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After Chicago 7 Trial, Mrs. Jean Fritz Helped Change the Course of History

This is a good time to remember Mrs. Jean Fritz.

Fritz was a juror in the Chicago 7 trial, which is back in the news thanks to Aaron Sorkin’s movie, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which debuted Friday on Netflix. It’s a story that has been told many times, typically with the focus on the men accused of coming to Chicago in 1968 to incite a riot during the Democratic National Convention.

You may know some of their names. Abbie Hoffman. Tom Hayden. Jerry Rubin. But Mrs. Jean Fritz? That name, as she was often referred to back then, is less familiar. She was one of the so-called ordinary people chosen to sit in judgment of those famous men.

I wrote a long story on Fritz a couple of years ago, based on the journals she kept while on the jury. They’re a remarkable record of a woman and of the times, and of how the times changed her. When the trial started, in September 1969, Fritz was what the press referred to as a “housewife.” In truth, she also worked alongside her husband at their Western Auto store in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. She was 51, had three daughters, wore her hair in the bouffant style and taught Methodist Sunday school. She considered herself politically moderate, but in the 1960 election voted for the Republican, Richard Nixon, who lost to the Democrat, John F. Kennedy.

By the time of the trial, during Nixon’s eventual presidency, the country was driven by fear and anger, a state of division and disarray that was remarkably like today’s, yet different. The news back then was of war in Vietnam, the fight for civil rights, street riots and rebellions, political assassinations, cries for law and order, a clash of generations.

A common conservative view of the era was reflected in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece that characterized Woodstock, the 1969 summer music festival, as “a Saturnalia attended by hundreds of thousands of frenzied aberrants of the human species.”

Fritz was not conservative in that way, but she expressed a conventional attitude when, early in her trial journals, she noted her fear that young people didn’t share her appreciation for “the most wonderful country in the world.”

“Have always had a great love for my country,” she wrote. “Always get chills when I see a parade and the flag goes by. What is happening today?”

But as the trial went on, as she heard how protesters were mistreated by police and deceived by government informants, her mind opened and her fears shifted.

Read entire article at Miami Herald