Based upon a true incident of February 11, 1882, in which a farmer was murdered and his wife subsequently charged and tried for this murder, "A Jury of Her Peers" chronicles the life of Mrs. Wright, a lonely childless woman on a "lonesome place" of an isolated farm with no telephone or other convenient means for her to connect with neighbors or friends in the dead of winter, who has nothing but a canary for a companion. Her distant neighbor, Mrs. Hale, has not visited her much of late, too occupied with her own family and chores to make the trek to the Wrights, especially in the cold and snow.
When the Hales and Sheriff Peters and his wife along, with the county attorney, arrive at the Wright home on the day after the murder, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters wait in the warm kitchen while the men investigate upstairs. There they discover signs of the woman's depression: Her rocking chair is dilapidated, the hand towel is dirty, a quilt has erratic stitching and greatly different from the other neat stitches. When they notice this stitching,
Their eyes met--something flashed to life, passed between them, as if with an effort, they seemed to pull away from each other.
Later, as the two wives talk, Mrs. Hale tells Mrs. Peters that her neighbor Mrs. Wright used to sing in the choir when she was single, a characteristic that now seems incongruous with the stillness of the farm house:
The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbor to that girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was suddenly more that she [Mrs. Hale] could bear.
"Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while! she cried. "That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?"
Besides the obvious oppression of Mrs. Wright, the other women have condescending husbands, who ridicule them as merely worrying "over trifles" such as the broken preserves and erratic stitching on her quilt. At another time, when the women say something about the way that Mrs. Wright has sewn, "There was a laugh for the ways of women..."