years later, these journals give us new insight to the infamous trial. Currently on display at the Edgewater Historical Society, Fritz’s journals illustrate how her opinions changed over the course of the trial and how she grappled with her beliefs about American society and morality.
Jean Fritz passed away on January 23, 2018, at the age of 99. Her daughter Margie Fritz-Birch, a member of the Edgewater Historical Society, recognized the value of her mother’s journals, and helped get them on display. Other records pertaining to Fritz are housed in the Women and Leadership Archives.
- The Chicago Conspiracy Trial currently on exhibit at the Edgewater Historical Society
- Interview with Margie Fritz-Birch on the Doris Davenport Show, October 7, 2018
- Jean Fritz's large journal: Full text scan
- Jean Fritz's small journal: Full text scan
- The Chicago Seven put their fate in her hands. One juror's rarely seen trial journals reveal how that changed her forever, Chicago Tribune, August 17, 2018
- Women and Leadership Archive blog: “The Chicago 7 and the Historical Significance of the Jean Fritz Journals”
- Photos from the exhibit opening at the Edgewater Historical Society
- Press release for the exhibit
- Extended interview with Jean Fritz on the Chicago 8 Trial, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, POV, PBS, June 22, 2010