10 Things That American Women Could Not Do Before the 1970s

1960 womenIn the 1970s, Irish women could not own their own home or even go to a pub. They could not sit on a jury or refuse to have sex with their husbands. We learned all this in Irish Central’s charming post, “How things have changed – ten things that Irish women could not do in 1970s.” And that made us wonder, what were things like for women in America before the ’70s?

So while we still have a long way to go to secure total equality for women, let’s take a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. Before the 1970s, an American woman could not:

1. Keep her job if she was pregnant.

Until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, women could be fired from their workplace for being pregnant.

2. Report cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The first time that a court recognized sexual harassment in the workplace was in 1977 and it wasn’t until 1980 that sexual harassment was officially defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

3. Be acknowledged in the Boston Marathon.

Women could not don their running shoes until 1972!

4. Get a credit card.

Until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, women were not able to apply for credit. In 1975, the first women’s bank was opened.

5. Refuse to have sex with her husband.

The mid 70s saw most states recognize marital rape and in 1993 it became criminalized in all 50 states. Nevertheless, marital rape is still often treated differently to other forms of rape in some states even today.

6. Compete as a boxer in the Olympics.

It wasn’t until the 2012 London Olympics that women could compete in boxing in the Olympics. This was marked with the amazing victory by Britain’s Nicola Adams.

7. Get a divorce with some degree of ease.

Before the No Fault Divorce law in 1969, spouses had to show the faults of the other party, such as adultery, and could easily be overturned by recrimination.

8. Celebrate International Women’s Day.

In 1980 President Carter declared one week in March to be National Women’s History Week, including International Women’s Day on March 8th.

9. Have a legal abortion in most states.

The Roe v. Wade case in 1973 protected a woman’s right to abortion until viability.

10. Read Ms. Magazine!

Ms. was launched as a sample inset in New York Magazine in 1971.

Photo courtesy of thstrand via Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. Women still get raped (under age) when in new situations and around people who have a more ‘rich’ background and whom can trace back events of the past within their family immediately. That is what gives rapist power; the fact that previous victims stop being scared and allow for a new flow of people to repeat. And there is no stopping, only saying it’s ok and empty feelings of overlapping betrayal and pain. I’m Forced to share everything about myself to people and believe everyone who is above me is my friend. meanwhile annoying races and sub cultures of people fight anything in their way to say it is because of them rapist and victims have fun!? And people feel shame in ways unimaginable to me

    • More than likely that credit card only had your dads name on it. Spouses had their own cards if the husband requested one for them. They simply signed their name on the back of the card. No one ever questioned it.

      • Yes, this is how a married woman had to use a credit card. I was married in 1979 and our credit cards were was still operating operating on the old rules. I had a card in my husbands name, simply used it, signing my name and no one ever asked. When I got a divorce in 1983, I had no credit established.

      • JCPenney questioned when I went to the store and wanted to pay the bill. I asked how much I owed. His name on the card, but he didn’t know where the store was let alone pay the bills. I was hopping mad. Told them if they wouldn’t tell me how much we owed, then they wouldn’t get their money. Walked right out and got a card in my name.

    • I got my first credit card in high school, so would have been ’72 or ’73.

      • Lisa Kermish says:

        I got my first credit card when I went off to college in 1972.

      • As a single woman, you had the right to apply for credit. It was only married women who had to have their husbands permission. Because we were still viewed as being their property. Lol!

        • Dee Crouch says:

          I got married in 1972 and all of our credit was in his name. In 1976 Rich’s sent out applications to married women and I received my first credit card in my name. In 1990 in the middle of our divorce, he was able suspend my charge privileges just by calling, and Rich’s never checked. Needless to say after I nutted up and they checked the account, they suspended his ability use the account and sent me new cards. Too little, too late.

        • how did “more difficult for women to get a credit card” before 1974, become “women couldn’t get one? I had credit cards as a single woman before 1970 and after I was married in 1972, I filled out the applications for joint cards, since my husband was a believer in “cash only” and all the credit was in my name! When I started working in real estate in 1972, I specialized in working with single women buying their own houses – ONCE a father had to cosign but only because her income was on the low side..

          • The point is: Prior to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, there were no laws to prevent companies from this discrimination. Creditors could deny women credit based solely on their gender with impunity.

        • My cousin applied for a credit card sometime in the 70’s, either as a college student, or after college, I’m not sure. But she was turned down. It was not due to poor credit that she was turned down. She was told she had to have a male relative sign for it.

    • I am shocked that this did not include the fact that in many states if you got pregegnant ( even if you were married) you had to quit High School as soon as it became obvious.

      • Donald Huschle says:

        A friend of mine could not attend her highschool reunion for this very reason.

      • Holtzman says:

        I’m surprised that anyone would be surprised by this list.

      • But the baby’s father could continue in school and graduate.

      • Correct and if you were catholic you were sent to our Lady of Grace training school until you baby was born. It did have school courses if you wanted to continue school as well as work for the convent, especially if you lived in NJ. If you were over 16 you could fight on giving your baby up for adoption,otherwise it was taken from you.

    • Omg. I feel so sorry for the victims. I’m Australian and in Australia, and here it is illegal to rape. 🙁

      • Debra Maraj says:

        It is illegal to rape also. But back in the day a husband could take you any way he wanted. They are not talking about being raped by strangers only husbands.

    • These were the good old days….

  2. Aneita Seyfrief says:

    No. 4 is incorrect. My family is not rich and my mother had her own credit card before 1970.

    • Cher DeLancey says:

      She was the exception, Aneita. I had to fight my heart out, after my husband left me and my children. I had a full-time job! We had a network of women who helped other women get cards.

    • 1. Get a credit card: In the 1960s, a bank could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman; even if she was married, her husband was required to cosign. As recently as the 1970s, credit cards in many cases were issued with only a husband’s signature. It was not until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that it became illegal to refuse a credit card to a woman based on her gender.

    • My sister who was married and the only one working, had to have her husband’s signature. In the 70s.

    • Megan Zurawicz says:

      Then she was a rare exception. Are you certain no man cosigned for it? Far more common is the story of single women – even fairly wealthy single women, with high paying jobs – being denied credit cards. I can cite several people of my own acquaintance for this.

    • Max johnson says:

      Was it in her name ? My mother had one, as well, but it was not in her name, even though they were divorced.

    • Suzanne Johnson says:

      Number 4 is correct. I lived it. I had to have my husbands permission to use his Sears Credit Card to buy my children’s clothing.

      • Number 4 is correct…depending on which states ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Only 38 states have ratified it. If you live in one of those 38 states, you’re good?

        • Gayle Brooks says:

          The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed in 35 states. It failed to receive 38 states needed to amend the Constitution. Many states passed state ERAs, many did not.

    • Mpls_Me says:

      I do know that women could be supplied with a credit card using their husband’s credit and with their husband’s approval prior to 1970.

      • Anna Marie says:

        That’s not quite the same as independently applying and receiving a credit card on your own merits.

        I had my own credit for years and after I got married they would switch the credit unknowingly put my husband’s as the main cardholder and I made a lot more money than he did….just saying.

    • Donna Crane says:

      You are partly correct. I had 2 credit cards in my own name for 4 years as a working woman. I had no problems and no late payments. I was still working when I married in 1966 and wanted to change my last name on the cards. Both companies cancelled my cards and required I get new ones in my husband’s name, and he had to agree, and sign for the card as if I was a child with no rights of my own.

    • LuAnn Conroy says:

      Not incorrect. I couldn’t get a credit card without my husband’s signature. My friend’s sister had the option of asking her out of work father or her student ex husband to consign a car loan, even though she had a full time, professional job. My mother had credit cards when I was growing up too, but that was because they were really my father’s. Wonder why the name on them was ” Mrs. John Smith”?

    • I doubt it was in her own name based on her own creditworthiness.

    • You didn’t specifically have to be rich to get a credit card before the equal credit act, however in general, a married woman was not allowed to have credit in her name unless it was established before she was married. It was better or worse depending on where you lived. (big cities were more likely to allow it than small towns.)

    • Vivian Kim says:

      She probably had to have a man cosign for her.

    • Leslie Jaszczak says:

      At the very least it was very difficult for married women to get credit in their own names. I’m not sure when my mother got her first card, but she always said she established credit when it was extremely difficult – it definitely wouldn’t have been later than the early 70s.

    • I also had a credit card before 1970. I did get a letter from State Farm insurance company in 1968 cancelling my car insurance as they said I was living with a man and had bad morals. I wasn’t, and when I asked if I was what does bad morals have to do with my driving? They said they showed women with bad morals were bad drivers. Wish I would have keep that letter. They offer to rieinstate my insurance, but I just went to another company.

      • omg, i wish you could have shown us that letter! What a horrible thing to have happen to you, or any woman. We know it could never happen to a man.

      • OMG!!! Unbelievable! And I’m old enough NOT to be shocked!!

    • SYLVIA R WALTERS says:

      Possibly it had something to do with where you live. I was in Pennsylvania, and a married woman could not get her own credit card in 1975.

    • M Keefer says:

      She may have had a card with her name on it, but the account was probably in her husband’s name. I remember being offered credit cards and applying for them with just my financial information. When the card came, the account was in my husband’s name. This was true for store cards and bank cards. It wasn’ t until about 1986 that Discover issued me a credit card account in my name only.

      • That’s funny, it wasn’t until the eighties til I was able to finally get a credit card . . . guess who had to sign for it . . . the boyfriend, who added me onto his. I was finally able to get my own later. But from the time I started applying, it was always denied. Still have my discover too. Bless their pointed little hearts.

    • Yes, it’s a generalization that before 1974, women COULD NOT get credit cards. But it’s a fact that it was much more difficult for women to get credit cards before 1974, and in many cases it did move beyond difficult and into impossible.


    • It probably had your father’s name on it. When l applied for a credit card after graduating college, having a full-time job as only steady income in marriage, the only way l could get a credit card was to put my husband’s name on card!

    • Katy Sheridan says:

      No 4 is true enough. When I graduated from college with a teaching degree and secured a good job in suburban Chicago I attempted to get a credit card in my name. I was not allowed to do so without my father’s signature to back it up. My father lived over 800 miles away and I was employed. That stung mightily. I never shopped at Gimbel’s again. So women could not get credit cards on their own at that time. Someone male had to vouch for them.

    • Anonymous says:

      If your mother was married at the time she applied she had to disclose that on the application and her spouse’s credit record was probably used to determine credit worthiness even if she is the one who initiated the credit request. Sorry if this disappoints you. As a relatively recent widow I learned this when I tried to drop my husband’s name from the credit cards we had held for many years.

      • Very true. After my dad died some of credit cards were cancelled because he was the “primary.” My mom had to apply for new ones at the age of 77!

        • When my husband died in 1990, all of his credit cards died with him; only the one Visa card I had gotten through work, in my name only, saved me from becoming a credit-less widow.

          March 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month–tell you friends.

    • Kara Le Treize says:

      Your mother was exceptional. She had access to credit that was not typical of most women’s experience at that time. I remember reading articles in MS magazine in the 70s that explained how to get credit, and advocated support for ECOA.

    • Susan Garrett says:

      It was technically possible but very difficult. You either had to prove a steady, permanent income of your own (such as being a single career woman) or have the card cosigned by your husband or father. Very often the application was denied. I know, I was there.

    • Joanne Gareau says:

      It happened to my friend in N J – she could not get a credit card unless it was in her husband’s name.

    • Iris Riley says:

      A joint credit card with her husband, maybe. I was surprised when, in 1970, after the divorce, I was no longer able to have the credit cards that I had had jointly while married. It is true, I was there, I remember it. Everything a married woman did, she practically had to have her husband’s consent.

    • Ricka Smith says:

      It is not incorrect to say that it was often not possible for women to get credit – in fact, your mother was an exception rather than the rule, especially if she was not married.

    • In which state are you talking about. #4 is correct for me as far as Massachusetts was concerned.

    • Joyce Lieberman says:

      Probably on her husband’s credit and given to her with his permission.

    • Your mother probably had a credit card on an account opened by or with your father. That is how it was it was usually done. It wasn’t that women couldn’t have or use credit cards. They just couldn’t open new accounts in their own names, or using their own credit.

    • Kristy Sermersheim says:

      I couldn’t get credit for a car in 1972 in my own name. the Credit union told me my husband had to sign. I didn’t want that and the person on the phone, you either can have him sign and get a car or not have him sign and not get a car …

    • She would have one as a second card of her husband’s. It would not have been in her name only.

    • Adele Abrams says:

      I believe you could get a card on your husband’s account but it was difficult if not impossible for women to qualify for a credit card if they were unmarried or divorced.

    • I agree. I had a Famous Barr credit card in 1965. My mother had a Libson credit card in her own name.

    • Megan Kasten says:

      It’s definitely an oversimplification. She may have had to have a male cosignor…that was the most common discrimination. Women were also given lower credit limits for equal incomes, and sometimes denied credit entirely.

    • Usually, single women could apply for credit without much problem, but a married woman’s card was often put in her husband’s name, or both names were on the card.

    • Maureen Taylor says:

      You could get one because of your husband but you could not get one on your own.

    • Gwynne Chesher says:

      Don’t know how! I was divorced in 1978, and had a good court-ordered income as child support and a job. I applied to every credit card company and they all turned me down because I was a single woman.

    • If your mother had a credit card in her name is was given to her by the company with a man as the major card holderas the Credit Card Equalit Act did not go through until 1974 and now woman could obtain credit in her own right.

    • Yes, you could get a credit card and/or store credit accounts, before 1970, as long as you had a job of your own and had reasonable expectation of being able to make the payments. I had one in 1967 or 68. Don’t forget, credit cards were still not the “norm” at that time. There were only certain things you could get on them, NO food or anything that was quickly disposed of or used up, but durable items only. Gas could be purchased on a Gas Credit Card but not a bank credit card. It has only been a relatively recent thing to be able to use one card for everything, and if I recall correctly, it was early 1980’s that they included food purchases.

    • Some states allowed it, some didn’t. The website is referring to national protection.

    • It didn’t say they couldn’t get a charge card. It said… If a company wanted to, it was legal to deny them a card based on their marital status. This changed with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

    • I bet it said “mrs. “name of spouse here” on the card. I had a department store cc in 1969 and it said “mrs. peter—–“

    • I bet it was in her husbands name… Sears would not even let me use one until they called my husband for permission.

    • In NC it was illegal for a woman to own property. Once a woman married…all her assets became the property of her husband. In the early 80’s , ” Kirchner(V) Feenstra” while Regan was President., we got protection under the Constitution to own property. Up till then men could marry widows, acquire all their property, and divorce them with their gain. Even raping their step children seemed never to be prosecuted. I guess because the woman had no financial assets to protect her family.

    • Are you sure that your mother’s card was her own account? Or was it a card on a joint account?

    • Only if your dad requested it or if she was widowed or divorced.

    • Yes, it is correct. Your mother was likely single. Married women couldn’t establish credit in their own names.

    • Joanna Sterling says:

      My mother was not allowed to sign checks by herself; every check had to be co-signed by my father. This is how I remember it, but I’m wondering if she was even allowed to have her own checking account.

      But in reply to some comments stating that women could get credit cards in the early 1970s, maybe by then it was true. But definitely not in the 1960s.

  3. Freida Hasek says:

    I was forced to quit my job with the St. Louus Board of Education in 1968 because I was pregnant. The Missouri Department of Employment listed me as: permanently and totally disabled.
    As a Social Worker I had client who had to get their “husbands” permission to have their tubes tied.

    • I worked in the advertising dept. of a very well-known company when I was pregnant. I hid my pregnancy until the 8th month and then lied about my due date. I was required to leave work and put on unpaid disability leave of absence.

    • Young women don’t realize the freedoms we have now were just given to us not that long ago. More articles should be done on all of these subjects to educate our young ladies how lucky they are now.

    • rodentraiser says:

      This is almost 2018 and this is still happening today.

  4. College women, female teachers were required to wear dresses skirts to class.
    If the woman was a full time student and her husband was not, you couldn’t live in married student housing.
    Businesses could openly discriminate in wage agreement.
    There were few schools or towns that offered organized women/girls sports. Thank title 9.
    There were many occupations where women were excluded. Firefighters , police, construction. Women-if they worked- were expected to be teachers, nurses- who also wore skirts- hairdressers or secretaries.
    That’s just a few of things that went on that I can remember.

    • kathy allen says:

      There other things. they could also be drs, own grocery stores, be relators, own hair salons, bars, restaurants, clothing stores, lawyers, judges, writers, they could be framemen and switchmen at telephone companys, work in the post office,electronics tech, etc. I was born in the 50s and knew women in all of these professions when I was growing up.

  5. 11. Marry the partner of their choice, unless their partner was a cisgender man. Marriage equality did not exist at the federal level until 2015.
    12. Be protected against discrimination on the basis of ability. The ADA did not exist prior to the 1990s.
    13. Serve openly in the military if she was a transgender woman. This discrimination was not lifted until 2016.
    14. Serve openly in the military if she was not heterosexual. All restrictions were not lifted until the 2010’s.

    So. Many. More. Examples. We need to remember to keep intersectionality in mind when developing these lists. I’m not just a woman.

    • NotJUSTaWoman says:

      The entitlement is breathtaking. You understand women were discriminated against because of our reproductive organs and capacity, right? Women weren’t denied jobs because they wore pink, they were denied jobs because of their female bodies and female organs, and the belief that women “had different brains” that weren’t capable of rational thought. This is offensive and sexist thinking, just as offensive and sexist as you coming here to whine about an article about females in a female-centered magazine being strictly about females.

      None of us are “just women.” Perhaps YOU need to think about your othering use of language there, and why you needed to make an article about women’s rights be about men instead.

  6. Linda Adams says:

    There were two categories of classified ads for jobs in the newspaper:
    Jobs – male
    Jobs – female

    Women couldn’t get hired for those in the first category.

  7. LindaNBCT says:

    Cal Tech first admitted women in 1976. Columbia University was a men’s college way into the 80’s. Last election people devoured Hillary’s choice of attending a women’s college completly bypassing the fact that Barrack graduated from a men’s college.
    Many of these barriers were kicked over by my generation, starting with dresses for school. What I am more proud of is we raised the sons and daughters who are socially skilled enough to allow men and women to work side by side as equals all over the place.

  8. Lyone Fein says:

    Change their name back to their maiden name after getting divorced. . . . . It was *my* mother (and one other woman) who challenged the court’s denial of her petition for reverting back to her maiden name. The case ended up going to the State (of New Hampshire) Supreme Court in 1978 (!) where the lower court’s decision was overturned, and it was ruled that a woman may use any name she chooses at any time as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes. The original case is still on the records as “Moskowitz vs. Moskowitz”. (Ironically.)

  9. Patricia Shafer says:

    In 1962 I worked at Xerox, Syracuse, NY, had to quit when 3 months pregnant, but my husband was a student at Syracuse Univ, we needed my paycheck, so I lied and worked until I was 6 months !!!!

  10. Gloria Sanders says:

    I was living in Texas when I married in 1960 and immediately had no rights at all. I was considered my husband’s chattel. I couldn’t get a loan in my name (I worked in a bank). I couldn’t contract for anything in my name.

  11. Ricka Smith says:

    Prior to 1970, it was common for single women being interviewed for a work position to be asked if they planned to get pregnant, and to be very specific about the method of birth control they were using – if you were single, it was not uncommon to be asked if you were sexually active and if you used birth control.

    • Anne Arsenault says:

      I remember such questions being asked at an interview for a job when I was married. But I could not get a credit card unless my husband signed for it. And he would not give his permission. This was when I had a very good job. Finally American Express gave me a card and I’ve treasured it for years. But I was refused a card when I was working as a professor at a college and the students were being wooed with offers of cards. It was something about a husband’s control. But my father finally got me one.

  12. Marbeth Ramirez says:

    1.I worked alongside pregnant women in the early 60’s. However. Unmarried pregnant women were let go as soon as it became apparent they were pregnant.
    4. I bought a car and my sister and I owned a home by 1964. I was 24 and she was 26.
    Things have changed dramatically since I started working. The wage discrepancy between men and women was much higher than today. In 1958 it was mandatory we wear a girdle, stockings, slip and bra under our clothes. Without air conditioning I used to continuously have a heat rash.
    We’ve come a long way
    However some church’s still won’t allow women in the pulpit, we are anxiously awaiting the election to see if a woman will finally become POTUS, and wages are still unfair. We have a lot of work ahead

  13. I’m Irish and I served Jury duty in the early 1970s. I was young then and I guess they didn’t know I was Irish!!!! Looks like a lot of changes occurred in the 70s.

  14. LizinSR says:

    Couldn’t be an FBI agent either. Found that out at Career Day in 1968. I didn’t really want to be one, but I was extremely angry that it wasn’t allowed!

  15. mary Lynch says:

    I was paying my morgage on my house after a divorce in late 1990’s. Only Discover would give me a card for &500.00. Now even your dog or baby gets an envelope with a credit card in mail

  16. In 1967 I bought a Ford Mustang. Dad accompanied me to the dealership and helped me with paperwork including a loan. I was twenty years old and dad had to co-sign the loan. Three years later I had a good job and made OK money for the time. I had moved out of my parents home and gotten an apartment with my girlfriend. I decided to refinance the car loan, which was popular at the time, so that I would have a bit more money at the end of the month. I went to the same banker and asked for help refinancing. The man (of course) filled out the paperwork and I was getting ready to sign the papers when he said, “And we’ll get your dad to co-sign again.” I said I was over 21 and had a good job and there was no reason to have my dad co-sign. He said, “Well, we just like to be safe, I’ll just have him co-sign again, no problem.” I said I didn’t want him to cosign, I was supporting myself. Mr. Man said, “well it’s just to be safe.” I reached across the desk and picked up all the papers that were mine and started to stand up. I swear to god he said, “And what do you think you are doing young lady?” HA! I said in a very loud voice (it was Friday and there were lots and lots of people in the bank cashing their checks) “There’s a new bank opening on second street, I’m going there.” As I started to walk away from his desk, he stood up and said, “Now let’s not be hasty.” I put the palm of my hand in his face and loudly said, “It’s too late! I’m never banking here again.” I walked out and went to the new bank that had JUST opened up and got the refinancing loan AND switched all my banking to the new bank. About a month later my dad said to me, “I hear you got your car loan refinanced.” HA! The banker and my dad were friends and I guess he had to tell dad all about it. Skunk.

  17. As currently as 2002 I was fired for being pregnant. Of course, it was categorized as a “reduction-in-force” move but after several years of glowing promotions and raises, suddenly I was baggage. The company was self-insured and didn’t want to be exposed to the financial risk of a 40+ pregnancy. It doesn’t matter how right you are, as opposed by a corporate law team, you’re a baby buggy set in the course of a steam train. No way to win.

    • I’m so glad you brought this up. Self insurance is why our healthcare coverage is all crap now. Thank you for mentioning it and knowing what it is. Most of our physicians don’t understand it and blame the insurance companies, which are only the paid administrators. It’s our companies we work for who are deciding the huge amount of employee contributions and the coverages. More articles and news coverages need to be made on this topic. I too was fired for being pregnant because I could no longer fly. They waited until after I lost the baby, as soon as I returned to work, I was gone.

  18. Paulette Zawadzki says:

    In the 60’s, I owned a car in my name, had my own insurance and had a gas credit card, a Sears card and several accounts at department stores. I wasn’t married until the 70s.

    • That’s why you had it all. It was only married women who seemed to be viewed as their husbands property. Single and divorced women could have it all.

  19. On the flip side you could call the utilities and say I’m Mrs. Whatever and get all the help you needed. Now if a utility is in his name you have to let him call. Not much fun when the power is out.

  20. N Smalley says:

    You have left out very critical issues. Getting birth control, getting your tubes tide without your husband’s consent. Birth control pills were a godsend but try getting contraceptives, without your husband’s consent.

    • Jacquelyn Gardiner says:

      I had gotten my tubes tied in 74 and my husband had to sign a consent. When we applied for a mortgage in 79 I had to prove I had my tubes tied since my income was a factor.

  21. In 1968, I had my first department store credit card. In 1970 I got a Texaco gas card in my name. And when I was married in 1971, we went to Florida on our honeymoon and needed a gas credit card for a car rental! Lucky for my new husband as he only had a Sears card!

  22. Karen Coleman says:

    Try 2016 and become a widow…married many year …all utilities in husbands name…including cell phones….can’t just remove name from anything…have to start over with credit checks for whatever they choose to charge you…it has been a nightmare!

  23. It was common practice in 1965 to issue credit cards (gas and credit) to anyone who was going to graduate from college. This was when it was still legal to send out unsolicited cards. I had Shell, Union 76 and a Visa even before graduation day — they didn’t ask anything about me — just mailed the cards with a nice “welcome” letter.

  24. I had to get my unemployed husbands signature for a library card in 1971 in Texas,

  25. kathryn lustig says:

    Within the past 10 years, I opened my own credit account in our local Macy’s here in Long Island, NY because they insisted that my husband be listed as the primary name on our account, and the one to whom the bills were addressed, and I as “spouse”.

  26. I am almost 82 years old and have smarted all my life from being discounted, excluded and denigrated because I am a woman. Being a “second class citizen” has shaped my life. We were cut back, cut down, and dismissed. I wanting to be in theatre arts or fashion design but birth control was a taboo subject and was not available. I had a normal sex drive, I got pregnant, abortions were illegal. I got married to a boy (the father) even more clueless than I, dropped out of school, in short order had 3 kids, 6 miserable years of marriage, and a divorce. Thanks to my parents for helping me get back on my feet with 3 kids and an ex husband who didn’t feel inclined to share the responsibilities that entailed, I did
    get my teaching credential, and I taught elementary school for 33 years. It was OK, there was a union so there was equal pay for equal work (but few to no women in the higher paying jobs of school
    administration), and all those other restrictions applied around pregnancy and credit cards etc. I spent so many years trying to conform to society’s expectations for women, carried the last name of 3 different men as a result. My present husband (of 32 years) wouldn’t care if I took back my maiden
    name but now it’s just too much trouble. I was a good teacher but it’s not what I dreamed of. This is my story. There’s so much I’ve left out, though.

  27. A. Riedel says:

    Wow, this sucks! I am sharing this with my 9th Grade English classes. We are reading “Of Mice and Men” and examining the treatment of women (Curley’s Wife – no name) in the novel and comparing it to Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister” essay. I was born in 1971 and I didn’t even realize…

    The best thing about Donald T-Rump and his misogyny is that much much more of this type of garbage will come to the surface. After reading this, and even though I had nothing to do with it, I am embarrassed to be a man.

    • I was born in 1965. I had a board game in the early 70’s called “What Will I Be?” It was supposed to be a “career game” for girls. Your choices were nurse, teacher, stewardess, or actress. Unbelievable.

      I also noticed in the 80’s and 90’s that as a woman applying for a job you were ALWAYS given a typing test, no matter what job you were applying for, while men were NOT given a typing test.

  28. ROSEANN POST says:

    seems like the GOP wants to set women back to the past….I am not willing to do that…I was unable to do all of the things listed….I was born in 1944….and we were treated like trash…..women of this generation be taught these things and maybe they will create more justice…..WAKE UP AMERICA!!!! MEN DO NOT BELONG IN OUR SOULS, MINDS OR VAGINAS!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. I like this thread

  30. Christopher Knecht says:

    Question for Women: What number of women at the age of 18 drove or own automobiles from 1950-1970? What was the automobile culture like during the period of 1950-1970? For example, women had a different view on the use of automobiles than men. The “male public space” was traditionally designed for male drivers until shopping became more accessible resulting in women driving for “private space” needs.

    I’d appreciate any pertinent information any of you have on this subject. I’m using this information in my legal class covering the rights of women.

    • Sara Miler says:

      I believe your dates might be amended, if you are suggesting that until 1970 the driving space was still predominantly male, or that women’s driving was mostly short-range domestic foraging. My grandmother drove her old Plymouth all over Houston from the late 50s onward to show apartment rentals–she was an agent. My aunt drove the Southwest Freeway in Houston daily to take my sister and I to school in the mid 60s, then when my sister got her license at 14 or 15, around 1964, she did that driving, and also drove with her friends to high school events and even took beach trips to Galveston. My mother drove my sister and I cross-country from Houston to Wash. D.C. when we moved there, in 1967. If there was a male public space we were transgressing, I would have noticed, even as an 11-year-old. My sister then drove her used Mustang convertible back to Austin for college in 1968. None of this was considered unusual or even bold; and I do not recall any public disapproval or curiosity. Certainly there were no legal prohibitions to all this female driving, as my family were law abiders par excellence, except when my aunt waved a gun at her husband that once, though in Texas a gun was hardly more offensive than any other household object she might accost him with, and she had been drinking, which in Texas was a mitigating circumstance that worked in one’s defense. This is not to dismiss your basic premise about driving culture machismo, only to point out that by 1960 we broads were all over these here American roads and if a man batted an eye, well he batted an eye. The assumptions about our driving skills still linger, of course. Whenever I parallel park, which I do daily and am damn good at, the young men on my street look at me in astonishment, as if a bear had just used a smartphone. But I look back like the young woman in that All State commercial, and my look says “Silence.”

    • Janet Howe says:

      I had a great aunt who drove an electric car. This would have been in the early 1900s I think. (I was born in 1947 & my parents told me about that. I never saw the car & she was no longer driving when I was little.) My mother drove her parents’ Model T and repaired things herself when something broke. She got my grandfather to buy it, but he was afraid to drive it. I am not sure when people began to have to have licenses to drive and if that made a difference in women being able to drive in some states.

  31. DONA VAN ECK says:

    Wow! I am so glad I looked up this information tonight and that people are still making comments.
    In the 1970″s I was married and had a child in elementary school. I was also had a full-time job. I heard that women could have their own credit rating and credit card. For several years I had been miffed because the car I was driving was one I used for my work and I had purchased and paid for with my own income and with my own checks. But the GMAC loan was in my husband’s name and so was the title. When i heard that the law changed I went to my savings bank and asked questions — can I really have my own credit card in my name? Can I really own a car in my own name? Can I buy a house in my own name? Yes, yes, and theoretically yes, depending upon your income and debt. I was jubilant. I applied for my first credit card and decided to go to the top of the line — an American Express Credit Card. To my surprise I got it! I have kept it going ever since as a sentimental symbol of my freedom.
    This was not the only tale I have to tell. My work at that time was the work I eventually had until retirement at age 62. I am an ordained Lutheran Pastor. In the 1970″s I had a Master’s Degree from seminary but was not ordained. I was waiting for the tide to change to allow that. I waited 96 months from the time of my graduation from seminary. My husband was also a pastor and he was ordained and had a call to a congregation within 6 months after graduation. While he was finishing seminary I had a pretty good full-time position as the COO of a charity in Boston. I didn’t really want to leave my job but for the sake of the marriage I moved to a small village in northwestern PA. I was unemployed for several years and had no hopes of ever serving a church. I had been advised to tell no one about my seminary degree and training because it would harm his career. When I finally did let the information surface I was in my 30’s and we had a toddler. I had been rejected several times already by church bureaucrats, which is why I was willing to be silent. One of us had to have a job I said. One pastor who worked on the bishop’s staff was encouraging. He helped me get into a situation where I could be an intern for a year. The year went well and since the congregation was looking for an assistant pastor to serve on the staff I asked to be considered. They voted to call me. The terms were that I would be paid 80% of what a new graduate of seminary (male) would be paid, I would have no benefits except paid vacation, no housing would be provided since I didn’t need it (equity allowances did not exist in the churches in those days). The call is actually a signed contract which is used nationally across the denomination. I did not realize there would be a page with maternity and sick leave declarations, and the senior pastor decided that a photocopy of the document would be what I would sign — the maternity leave page was intentionally left off. I was also informed by the same pastor that if I did become pregnant I was expected to resign immediately. Two years later when the recommended minimum salary for seminary graduates had been increased by $2000 I asked the committee for a proportional increase. I knew by then that the senior pastor was receiving twice what the congregation was paying me along with full benefits and a generous housing allowance. The senior pastor became furious and worked behind my back to get me fired. By the time I resigned suddenly and unexpectedly (to that same pastor) the entire congregation knew what was going on. There was a farewell dinner and 350 people attended it, much to the pastor’s dismay. Another pastor who had served as my mentor advised me not to burn bridges that might spit fire back into my face, so I simply told people I needed some time for myself and my family. A year later people were still asking questions. (Lutherans do not espouse Karma as a doctrine, but…). That experience was only a preparation for more of the same chauvinism. For 35 years I was paid only a percentage of what male pastors received. There should be a differential for years of experience. In my 25th year of service I was working for the same cash salary as a person received right out of seminary — because it was the only way I could get a call to a congregation. I was a first female to do this and that in several cases and since I was married to a pastor we were the first ordained clergy couple in our region. All along the way I was told by bishops and friends and family that I should resign so he could get another church, even if it meant we would have no income. I don’t blame the failure of the marriage on the church entirely yet I would say there was nothing there to support our marriage. When my resigtnation finally became an ultimatum it was time to say goodby and let him go free — against my true wishes for myself and our child. Now that I am retired it is all history. I am happy though not well-off. I have my own vehicle, my own home, and my grandchildren are close by. All in all life is good, thanks to the women who fought to make my freedoms possible. I did a little fighting to for the sake of the next generations. I am not sorry about this.

  32. Great Post!

  33. It is ever so horrible that women weren’t allowed to read Ms.! Were men allowed to read the magazine?

  34. Catherine Todd says:

    I left home as an “emancipated minor” when I was 16 years old, in 1966. I found part time work as a waitress at the Walgreen’s Drug Store Cafe in Champaign Illinois. I could not open a bank account to deposit my paycheck (when I was paid $1.30 per hour) without a husband or father’s signature. Since I was not married, and had gone to court to leave home, my father refused to sign. I could not cash my paycheck to pay my rent!

    The very kind cook there named “Premo” cashed my check for me every week out of his own pocket. I don’t know what I would have done without him. All these many years later (I am now 67 years old) I wish I could find him to say “THANK YOU” a thousand times over.

    I did not have a credit card until the early 1970’s when they finally allowed students in college to have a Bank of America credit card with a $100.00 limit.

    When women were allowed credit to buy their own homes in 1975, the word “spinster” disappeared the same day from the English language.

    Times have changed. We still don’t have Equal Pay 67 years after I was born, but we have so many more rights that people “take for granted” nowadays. Thankfully this is true.

  35. Catherine Todd says:

    Women got the right to vote 30 years before I was born, and 25 years we had the right to own property via a loan at the bank. Rape was finally criminalized in the mid-1970’s. When I was raped by the dishwasher where I worked, I was told “my skirt must have been too short” or I was an “unpaid prostitute.” My boss asked why I was late to work, and when I told him what happened, he said “Well, did you enjoy it?”

    Even judges said “If rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.”

    I have to stop now because I am becoming sick to my stomach. I thank God for Ms. magazine as I remember when it started and I have been a long-term supporter. We need more people to fight for rights and justice for all. Let the Light shine through!

  36. Catherine Todd says:

    I was raped in 1969. I can’t remember when the first woman was finally allowed to go to court against her rapist, but I think it was in the early 1980’s. Many women tried and were constantly told it was “their fault,” or if they were not a virgin “it was not considered rape.”

    Sexual abuse of a child was not considered a crime or even a legitimate complaint, as Freud said any child reporting incest was “having sexual fantasies about their father” and needed to be institutionalized “for treatment.”

    Physical abuse of a child meant the child “needed discipline,” no matter how bad were the beatings, even when they led to broken bones or hospitalization.

    Men were allowed to beat their wives to the point of death sometimes, in front of the police, as it was considered “a family affair” and they did not interfere. The woman “must have made him mad.”

    I could go on, but now I really have to stop. Thank you for this article. It at least reminds me that some progress has been made.

  37. I remember that in 1972, everything was indicative of it being a Man’s world. Credit Cards were given at the discretion of the bank and our husband’s request. Why would any of us want to shout out to everyone, especially our children, how we were treated? If asked, I would say, sure I have my own credit card! Never wanting to brag about how pigeonholed I really felt!
    I lost four babies in the 70’s! The (Male) doctors would deliver a live baby and let the poor thing lay in the hallway until it took its last breath! I was never allowed to see or hold any of my babies! From a small town in Indiana to
    Indianapolis! My husband could view them, hold them! I think of this more than having a credit card! Finally in 1988 I had my son who got to come home a week later, including a daughter in 1990, both with a new husband (ten years younger)! When in 1988 the doctor told me to come back in two years, to have that second baby (my 6th) I finally no longer felt like a second class citizen!
    Don’t argue about what you remember your mother telling you! Continue to fight for equal rights for everyone!

  38. In 1978 a women needed her husbands permission to have her tubes tied but….he could have a vasectomy without her permission!


  39. On a similar topic, when I got divorced in 1980 and bought a condo, my deed said “Name, divorced, and not yet remarried.” I don’t know which annoyed me more — discussing my marital status on a real estate document, or the assumption that I obviously would want to be married again ASAP. Women also couldn’t serve on juries in many states until 1974.

  40. usa2elsewhere says:

    All this is very strange because I figured out the woman should be the main provider if you had to choose just one gender. Men have gone on too long shirking their responsibilities for sharing domestic chores..


    in 1969 I married and when i went to open a bank account in both our names(I am asking myself now why on earth I did that). I filled out the app with my name first and the bank employee said’ Wouldn’t your husband prefer to have his name first?’ I said, ” I am the one opening it, you do it the way I told you to do it’.(I lived in Chicago so it might have been easier than in the south or a small town, if you call that easy.)

  42. Donald Huschle says:

    Doctors could not prescribe birth control to single women. How did that not make the list?

    • Doctors did prescribe birth control in 1966 to single women. I know this as a fact. Maybe it was up to the doctor?

  43. Got first credit card 1962, but during short marriage 1973-76 credit was reduced from $1,000 to $300 cause husband had no credit, even though I was supporting him!

    Bought first home on my own 1968 – raised a few eyebrows as title office said I was first single female in Baltimore City to apply.

    All my relatives are Canadian or Irish – all women college grads beginning 1880, men 1825. I was NEVER told there was anything I couldn’t attempt! Mum raised all four of us exactly the same way (3boys, 1 girl).

  44. Kathleen M Shook says:

    My husband & I found out we were to have our first baby in April 1976… because I was almost DUE with our baby at the time of the closing, I was told that I needed to do a Power of Attorney and NOT attend the closing being within DAYS of giving birth because the MORTGAGE was based on BOTH incomes & my being pregnant would be viewed as a RISK… the bank could deny our mortgage! Our closing on our first home was on April 2, 1976… our first baby was born April 13, 1976… and I went back to work on April 26, 1976 because I only had 8 days of sick leave and there was NO maternity leave in those days!

  45. cynthia shallit says:

    I was one of the first professional women in my office to keep my job after after my first baby. Before that, all the women who got pregnant left because they were only allowed a few weeks off for maternity leave. i was given three months off.
    I also experienced a lot of changes because of sexual harassment protections. Even in the 80s , we just assumed we would be sexually approached, harassed and threatened and we would have to accept it. Then more and more started feeling like we could speak up. That it was wrong and we would be supported if we said something about it.

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