Last updated

December 15, 2005

You can make a Difference —  Donna Treadwell   page 1

Donna Treadwell

Donna Treadwell’s story:

Illinois moms won a major victory for the benefit of their children with the passage of family friendly jury duty legislation in the Summer of 1999.  Illinois Public Act 91-0264 amended the Illinois jury duty laws to allow homemakers with children under 12 the option to defer jury duty if serving caused a legitimate family hardship. 

This family friendly jury duty initiative was spearheaded by “Mothers of Color at Home” editor Donna Treadwell and her husband Jimmie. 


It all started in 1997, Donna Treadwell was called for jury duty in Springfield, Illinois.  At the time, Donna was caring full-time for her four young children, ages 2 to 8, and did not live near extended family. Her husband, Jimmie, had a demanding job working for the Illinois state legislature which made it difficult for him to assist with kids at any time during the work week.

Donna called the number on the summons postcard. She explained that her job was caring for her children and that she had worked to find care for her children but had not been successful. The woman responded that it wasn't a valid exemption qualification and Donna had no choice but to report for duty.


Donna describes in detail how her upsetting experience with jury duty encouraged her to initiate legislation that would prevent mothers from being separated from their young children for jury service:

“On my first day of jury duty I witnessed what happened when a mother asked to be excused early because she needed to pick up her children”, explained Donna.  “The court employee spoke to her like she was an irresponsible child.  I was horrified and remember thinking ‘What’s going to happen if I need to be excused early or have any emergency with my children?’”


Two days later Donna found out.  Her childcare arrangement fell though and she had no one to watch her kids when she was scheduled to appear.  She would have needed someone who could have babysat her two and three-year-old, pick up her older boys from school, and take care of all four kids until court adjourned for the day.


“I simply told them I couldn’t come because I didn’t have anyone to care for my children,” Donna stated.  Like the other mother, she was lectured on her obligation to serve and was told lack of childcare was not a consideration.

Donna recalls the frustration she felt.  “Here I was trying to do what I’m required to do -- take care of my family and essentially they were telling me my family wasn’t that important.


Click here to continue reading Donna’s story 

From left, Jill Savage, Director of Hearts at Home, Sen. Margaret Smith (D- Chicago), and Donna Treadwell, who spearheaded the ’family friendly jury duty’ initiative for Illinois, discuss the bill’s recent successful passage.

You can make a difference!

Angela’s story (California) 

Barbara’s story (Georgia)

Mothers & More Atlanta Chapter (Georgia)

Donna’s Story (Illinois)

Donna’s Story (Illinois) pg.2

Tawni’s story (Oregon)

You can make a difference

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