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. Elizabeth Martin says:

    I am a woman. I am Canadian. I am also 62 years old with accumulated wisdom and knowledge which has been accrued gradually but not gently. I have watched the passage of time and the impeccably slow journey that women throughout the world have made in gaining any sense of the obligatory “equality” or “rights” so freely given to holders of penises. With much amazement I realize that the Women’s Movement from the 1970’s seems to have stopped somewhere in the cosmic sense of time, and that which I take for granted is not even recognized in many other parts of the world; and even in our neighbour to the south; the U.S.A. Young women of todays era must re-kindle their brains to continue the fight to the stage where “rights” are a given; no longer to be fought for. Sadly, internationally, the fight must go on.

    • Yes, Elizabeth you are so right, but I know we’ll keep fighting for all our rights.

    • Christine says:

      Beautifully written, Elizabeth. Thank you.

      • Phyllis Frick says:

        I am nearly a decade older than Elizabeth, and sadly, even in Canada, I see young women forfeiting the rights we fought for. From where I stand, there has been a good deal of regression in the last 40 years — much of it given up by women!

      • I too am in my 60s. I am often shocked to hear women in their 20s & 30s diss the women’s movement as they use their credit cards in their own name (as late as the early 90s my husband’s name was used as the primary on a credit card that I applied for and he had no interest in!!), work while they’re pregnant and never have to field questions about their use of birth control when applying for a job. As for reproductive rights? They have no idea how it was back then when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were considered so shameful that a woman would have to go “visit the aunt in CA” or place the baby for adoption in order to preserve not only her reputation, but her marriageable status. Sometimes, I think some of these privileges may need to be taken away before these young women wake up and realize the efforts that were undertaken to gain them. They stand on the shoulders of giants and they don’t realize–or even care about it!

    • Patricia Carey says:

      The appalling effort of the (mostly male) right wing to turn back the clock has been terrifyingly successful in the past few years because there’s so much power and money behind it.

      • Sheryl Lathem says:

        Terrifying is just how I have felt about most of the things happening today, too!

      • Sandy Alley says:

        Yes, it has been terrifyingly successful. I don’t understand why though – except for maybe the money. Women outnumber men in most societies and in those where women have a voice they need to speak loudly and tirelessly. In the U.S. women have the power to vote; we determine the values we teach our children; we do the shopping that determines which companies can be successful; we earn a large chunk of the family income and determine how to spend it. Why on earth are we not making sure that our government, the voice of the “people”, is setting its agenda by our demands. We have much more power than we have ever assumed or taken. It is time that we assert that power for a while and vote every yahoo that claims to understand better the needs of the woman out of office through whatever means is best at each individual woman’s disposal.

    • Nicole Tighe says:

      Thank you! I’m raising 2 amazing and brilliant daughter’s and it is for them as well as myself, that I will continue to fight and will teach them to demand the rights that should have been ours from birth!

    • Here, here–indignez vous !

    • Thank you so much Elizabeth . I couldn’t agree more .

    • Grace Boerner says:

      Well said Elizabeth. I’m a few years your senior, and have witnessed our bra burning and some rights gained by women. The article above is a great reminder of where we were, and we have lots of work to do in the future. BTW “holder of penises” — priceless!

    • Sheryl Lathem says:

      Absolutely correct, Elizabeth Martin!! I worry about the young women today. They do not know what we older ladies went through to get them, as well as ourselves to this point, and too many seem to not worry about losing some of those rights. Many women suffered a great deal just to get the vote for us! I can remember a time when my husband had to call the credit company to put my name on our credit – just so I could call and talk to them if there were a problem, etc.
      Yes, that “holder of penises” is priceless!!

    • yes, thank you Elizabeth. Many young women today feel that feminism is a bad thing though they benefit from so many of the advances in the 1970s without even knowing it. I try to teach my students about it every year. Here’s to more education and liberstion!

    • Penny Wells says:

      Thank you Elizabeth, you are so right. I am an American woman and I watch the conservatives try to strip us of our rights constantly, by men…this is so wrong on so many levels it’s had to know where to start. I can’t understand how a woman could be a republican. Really, I just don’t. I remember the “battle of the sexes “in the 70’s too. I also remember the battle for rights in the south by the Black People in the 60’s . It’ a historical blot of shame for my Country that a race of people in the land of the free were treated so despicably. If we don’t keep going forward we are going to slide back…

    • Debra Row;ands says:

      I, too, feel that younger women have got to get themselves educated, get brought up to speed and carry the torch. I took a class a few semesters ago, a women’s study class, and was shocked at how young women in the class didn’t realize that in so many ways, they were constantly being discriminated against. In my late 50’s at the time, I felt it a great opportunity to point out a few things, and several of the young women were surprised at what they learned, and it started them to thinking. Agreeing with Christina, these young ladies are totally unaware of what feminism is, what benefit they have reaped from it, and of the work that still needs to be done. Well said, ladies.

    • Jean Taylor says:

      Thank you for stating something today’s women seldom think about . My own daughter says I am too obsessed with getting equality .I remind her title Nine gave her rights I didn’t have . She was allowed to participate in sports denied me and apply to schools that formerly refused to admit women. She is in a career that was mostly men . It is still not easy ,but at least she gets equal pay ,many women do not .
      I was refused by a college to study to be a large animal vet .No women allowed in the boys club, not matter my grade average . Today’s young women are far too complacent and do not realize their rights can be taken from them by fat old men in Congress in the USA.
      I finally got credit in my own name at a credit union. I still do not have equal rights over my own body .

    • Laura Ferguson says:

      Elizabeth, you make a good point. I am working on writing lesson plans about women’s history in the state where I live (Montana). During my research, I came across a great newspaper article about Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, a suffragist from Montana who went on to become an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment in the US, but then moved to England. She came back to the US in the late 1970s and one of her most profound observations was “why hasn’t it passed?” I remember my own mom with her NOW t-shirt and hearing women talk about the ERA… but it does seem to have faded away in my own generation. (I was born in the 70s). I wonder, do we take it for granted all the gains made by previous generations? Did we buy into the anti-feminism backlash that made women feel like bitches if they wanted equality? Did we let the women-haters and women-fearers distort feminism — which, at its essence is humanism — into something “bad” when in fact it is something good and empowering? I am working hard to put together useful material for the next generation, in hopes that they, too, will ask, “Where are the Equal Rights” and see a way to make it happen. I love hearing from women older than myself about your perspectives on feminism and equal rights, because we all need to hear it!

    • Elizabeth Riley says:

      These are all of the things my mother fought for. My father left her with three young children. Her first jobs as a single woman were in factories. She worked nights because that’s the only thing she could find. She couldn’t get a credit card or a car loan. In 1970 she drove a ’57 Volvo with no headlights because that’s all she could afford. She died at 56, a single, unattractive, middle-aged woman with no insurance. She gave us, her daughters, strength and resolve as we saw her fight her battles so that we wouldn’t have to. I miss her terribly.

    • I love you, Elizabeth Martin.

    • Amy Rahn says:

      After reading this list, I was feeling grateful for all the progress made by the women in the era(s) that came before me, and then I bristled when I read Elizabeth’s post. I am a Young Woman (ish… I’m 31) in the U.S.A., and I sometimes hear or read comments like this from women who were active in the Feminist efforts of the 1970s, and seem to relish leveling this claim of inaction at “us.” So, let me say that I (we?) are grateful for what you’ve done, for what you did then, and for how much it meant to you then and means to you now. We want to keep moving forward. We are fighting for equality in our workplaces, for our status as mothers or non-mothers, for access to education, birth control, abortions, opportunities. We know full well the fight isn’t over, because we’re facing it every goddamn day. If you don’t like how we’re fighting the fight, why not wade in and guide us, rather than grousing about how complacent we are? We’re dealing with nearly unprecedented (yes, in the extremely privileged U.S.A.) income inequality, little access to healthcare, few job opportunities, high student loan debt, and the still-painful inequalities we face as a result of our gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Many of us are fighting to keep our heads above water. So, fund a scholarship. Babysit a kid. Mentor the young women you know. Buy them lunch. Stop lamenting about young women, and help them keep doing the honorable and important work of change you have already succeeded in (partially) bringing about. We honor you, and we need your help.

      • Staci Priest says:

        I’m with Amy here. I have stood up for my rights. I’ve had to point out sexual harrassment and gender descrimination in the work place and I’m pretty sure it led to me being laid off later. I was recently fired for taking care of my child too much, despite having FMLA paperwork. I had only been on the job 7 months, so my probation wasn’t over and they let me go for not being a “good fit”. My daughter was the victim of a sexual violent crime (from a teenage GIRL) and she needed help, no one cared. I work with Mom’s Rising, I write my congressmen, I try!!! I teach my daughter that she’s as good as any man and I’ve seen her whip a boy or two in martial arts. She now can take care of herself, is great at math and science, and knows I stand with her in all things. How am I not doing my part? As Amy said, tell us what you need? I’d love to go protest, but most of us are working women, we risk loosing our jobs by taking a day off. What do we do?

    • Sheila A. Donovan says:

      Yes, our rights are slipping. Old, white, male politicians are going to their grave kicking and fighting to bring us back to barefoot, pregnant & unemployable. The rape culture has gone viral. It is no longer shameful to rape someone. It’s something to brag about. Rap music is vehemently anti-female. I heard a song last week, from somebody blaring it from a car, “Spit on that ho” (or, bitch, I can’t remember which word) Then it makes the sound of someone spitting. It turned my stomach. Language is a powerful weapon. That’s why women should NEVER use anti-female words to describe other women i.e. slut, whore, bitch, witch and some words I can’t even print here. Women and men must use their brains to use neutral words when they’re angry. Words are power. That’s why we must stop referring to fully grown, adult women as “girls.” Being a girl implies that you’re young and immature and cute. Have you ever heard someone say “the boy in accounting.”? If someone is over 21 years old they are a woman. Women are unaware that they are subliminally diminishing their status and power by referring to themselves as girls.

    • Diane E. Dinnigan says:

      Agreed, beautifully written. Thank you Elizabeth.

    • Mitchell says:

      What you say is spot on, Elizabeth Martin. As a 62 year old gay male feminist who works in an industry dominated by women, both I and most of my older female colleagues are appalled at the lack of a feminist consciousness amongst most of the young women we work with. Only weeks ago did I have a 30 year old woman confide in me in tears that she was the last of her college friends who is still unmarried, and how humiliating it is. And I find that some relate to husband/boyfriend in a way that is so conciliating and often self-effacing as to suggest a supplicant placating a deity.
      The daughter of a friend was accepted by Smith and will be a freshman in the fall. Her parents had her educated at a widely known and highly regarded non-coed school from the age of 10, and she was accepted by every university to which she applied. When she opted for Smith, one of her friends asked her if she was a Lesbian! I feel as though for every two steps forward made in my youth in the 70’s that there has often been a corresponding step backward. It is very disheartening.

    • In 1970 i could not have a check book. When i traveled i had to buy Travelers checks ,which upon signing was used as money. No credit card could be issued to single woman.The media had no female faces,all authority was assigned to males.

    • You are right, Ms. Canada. We should be fighting for our rights!

    • Agustina says:

      As a very young feminist (21) I can say that there’s as much ignorance as there is awareness. I’ve had discussions with fellow women about rape and victim blaming and have found myself disgusted to find the same backwards thinking that leads to victims to feel ostracized, but also I have found myself to be encouraged by the number of woman who don’t buy into what the patriarchy is selling. And let’s not forget that it’s not so much a matter of women refusing to fight for their rights but a matter of cultural ignorance. And the best you can do is to talk to these girls and hope that they’ll listen.
      It’s also hard for certain women to empathize and understand what feminism really is when they willfully fit into society’s gender role expectations (not that it’s a bad thing in itself and I salute the women who choose that life, but in /my experience/ I’ve found that most of the women likely to buy into the feminism = lesbian man-hater myth are like that). I go to an engineering university where only 15% of the alumni are women and I experience discrimination every day – not to the extent that I’d consider it a form of abuse. But I’m still singled out because of my gender. As I said to a friend before, if I make a mistake while writing software, it’s not just my being a bad programmer, people will say “see, all women are bad programmers!”. When people see something you do as a merit to your gender or as an example of what your gender sucks at instead of seeing it as a personal strength/failure, then you can clearly see how much we’re still being discriminated against.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      holders of penises
      Please remember that not all people with penises are men, nor are all people with vaginas women.

  2. Kathy Fisher says:

    And our income was not considered as part of the household income when a married couple wanted to buy a house.

    • As recently as 2000, when I bought my house, all of the legal documents pertaining to the purchase identified me as “[R—][K—], a single woman,” like it was so out of the ordinary that a woman was buying a house on her own, WITH NO MAN, ZOMG!! that they had to point it out. SMH…

    • Something that still bothers me: Each year, on our income tax return, my husband is instructed to sign the line that says “taxpayer,” and I am instructed to sign the line that says “spouse.” This is in spite of the fact that I am the wage earner in the family.

      • Diana S. says:

        Instructed by whom?? Sign it the other way around, fer crying out loud. I guarantee the CRA won’t refuse your money.

      • When I was married, I filed with my name as the taxpayer and listed my husband as the spouse on Federal forms without a problem. I did have more of an issue doing this when we lived in Louisiana because of how the forms were worded.

      • Sue Ann says:

        I show my name as taxpayer, also, and my husband as the spouse. We’ve been doing that since we were married in 1991.

      • Christine says:

        That must be a state tax form because I have filed as primary on my federal income tax return since I married in 1998.

      • Beckiy Yeatman says:

        you can sign as taxpayer and he can be the spouse.

      • I’m looking at my 2012 federal return and do not see that the husband would have to sign on the upper line and the wife sign on the line that says spouse. The upper line instructs “Your signature” only. Spouse refers to each.

      • Denise – I do hope you are doing your own taxes and not taking them to a tax preparer. Either way you are doing it wrong. If YOU are the primary wage earner and YOUR w-2 is attached YOU are the taxpayer not your husband and YOU should be signing as the Taxpayer.

      • Mary Jo says:

        The order of the names doesn’t matter, but once you file joint, you should always file with the same name/ssn first or else returns can get messed up. I have been completing our tax returns since the first year we were married and I have always listed my name first, even in years when I had no income. Income has no bearing on name order.

      • Maureen Scott says:

        You can switch the order on the tax form in the US – just put your name first at the top of the page. I have done this many times.

  3. How about get an athletic scholarship to college? Title IX wasn’t made law until 1972, and didn’t have any enforcement rules until 1978!

  4. T1luvbug says:

    We CAN make change! Thanks so much for the reminder! Just last night I was honestly wondering if efforts in change are sometimes wasted energy. Thanks for renewing me!

  5. Hannah Medrow says:

    Add “be a member of Toastmasters International” to the list. I was shocked when I learned that until the mid-to-late 70’s, women were not allowed to participate as members in that speaking group.

    • And I am very proud to say that my beautiful, headstrong, whip smart Grandmother was Toast Master of the Year in her local club the very first year she was allowed to join and several times there after.
      Never thought about that as defining moment of feminism but locally I guess it is.

  6. Sherry Beard says:

    Add: Become the “guardian” of minor children if the father pre-deceased the mother without a will naming her as such. He could have actually named someone else to be the guardian of HIS minor children. Being the mother of said children apparently didn’t count. A court had to appoint the mother as “guardian” of minor children. I had to swear in court that my mother was fit to be the guardian of my minor siblings. That was in 1975.

    • Christine says:

      Wow, Sherry, wow!

    • My husband died in 1993 when my kids were 6 and 2. Thank God I didn’t have to go through guardianship issues. Thanks, Sherry, for adding this, and thanks to those unsung heroes who changed legislation in 1975!

    • I think guardianship depended on the state. I know my daughter was born in Virginia in 1968 and her father had total guardianship and could have named someone else, other than me, had he wanted to. Also, had he died, the state could have named someone other than me to be her guardian. That was not the case in Kentucky where we moved when she was nine months old, because I checked.

  7. Well, there is a major fight on this field, it is actually the biggest fight yet, and is that the european gods introduced to america with violence have a penises…if mankind is unable to defeat that…women will always be second.

  8. How compete in sports at the high school and college level??! Until 1972 most schools did not have teams for women, or if they did, they were few in number and poorly funded. Women didn’t get equal opportun-ity in school athletics until 1972.

    “Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.”

  9. There were many other things which were not controlled by law but by social pressure, either positive or negative . No, women do not become doctors or scientists. Yes women shouldbe the care giver.

  10. Brian Barnwell says:

    Another big one and very important, though not to the taste of all, is that women can now participate in all U.S. military actions including direct combat and operating all manner of vehicles (jets, helicopters, etc).

  11. Most civic clubs, such as Rotary, did not admit women. Few religious denominations ordained women. In many public places, including restaurants, women were not allowed to wear slacks. It was legal to discriminate in pay.
    There were no shelters for battered women in most cities and states. Rape was frequently considered the woman’s fault.
    Proud to have been part of the movement bringing about changes. I feel sorry for younger women who don’t have the solidarity (and the transgressive fun) we had in fighting to change things.

  12. mama bear's den says:

    Considering the extreme struggles for women’s rights around the world prior to the 70’s, some things on this list honestly seem a little pathetic: celebrate international women’s day? read Ms. Magazine?? I’m sure getting a credit card or being allowed to box can be a struggle, but that sure seems like a walk in the park compared to being stoned for looking at another male, not being allowed out in society, not receiving any bit of an education, being left to the mercy of male family when your spouse dies or if never married, simply not being allowed to earn an income at all, etc. Seeing this list really made me see it how blessed and lucky women have had it here – in the past and now. Yikes.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      Getting a credit card is critical to being able to start a small business. Please don’t play Oppression Olympics.

  13. EmmittBrownBTTF1 says:

    Thanks to stroppy women and reasonable men, the position of women grown to be equall or nearly equal in many respects.
    Still there much work to be done, with the attacks on #9, through “additional requirements” making operations effectively impractical for many clinics. Also Arizona law says a woman is legally pregnent upto two weeks *before* conception. And North Dakota has banned abortion after 6 weeks.

  14. I am 66yrs.i am probablyone of the first generation to raise a child alone meaning not married. got married knew it would not work and when he threw us out cause we were too expensesive I went back home. Eventually got a MSW and worked for a county mental health program now can provide for my son and his wife. None of this was easy but possible. In my mothers time it wasnt even possible. She paid aHell of a Price for that. I never stop feeling gratful.

  15. Judy Pratt says:

    Women’s basketball rules were also different than men’s. The court was divided into three equal sections with three players to each section and a player could not leave her assigned zone. Also prohibited was a player grabbing or batting the ball from the hands of another player. Players could not hold the ball for longer than three seconds and could not dribble the ball more than three bounces before passing it. Only forwards could shoot.

    • AshelyP says:

      Wow Judy, that is truly insane! Not sure how one steals a ball, if they can’t steal a ball lol. Amazing how these rules change

    • Ricochet says:

      You seem to be talking about a game called Netball rather than Basketball. Netball is a game in its own right and is highly regarded and played in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

      • Diana S. says:

        The rules Judy cites were in force when I was introduced to basketball as a kid in school. It was definitely called basketball. Man, was it boring.

      • Sheryl Lathem says:

        No, Ricochet – we are talking women’s basket ball from way back then! Believe it or not!

      • It sure was basketball! That’s the game I first played as a freshman in h.s. in 1950!

    • I grew up playing Iowa girls’ basketball, which persisted until about 10 years ago. Teams of 3 guards and 3 forwards were separated by a single center line. No one but forwards could score points. Dopey rules about dribbling and passing etc. were all designed to keep girls from jiggling their lady parts too much. This was sanctioned in Iowa until – 1993! What changed it was clamor from the girls about not being able to get into college programs, especially the poor guards, with no shooting records.

    • I was on the first girls basketball team in my school around 1976, but the school board closed us down partially because, they said, the running might make us sterile. (As a 7th grader, I thought that would be a great perk.) Interestingly we didn’t follow these rules, probably because our big brothers taught us the game.

      • This seems hysterical now, but I do remember being told to “Act like a lady’ quite a bit when I was growing up in the ’60s.

    • Yes, I remember those rules. In fact, most games were either closed to women or they were so watered-down that they were no fun at all.

  16. Anne Senecal says:

    This is a great article & one I hope to share with my students in the fall. I do have one concern however; it is accurate that women couldn’t box in the Olympics until 2012 but to include that and *not* include the name of Claressa Shields, the 17 year old boxer from Flint Michigan who went undefeated to win gold for the US is disheartening. Shields’ accomplishment has gotten significantly less press than other gold medal winners from last summer and I can’t help but wonder why.

  17. EmmittBrownBTTF1 says:

    My previous post, I realized, is ambiguous. I glad things are moving towards equality and very concerned by the attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose.
    Some good news this week, Federal Court struck down Arozona’s 20 week ban on terminations.

  18. Jeanette McMaster says:

    I read the article about what American women could not do.
    This made me think of just how fortunate I am today. I am a native woman, my nation is the Syilx nation .
    I speak my language fluently,.
    My marriage was a very good one.
    In fact, my husband , who was of the Scottish , was very good to me.
    In fact, I have lived among non-native people most of my life. I had very little discrimination or racism towards myself.

    So, I believe, it is entirely up to every woman to set her path. In fact, living with or among non-native people has given me many opportunities to learn , to become a better person.
    My faith in God is my strength ,
    I am also 75 years old, a widow, I learned to live independently from my own parents . Who never asked for social welfare assistance, they were hard working people,
    My life is good, because I choose to make it good. I write stories, which the local paper used to publish every week. Now I am still writing stories, which people tell me they enjoy immensely

    Have a good evening women, be yourselves express your own thoughts and use the many talents god placed within you.

  19. David Harley says:


    I do not mean to decry the athletes, many of whom are far more intelligent than fans or other students are aware, but is there another country in the world where this would even be noticed? Where else are athletes subsidized like this? The NCAA football teams are farm teams for the NFL, risking students’ lives and limbs for the amusement of the alumni.

    Why should anyone, male or female or anything else, get an athletic scholarship to a supposedly academic institution?

    • David Harley says:

      I’m sorry. I forgot the type format here. I meant to quote this —

      “How about get an athletic scholarship to college? “

    • Because higher education is expensive and if a physical talent can give a student a much-needed break–go for it!

      Other than that, excellent points.

    • Tammy Stanke says:

      What other countries subsidize education for athletes?? How about the numerous other countries that take extremely young children – 18 mos – 3 yrs – away from their parents to train them solely for the Olympics. They do go to school as well, get room and board, etc. Other countries pay for their top athletes to train and compete. It’s only if you’re not as elite, you don’t get paid; whereas, here, we have division 1, 2, and 3 let alone community colleges that allow numerous athletes to get an education. Contrary to popular belief, those in the championship games do not represent the thousands more who went to school, played a sport and enjoyed it and got a super education because they knew they weren’t going pro and their school is okay with those students just being great student athletes.

  20. David Harley says:

    “And our income was not considered as part of the household income when a married couple wanted to buy a house.”

    This was, I think, a consequence of the Married Women’s Property Acts. Under such 19th-century legislation, married women’s income and property was regarded as their own, no longer as part of the household’s (i.e. husband’s, where living) income and property.

  21. David Harley says:

    More generally, it would be a great service if we could see some comparisons with other (developed?) countries. What changes happened, and when, in other countries? And what was regarded as important there?

    • http://www.iwdc.org/resources/fact_sheet.htm “-The US currently rankes 68th of 134 nations worldwide with only 16.8% women elected to the House of Representatives and 16.0% women elected to the Senate. If you count all nations that tied for a position due to the same number of women represented in government seperately as well as those nations for which no information is available (such as Myanmar), the US is ranked 83rd of 189.”

  22. Tommye Roark says:

    I could not buy a car in Texas in 1955 because I was married. A relative had to sign the papers with me and then they were mailed to my husband who was overseas in the navy.

  23. I remember the deed to the house my mother bought after her divorce from my dad said “My mother’s name, an unmarried woman”

    • Same here…in the year 2000!! I’m guessing it’s leftover archaic legal terminology…but shouldn’t it change??

    • Niki Arnold says:

      … And documents still say “an unmarried woman” ~ what is that about and why does it still apply?????

      • If you are “an unmarried woman”, whats the problem?? The document is just stating a fact. I am a business owner and a homeowner and happily married having both. (I changed my deed once I was married) People worry about the wrong things in life…
        I see most of these comments using the word “fight”, really! I thought we were suppose to all get along…how can you do that if you are always thinking about the “fight”. Such angry women…go out and make a place in the world for yourself & stop the complaining about what you don’t have, it is not very becoming. Feel Blessed for what you do have, I know I do.
        I also grew up in the ’60’s and was also told to “act like a lady”, seriously what the heck is wrong with that?!?! I loved growing up then, girls wore dresses to school, not clothing that shows everything they own like todays girls. They didn’t talk back and always helped with whatever needed to be done. They were respectful in every way. Now todays girls/women dress awful, they don’t help unless there is something in it for them and they are down right mean. Is that the equality you are talking about, you want to all be mean?? ‘Cause if it is, you’ve succeded.

    • That is indeed the correct way to word a deed and is still used today. As well as “a single woman” it is to signify that in the event of death there is no surviving spouse.

    • Sammie, I work at a bank and deeds still say “husband and wife,” “an unmarried person,” or “a married person as his/her separate property.” It’s just legalese.

    • I’m a 45-year-old homeowner, and mine still says that.

    • Worse than that … In the 70’s in Illinois, I bought my first house. (I was single.) The description on the title referred to my name with the added description: “a spinster.” I was in my 20’s at the time and quite offended. I spoke my mind about the idiotic description before signing. That still bugs me!

  24. Ann Kirk says:

    In Maryland women were not allowed to take the accountant CPA exam until 1978.

  25. I was a flight attendant (stewardess) from 1961 until 1965. Back in the olden days when we were all rather slender, we still had to wear girdles. The ops guys would pinch our butts to make sure we were wearing them. We all hated it but it was just something we took because we could be fired without the girdle check; we loved our jobs otherwise and would have no legal backing to reverse our firings. International travel was the magnet and that’s why we were there. I had incredible travel including being on vacation in Mykonos, Greece, when JFK was assasinated, and traveling in and out of Saigon during the war.

    We were retired without compensation at age 32: we had to retire if we married, no matter what age; pregnancy was a reason for termination; being overweight was a reason for termination. We had a buxom coworker who had to have a doctor’s statement that said her 2-3 lbs overweight was due to her breast size which couldn’t be modified without surgery.

    Back in the olden days there were far more requirements than there are now. In the earlier days prior to my experience, stewardesses had to have an RN degree; in my era two or more years of college or 4 plus years of secretarial work (or similar) were required.

    I could go on….

    Good times.

  26. Teresa B. says:

    I watched as women went from having to deal with unwanted pregnancy to having the pill, to being able to get a legal and safe abortion. We are going backward and need to stand our ground and NOT be pushed back in time! Women’s rights are only rights because women fought for them. I know it feels like this fight is never-ending, but if we show that we are serious, we CAN win!

  27. athas17 says:

    Remember when women couldn’t apply for any job? Newspapers segregated the Want Ads into Help Wanted Female and Help Wanted Male. All the female jobs were teachers, nurses, secretaries. That’s it.

  28. Pam Foley says:

    Well stated Elizabeth. I think this generation of women are picking up the baton and running with it.

  29. Ana Cerqueira says:

    In this day and era in several so-called developed countries children cannot have their mother’s surname. In some countries they can but it is not the rule. I don’t get this: does the child have one parent only? What is a mother, a mere carrier?

  30. Alison Carter says:

    I love Ms Magazine’s muted sarcasm in using the word “charming”, because I too find Ireland’s track record of women’s rights positively Talibanesque (see “Magdalene Laundries”), and absolutely despise Irish Central’s definitive pro-Vatican bent in having the audacity to morally and religiously speak for the US Irish diaspora, as if “Being Irish” and “Being Pro-Vatican” were actually meant to go hand in hand- even after the way the Vatican raped Ireland. Ireland is struggling to become a secularized country, if the blinkered Americans who funded Catholic tyranny and the IRA would all enter retirement homes and die already.

    Irish Central needs an addendum to their article: “10 things women could do in Ireland before 1916 because the Crown government acknowledged their humanity, before Eamon De Valera permitted the Vatican to take it away”.

  31. Employers were still allowed to advertise for jobs by gender. Newspapers had columns for male jobs and female jobs.

  32. My mother had to have a medically necessary hysterectomy. She had to get her husband’s permission first! If he had refused, she would be dead. My newspaper would give women by-lines…They had to
    write as “Mrs. John Smith.”

    I hope people realize that that until this time, Islamic women had more rights than Western women—they should stop feeling so smug and stop pointing fingers.

  33. Gary Bachman says:

    So, before anyone becomes satisfied with the great progress we’ve made as a society, let’s pause for a moment and consider what ten barriers American women STILL face that men generally do not. (Just to get us started you might consider the fate of the Equal Rights Ammendment to the Constitution. Oh, and recent state or federal legislation , either proposed or enacted, regarding for example, matters of reproductive health.)

  34. We may have won some rights, but unless women today make this a central issue against all the other issues people tell us are more important, we’re going to lose it all, maybe even the right to own property and vote.
    Now, some women psychologists are even giving men the excuse that we’re sexism towards them!
    A lot of women don’t even know today what sexism is…the men seem to think it’s any time a woman treat them poorly.
    We old warhorses from the 70’s watched the younger women drop the ball and now we’re all paying for it.
    We desperately need consciousness raising groups again, either in our homes or online

    • Tammy Stanke says:

      perhaps because we do have women working many same jobs, right to vote, etc. women have become complacent. As a previous post said, “What is our top 10 issues we need to battle for today?”

      1) Equal Rights Amendment
      2) All health insurance must include free female and male birth control, regardless of employer’s faith.
      3)…. what do you think??

      • Why must your health insurance include “free” birth control. Who do you think pays for the “FREE”????? Hello, how about we all pay our own way on everything we want or need!
        Just saying…

        • Origami Isopod says:

          Hello, WE are paying for that birth control. It is part of our compensation packages. And contraception IS healthcare. Did you come over here from Glenn Beck’s website or something?

  35. I am so glad to be able to share this with my daughter. I doubt most young women realize how recently these changes have come about. Thank you!

  36. Post-graduate scholarships and fellowships were almost entirely for men only. I seem to remember that only 1 of them allowed women to apply. Girls could not be pages in the House or Senate. Very few professions were open to women. You could have a professional career OR you could be a feminine woman, but you couldn’t have both. Newspaperwomen were pretty much limited to the “Women’s Pages” and the Style sections. No women were seen on the TV news. A woman lawyer was rare indeed, as was a woman doctor. Midwives didn’t exist, except in a few communes. Childbirth without drugs was considered rebellious and was actively opposed by hospital staff. No matter what one’s educational achievement, the first question was always the same three words, “Can you type”? Always, except for waitresses and a few other occupations. Women’s anger was described as “cute.” To visit a nightclub without an accompanying man, women often had to enter through a separate entrance (the “Woman’s Entrance), usually toward the back. Women could not join the Rotary, become a Lion, a Moose, an Elk, or join any other traditionally male civic organization. Oh, our daughters can barely imagine those times. Things have changed so….fortunately.

    • Sheila A. Donovan says:

      OMG, I forgot about the “can you type?” on applications for female jobs. I just remembered something else about job applications. We had to fill the blanks asking about our father’s job and title. I had a hard time filling in that blank because my father was “Supervisor of Inventory for the Bureau of Streets and Sanitation of the City of Chicago.” What did my father’s job have to do with my ability to work?

  37. The younger generation, aka my generation (we’re looking at ages 25-35 approx) are just struggling to survive right now. We were promised that if we did what was right, go to school, get a career, all that jazz., we’d be fine. But we’re not fine. So if you want to know why we dropped the ball? Well, what would you do if you didn’t have food on the table, a roof over your head, a job to pay the bills? You wouldn’t be out there protesting for rights, you’d be scraping by any way you could. Just saying.
    Now the opposite side of that view would be that if we’re struggling so much we should protest. We have. The whole occupy movement was part of that, but the opposition has more power, more money than we do and they’ve hushed the whole thing up as much as they could. The movement is still going on, but it’s not televised in any way so the average person isn’t aware of it.
    We need to take this to the next level and really choose our targets for the peaceful protests. We need to set this up as organized revolt against the system (peaceful of course, I can’t stress that enough). But we need the generation who started it to help guide us there. We aren’t going to be able to do this on our own, I guarantee it.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Laura Ferguson says:

      you make a good point, stef. We are just barely getting by and feminism doesn’t mean adding a heap of responsibilities and opportunities onto us and walking away… We need to bring about, as part of that peaceful transformation, the truly feminist values that are were at the core of women’s suffrage, the laws that did pass, and the attempts to pass the ERA: values like recognition of everyone’s abilities and accomplishments, honoring the many contributions made to our communities by both women and men (and children), removing the institutionalized roadblocks to freedom and education that are still everywhere in our society, promoting genuine inter-racial acceptance and equality, recognizing and promoting diversity, and so on. The fight is not over, but it certainly has spread out. I think today’s environmental movement, which is so much about human rights as well as the health of the planet, is also a feminist movement. But there is also a huge insurgency against women, just downright anti-woman and hateful, going on right now… parallel to the destruction of the earth and increase in violence in and by our country… I agree, it is time to take to the streets — PEACEFULLY BUT POWERFULLY — and put an end to the violence, an end to the bigotry, an end to the terror against women, children and the earth. We got a long road ahead of us, and we need to build bridges with our allies in spirit — people fighting for human rights, civil rights, against hate, against the destruction of the planet. We need to start by finding that common ground of goodness and work from there. The time of destructive, racist, sexist, violent, “power-over” way of being is obsolete. So, let’s find feminism where it is: in peace movements, in the Occupy movement, in environmental activism, in education when teachers buck the system and teach the truth, in the legal fights of indigenous people to protect their homelands and resources, in the midwives who keep practicing in states that refuse to legalize midwifery, in the mamas that choose to breastfeed their babies wherever and whenever they want, in the farmers and gardeners who go organic and fight against GMOs. Wherever the fight is against tyranny, oppression, authoritarianism, corporate greed and control, bullying, racism, and all the other forms of cruelty — feminism is there, alive, and growing!

  38. 1. Keep her job if she was pregnant.
    I became pregnant at 16 by a man 10 years older than I. I had another baby 9 months later if I wanted to keep them alive I was forced to work. Luckily, a grocery store owner took pity on me and gave me food for my family in exchange for work.
    2. Report cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
    I would have stabbed anyone in the back who tried to harass me but I didn’t always recognize what that type of harassement was.
    3. Be acknowledged in the Boston Marathon.
    Not something I ever aspired to – LOL
    4. Get a credit card.
    I perfected the barter system (but was probably one of the first women to get a loan from our Credit Union in my own name.)
    5. Refuse to have sex with her husband.
    I was lucky enough to have a husband who accepted the word, ‘No”.
    6. Compete as a boxer in the Olympics.
    Another article that has no appeal to me. I even hate men boxing though my Father was a Golden Glove boxer.
    7. Get a divorce with some degree of ease.
    My Divorce was much later than 1969 and relatively civilized.
    8. Celebrate International Women’s Day.
    I celebrated with my women friends whenever I wanted to, I will not be denied celebraating the other 364 days of the year.
    9. Have a legal abortion in most states.
    I am so happy that legal abortions were not available to me. The best thing I have given to the world and to myself is my 2 daughters. I shudder to think what the flip side would have been. An emotional teenager does not have the knowledge to make a decision on this.
    10. Read Ms. Magazine!
    I don’t think this has made a difference in my life, it is just nor important enough in the scheme of life.

    My own #11comment
    I think it’s sad that women dress and act as is their appearance and sexuality is a most important thing.
    We should be teaching our daughters that their good character will provide true happiness.

  39. Annabeth Parrish says:

    I had a professor in college who was a man who said he was a feminst. that didnt mean he was femine. But wanted women to have the same rights as men.

  40. I really liked the article, and Elizabeth Martin’s response. As a “holder of a penis”, I am more than happy to share the power and allow any of you to hold mine as long as you like.
    All joking aside, equal rights for women, minorities, gays, and *every* American, is one of the most important goals we all should work toward.

  41. Seems we still have a long way to go as many states and countries still want control over a woman’s reproductive organs.

  42. Catherine Campbell says:

    Anti-birth control keeps $$$ in the hands of the men. Makes profit for corporations by providing a starving mass of people to be ‘rescued’ by porno, military, slave factory and farm, = profits for the billionaires to match the Chinese. It is not about human life for anti-choices its about supporting corrupt systems and getting paid for it – politicians, promoters and religion!

  43. Sarajane Garten says:

    I was a mortgage processor in 1970 when a woman’s income could not be counted towards a VA or FHA mortgage, no matter her income, without proof of sterilization or birth control method being part of the mortgage application. On letterhead from her physician.
    The younger women in my office look at me like I am crazy when I talk about this, or job ads or not have credit cards or being in a girdle from the day I got my first bra. White gloves, hats, sleeping in rollers; none of it was fun. Don’t get me started on charm school.

    • Sheila A. Donovan says:

      My friend, Karen Hurtt was the very first female awarded a mortgage by her particular bank. Not sure which bank it was, but it was in San Diego, CA. This was in the mid-70s.

  44. In 1954, in Oklahoma, I could not buy a car without a male relative signing for it. I was a college graduate with a fulltime job. In 1961 I took a job that required a good bit of travel by car. I was able to get a Texaco gasoline card, but when I married in 1963 I could no longer have the card in my name. We have come a long way, but not quite far enough. And, so many parts of the world are more than a generation behind.

    • My mother married in Oklahoma in 1958. Even though she owned a car and owned her own home, when she married, all her credit cards (“charge plates”) were taken away and she was sent an application for her husband. She’s almost 93 years old now and she is STILL mad about this!

  45. I agree with Laurie, we are paying for the fact that younger women dropped the ball, and I include my daughters in that statement. We have come a long way, but not far enough. I remember being unable to cash a check without my husband’s permission in 1972, having to have his permission to do almost anything, and being unable to get a credit card in my own name. Worst, the sexual harrassment we endured. Young women take too much for granted. When they are told that in my lifetime I have seen segregation, and enumerate the things that we changed, that they take for granted they are surprised. I take great pride in the fact that my granddaughter, age 10, can define misogynistic. I keep trying with each generation.

  46. I remember in the 1970 and when I was working “womens Lib ” came about and when I worked Heavy duty jobs, they were trying to break me of the job and when a job came up they gave it too a man with less senority then me but would put me on lifting heavier stuff. I had one boss take me aside and take me out of it, which I could have filed a complaint. I did my time and they came to understand I wouldn’t give up but I notice alot women would sleep with the boss and get promoted, married or unmarried, at least I am proud of what I did without having to do that. I had one guy come around an throw womens lib to my face and so I cornered him and ask him what the definition of women libs was and of course I did that infront of all the supervisors and when he got through, I looked him in the eyes and said. I can stay around and scratch my balls and received the same kind of pay as you. Neither to say, I imagine the supervisors had a talk with him and he came and apolgoize to me in which I didn’t accept. women can have rights if they do it the right way, some I agree on but other I do not. I don’t know why husbands have to be in control of their wives. I saw what how my father treated my mother and it wasn’t right. Its a man or woman not just a man

  47. I know I am about to voice an unpopular opinion, so please do not jump down my throat for having it, However, I think that in many ways, the fight for equal rights went overboard. What women were fighting for was the right to be treated as an equal when it comes to jobs mostly, but other aspects too. (It’s probably important to note that I was born in ’79, and so I grew up with these “rights” that most other girls in the world didn’t have.)
    I DO agree that we women SHOULD have equal rights. That we should be able to get a job and play on the same sports teams as men. I am glad those rights were fought for, but the problem is that the consequences have completely gone overboard. You all said it yourselves: before the 70s, women really couldn’t get a job if they were married or got pregnant. Women bristled at the idea that they were good for nothing but having babies and staying home to raise them. (I don’t understand this since that was always my goal in life.)
    This meant that the man went to work and supported his family on a single wage – most of the time. Granted, not every man could afford to buy a house on his income – class separation has ALWAYS existed – however most men supported their family monetarily and most women supported their family with love and devotion and all the other things that are even more important than money. In those days, if the only thing a woman wanted in life was to get married and become a mother, NO ONE looked down on her!
    These days, the opposite is true. The job market – which once only had to accommodate roughly 60 percent of the adult population – now has to accommodate almost 100 percent of the adult population. Women no longer have the choice to stay home with the kids because the economy is now set up that a family NEEDS TWO incomes to survive. Especially if the family wants a house! Not to mention that women now HAVE to get a job and are looked down on and discriminated against if they don’t. Prior to the 70s, if a girl didn’t want to go to college and get a job because she wanted to get married and have kids, she didn’t have to fight for this right. Today, any girl who dares to suggest that she doesn’t want to go to college because she wants to have kids is chastised for her decision. She is told that she is making the biggest mistake of her life. As if the battle was clearly defined and she must choose between a job and kids and that obviously a job was a better choice. This is not freedom or a right, it’s simply the opposite of how it used to be.
    It seems to me that what we really want is the ability to CHOOSE! And I think the same should hold true for men. If in a relationship the man wants to stay home and care for his family while the woman goes out and earns the income, that should be every bit as acceptable as it once was for a woman to want to stay home while her man works to support them. I think we SHOULD go back to a time where most families could be supported by one income and only roughly 60 percent of the adult population needed to find a job. Perhaps that is the only true way to deal with rampant unemployment because rather than be a job market that has far more people needing jobs than jobs available – especially with outsourcing to other countries – it would be a market that has far more jobs than people who need them, and so each person who needed a job would have a better selection to choose from. (And probably better chances of getting a good job.)
    There are so many things wrong with our modern society! I think one of the best solutions would be to get more women back in the home raising their children to be responsible adults, rather than paying someone else to raise their children with the “morals” that are politically correct and approved by those that would prefer to instill brand loyalty and a sense of entitlement on our youth.
    Whenever I am asked to fight for women’s rights, I carefully consider if it’s actually a right being fought for, or simply different repressive dogma to replace what we already had…

  48. If men are born with a roster of rights then women should and must have all the same rights. There should never have to be a vote or a mandate for those rights. They would just be assumed, the same way men’s rights are assumed. I grew up in the ’60’s and watch my mother work for less money that a male counterpart because of gender. When I applied for a job the interviewer asked if I had my husband’s permission to work, how many children did I have and did I have adequate childcare. Would my husband sign a sworn statement affirming such. That was in 1971. It was all geared to maintain control and still is.
    Would the field be leveled if all laws were written with ‘gender-neutral’ language ? It might help.

    • William L. Turner says:

      By the same token young women in the 1960s and 1970s were not forced to go to war. Funny how feminists have a cafeteria approach to equality. It started with the “I will take the vote but leave the draft.”

      • No one liked the draft, men or women. But women have tried for decades to be allowed to have full combat roles, and they FINALLY will have them.

        • William L. Turner says:

          You are technically correct in part. NOW did submit an amicus brief in the 1981 Rostker v. Goldberg challenge to the male only applicability of Selective Service. But the statement that women fought hard for decades to be on the front lines is a bit of an exaggeration. During the height of second wave feminism, I didn’t read a whole lot about young women vying for an equal opportunity to get shipped, involuntarily, off to Vietnam. Of course now that we are in an era where the draft is highly unlikely, women want full equality in the military. I would pay it a little more respect if this movement happened 100 years earlier!

      • men created and continue those wars mister -_-

  49. Kathaleen Pittman says:

    I married in 1979. I went to see an OB/GYN for for routine care and was told my patient file would be in my husband’s name. No explanation was forthcoming. The insurance was even in my name. It wasn’t until I said I would find another doctor who would treat me as an adult that they finally put my name on the file. Rediculous!

  50. “The Pill” became available in the mid 60’s, however, it was not really available. In 1965, fter her 6th child was born, my mother asked her doctor for the pill. In order to get it she had to appear before a medical board to justify taking it. Not all the doctors agreed with her since she “was a healthy woman and able to bear children with no medical issues”. She got the prescription because “6 kids were all they could really afford to feed” !!!!!

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