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. The first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, was refused interviews for an attorney position by at least 40 law firms, because she was a woman. This was after she graduated 3rd in her class from Stanford Law University in 1951. She offered to work at California’s San Mateo County Offices for no salary and without an office, sharing space with a secretary, and eventually found employment there as a deputy county attorney,

    • Louis Parker says:

      The Republicans want to go back to a lot of these times, because they feel inferior to their own women. and don’t want to compete with her, they want all women to be subserviant to them,

      • Missi a woman tepublican says:

        Really because this FEMALE republican does not. I know the plight that is women sufferage. And teach it to every teenage female I have ever known regardless of party she may vote one day. Comments such as this one (because you are clueless) are offense, untrue, and a reflection of your intelligence. One word of fact that may surprise you….not every African American likes chicken.

        • …sufferage means the right to vote, not a struggle of any kind. If you actually knew the struggle of women including the fight for sufferage, you’d know that too.

          • Saying fight doesn’t have to mean literally fighting, its just protesting extra, I’ve always heard it put as fighting, for that and civil rights movement. Ive heard it referred to as a fight my whole life.

        • Abbe Lakenville says:

          There is no e in suffrage, which is not from the word “suffer”. I hope you don’t teach young people, of either gender, to spell it wrong!

        • Deb Margolin says:

          The Republican attack on Planned Parenthood, which supplies family planning and gynecological services to countless women who can’t get it elsewhere; the Republican disregard for Equal Pay laws; there are, Missi, many examples of dismissals of and attacks on the critical needs for legal enshrinement of women’s rights that the Republican Party supports. These are a matter of public record and not worthy or argument. Arguing facts is pointless. That you are a Republican and do not hold with these ideas is an example of diversity within your party, and I’m glad to hear about it. I hope you make your voice in support of women’s rights heard loudly and clearly. Thank you for doing that.

        • Good for you!!! We can’t move forward until we find points is agreement and both sides of the aisle. Besides, so many of these pre-1970s prohibitions were the result of Unexamined culture that favor patriarchy. Blaming the GOP solely is shortsighted.

        • Sue Watson says:

          I like you and your spunk! Preach on, Sister!

        • “Suffrage” is the right to vote. Thank you for all you’re doing teaching young girls, but there’s no need to get so testy because of your misunderstanding of the word.

        • Joan Juner says:

          Women’s suffrage (also known as woman suffrage or woman’s right to vote)[1] is the right of women to vote and to stand for electoral office.
          I see you know why Republicans don’t support education.
          Especially History & Spelling.

        • Victoria says:

          So why did all the Republican women in Congress vote AGAINST the equal pay act for women???????

        • Why then does it seem like most republicans are so against women’s progress?

        • Couldn’t of said it better myself. – And I am a male republican

      • Nonsense. Stop making Republicans the boogeymen.

        • If you listen to the things Republican men have to say about rape, birth control, health insurance, and abortion rights, you’ll see that they’ve made themselves the boogymen.

          • I totally agree, Jamie.

          • All Republicans do NOT think the same and neither do all Democrats, all Libertarians, or all humans. I’m politically progressive and I vote and I know that. Stop with the blanket generalizations, people! This article does set the tone — it says “could not” rather than “rarely could” or “had much difficulty” which would be more accurate. Maybe the writer knows that’s a good way to generate more comments, but it also misleads readers who don’t know the facts.

        • Angela Nichols says:

          Excellent ! Jamie for the win. I am sorry ladies, you can protest all you want but when I see a woman Republican , I see a serious conflict of interest. Someone who is maybe so far convinced and brainwashed that she is still unaware of what it is that she is supporting. There are so many people in the Republican leadership that are trying to turn back the clocks on women’s rights. I have heard women Republicans say they wouldn’t want equal pay. I wonder what environment they most have grown up in , under what influence they are. I struggle to understand this way of thinking. Is it akin to Stockholm syndrome ? I am not trying to attack women with that shaming BS ” They must be brainwashed. Suffer from Stockholm syndrome.” because they are women and therefore are not strong and intelligent enough to come up with there own opinions but the fact remains. They are seeing women as “less than” and seeing themselves as “less than” less deserving of income inequality. Female Republicans are supporting are members of a group that seek to control women’s bodies, access to health care, birth control, abortions , each individuals own reproductive rights, which in cases lead to economic rights. The laws in place regarding pensions and social security and women’s wealth are archaic and need to change also. What about the rape culture in america, american universities and the military. Republicans consistently and overwhelmingly vote to either keep these inequalities at the status quo or in the case of reproductive rights turn back the clock. I have to wonder what is wrong with a woman who supports this party and wants to continue being part of it.

          • Well written and I agree with your post. Sadly most women vote republican because they are christian (no cap C for that word) and pro-life. They have the misconception that since a person is pro-choice they believe in abortions. That’s not the case, pro-choice to those that believe in it simply means your choice in none of my business. Because most republicans are christian they want to make America a christian nation, this should never happen. America’s diversity is what makes us such a great nation.

          • Thank you for not attributing the party’s general positions to every single member of the party. I hate this article and these comments are full to the brim with blanket generalizations — which do nothing to educate anyone or further the conversation. In fact they encourage ignorance and mislead folks who don’t already know the facts.

        • Rita Kimmel says:

          well, stop being the boogeyman. support women’s rights and get out of women’s medical decisions.

          • I meant to say that I hate blanket generalizations, not that I hate this article, sorry.

      • Kellie Wachter says:

        that is false, and ridiculously so…

        • Brawny71 says:

          NOT ridiculously false–sadly true. Othwerwise, we wouldn’t keep seeing these bills come up in various states all the friggin’ time–and always by Republicans.

        • Theresa says:

          It’s completely true. Turn off Fox and try and become informed.

          • Maggie Wilkinson says:

            Fox noise, not Fox news, never seen or heard such balderdash in all our lives. Trump is a clown, is he really taken seriously? We, from afar cannot believe the false trash that comes from the republicans of America. What is very concerning is many have hoarded so much money and they seem to think that gives them the power of thought? AND that impacts of the rest of the world.

      • You actually believe that, don’t you?
        People who are anti-republican simply to say they don’t like them are the problem with the country right now. Do your research. Better yet, give us all three examples proving your statement, backed up by bipartisan articles.

      • Marcia Ayres says:

        I think she does not know what she is saying! I am a republican woman and those that I know have always had equal rights.

      • Sharon LaFrenz says:

        Nail on the head.

      • CrazyPotatoe says:

        You mean like when they imprisoned Ali for…. oh wait, that was the DEMS!
        Know your history, thanks…

  2. In 1972, girls could finally wear pants to school in America. Sounds silly but to a 12 year old tomboy, the world finally accepted her.

    • I remember that well and was the same age. I grew up in the South and can’t imagine how girls in the North managed without long pants.

      • I went to school in Canada and we had to wear skirts or dresses all the time. My kneecaps were frost bitten several times. Then we were allowed to wear pants but had to take them off once we got to school. Such a barbaric and sexist rule!!!

      • Stockings. Woolen stockings. Because, back in the day, everyone knew only “easy” girls wore pants to school. 🙂

        • Yes, I remember wearing knit tights under dresses to school, too, in the winter; grew up in the Midwest. I think we were allowed to wear jeans before 1972. I remember campaigning to let us girls be allowed to wear shorts to school in hot weather, in 6th grade – 1972 for me. The principal said yes – grades 5-8 in our school – but my hometown teacher said no. We finally convinced her to at least let us wear culottes!

    • Deborah Jean Kosier Nickrand says:

      As a 13 year old tomboy, growing up on the westside of Cleveland– this was a great stride!!!!

    • Elaine Tanner says:

      In 1971 when the temperature went below “0” for several days, they allowed us to wear pants to school on those very cold days, not jeans mind you. Some of us decided that we would wear them to school when we wanted which was everyday, we were repeatedly sent home to change. As the story goes we did not return after we were released. They did get the message, like the the article said, in 1972 pants were allowed in my Ohio school as well. This is still how we make changes today, we stay focused and do not back down when confronted with issues that are unjust. Now we need to break that glass ceiling and all will be on the right path.

      • Brava!

      • Anne Agard says:

        When I was a little girl in Indiana in the 1950’s, dresses were required for school. On cold days, our mother sent me and my sisters off with slacks under our dresses for warmth. This was considered rather peculiar.

      • Me too! It was my first act of defiance. Northern Minnesota…I guess freezing our vaginas was to be considered a causality of maintains the status quo. Speaking of status quo, the actual driving force of conservative ideology is maintenance of the existing, while progressivism is to move forward when evidence suggest it’s the prudent and beneficial course. I could embrace a conservative stance if the day ever dawned, where upon all of society was robust, fair, full of equal opportunities and respecting of everyone’s freedom to choose to live by their own value system, all the while refraining from harmful actions toward other! Until that day, we need to make steps (progress) in that most admirable goal of freedom and justice for all. Complicated, yet simple beyond argument.

      • Rita Kimmel says:

        In 1970 I was the first woman to wear a pant suit to work, at Xerox Corporation. I was greeted by a team of 4 HR managers who spent a good deal of time determining whether I needed to be sent home to change out of my navy blue woven pant suit.

    • Cindy LeVeque says:

      I lived on a farm in a small town in OR. I remember that well. So happy to be able to wear pants to school.

    • bekkispeeks says:

      I started school in 1947 in a small town in Indiana and and the little girls could wear blue jeans if they wanted to. it was no big deal, but our choice.

      • Dolores M says:

        Wow, I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and went to parochial school. We couldn’t wear slacks but could wear them under our dresses in the winter. Were NEVER allowed to wear jeans, even in the public high school. And I graduated from high school in 1960. Even the boys could not wear jeans to school.

    • pigbitinmad says:

      Yes, I remember it and not one day went by when I didn’t complain about it. I almost thought the rule was overturned because of me!!

    • Bobbi mcdowell says:

      My catholic school didn’t allow girls to wear pants until 1984 and that was only in the winter.

      But in general, women’s equality struggles are so stifled under the flag of ‘look at that female doctor lawyer’. As if a few examples of success are the end of the story.
      Maya Angelou wrote about the blacks being the last to know about the Great Depression because all they knew was poverty. It is the same for women.
      Coming from a poor white family, I’ve seen sexism perpetuated to the point of devastation-my grandmother would condemn women who didn’t work yet condemn working women who expected their husbands to do housework. One of my mother’s common phrases is to degrade any given behavior ‘______ like a girl’. Another example is the overemphasis on relationship status with a male. The fear of not being assigned to a male is so great that my cousins were encouraged to get a boyfriend in elementary school but lectured for becing pregnant as a teen. I have been interrogated in regards to my adult relationships:’Is he going to marry you?’-notice they don’t ask ‘will you marry him?’ -as if I am but a nonsensical figure in some market trade.
      With this information you shouldn’t be surprised that we have overwhelming mental health issues, poverty and resulting state assistance in our family. The men freely call their women ‘cunt’ and ‘bitch’ -gender derogatives. These behaviors are dismissed by the mothers and the grandmothers.
      There is little improvement from my
      grandmother’s generation to mine.
      So how does one effect change in my poor sphere? I speak out and am heard, but also reviled by them-only referenced later as ‘stuck up’ or ‘acting better than others’.

      • Beatrix says:

        My background is somewhat similar and my solution was to run away to NYC where I carved out my own life away from all that nonsense. I know I’m one of the lucky ones (in that I didn’t get pregnant as a teen) and I am so grateful to my mother who told me to make sure I always had my own money and a car to drive away in.

      • I did not experince poverty, but my grandparents did. I truly appreciate you making the clear point that it is not just the patriarchs that instill in us our place. So often it is at the knee of the matriarch that we learn to be quiet and grateful for it.

        When we male it a male vs. female struggle, we have fallen for a myth.

        I still haven’t figured out how my mother conjured up a brash, headstrong daughter. It wasn’t her example, but I felt her support. Perhaps she whispered secrets to me when I slept.

    • I was in.high school from 1970-1974, in Massachusetts. We girls used to wear pants under our dresses, then gets to school and slip them off at our lockrrs and put them in the lockers. Some of my friends and I went to the Principal and asked him if girls could wear pants because it is too cold and sometimes the snow was deep for us to wear dresses and if we wore them under our skirts, when we slipped them off in the hallway, the boys might get a peak at our underwear. That same day he made an announcement on the intercom telling all girls they could wear pants. from that day on even in good weather, we wore pants.

    • I insisted on pants in 1972, when I was in sixth grade. It was freezing in winter in dresses, with ice and snow. I wore pants. They called my mother but she backed me up, and they gave in and let everyone wear them.

    • Sally Mitchell says:

      As the post below also says, much of this is not “national law” but state law or even city custom. Growing up in a very cold state, I wore trousers to school most of the winter in the 1950s; so did many of the teachers.

    • Shelia D. says:

      We either froze or wore leggings Thai had to be removed in the cloakroom before the start of school.

    • I remember so well. I use to get sent to the office because I had shorts on “under the required dress.” My freshman year was the first year a girl was “allowed” to wear pants to school. Oh yeah……

    • That was definitely true in my high school — I remember it well.

  3. Joyce Holady says:

    You state above that women could not get credit cards until 1974, I got my first Sears card in 1959. By 1969, I had a MasterCard, a gas card, a Penneys card, plus maybe more. I was unmarried

    • Was you husband a co-signer? That is how my mom got her cards…. needed a man to co-sign back thenl. Or maybe your dad? Brother?

    • Danoota says:

      Some women forget that what they had was at the largesse of a male.

    • If you were married, credit card in husbands name. I took a $500 loan in 1973, had to have my husband co sign even though I was working as an engineer. In 1970’s married woman’s income not counted toward mortgage calculations.

      • Crystal H. says:

        Wow, thanks for sharing. That is disturbing, but enlightening.

        • When my Dad passed away my working Mom couldn’t get credit because all the cards had been in his name or her name but written as Mrs Husband’s Name. She didn’t exist as a financial person.

          I got my first credit card in 1972 as part of a student account. No one had to sign for me so women, at least single women, could get cards then.

          • Kay Pearlman says:

            I graduated from college in 1967 and all graduating students were invited to apply for a credit card–male and female–got mine with no problem! Also bought 2 cars in my name–1964 and 1969–and in 1972, bought my first house as a single woman–all with no problem as long as I had the income to do so. Also, In 1970 or ’71, my workplace was featured in a major professional magazine because our administration allowed women to wear pant-suits (but NOT just pants) to work–considered groundbreaking at the time! By the way, this was in Southern California where bitter weather was not an issue!

          • Hmm, I wonder if “could” or “couldn’t” was related to the class or the address of the applicant, or the views of the person approving or denying the credit.

    • Elaine Tanner says:

      When the law changed to allow an 18 year old to vote in 1972, I challenged the credit system and was able to get a credit card in my name without a cosigner. Later on I had a hard time buying a car conventionally so I had to pay a higher interest but was able to take care of business. W have come a long way.

      • It didn’t change much by the end of the century. When my wife wanted to buy her pick-up, both our incomes WERE counted but the title documents were issued in MY name, not hers. IT WAS HER TRUCK, DAMMIT!!!!

        In the (amicable) divorce we had to specifically state that the truck was ALL hers, asset AND debt. Otherwise I could NOT get removed from the title without a bill of sale and a transfer tax. MY car was no problem. I was listed as primary borrower and owner.

      • When I got ready to graduate from high school in 1976; after saving for it my whole life they refused to sell it to a single 18 year old female even when I had cash. My Grandfather had to go co-sign for the purchase.

    • bekkispeeks says:

      Rules were different for unmarried women. I found out after my divorce that I had more legal rights and was treated as a person rather than an appendage of my husband.

    • Abbe Lakenville says:

      I had a Bankcard, a Visa precursor, in 1967 or 68 as a single woman.

    • My mother had a department store credit card as a working single woman. When she married my father in 1965 the store canceled the card, apparently assuming that she would soon quit her job to be a housewife.

  4. Smart Gyrl says:

    From 1967 to 1969, I was a Flight Attendent, (in those days we were called Stewardesses), with American Airlines. When I got married in 1969, I had to resign from my job because the Airlines of the day did not allow women to be married if they were Stewardesses. Pilots could be married, but not Stewardesses. That changed in 1972, I believe, when the Flight Attendants Union struck for that privelege. When I tell that to my daughters and granddaughters today, they can’t believe it.

  5. Nanci Whitley says:

    I was selling real estate in 1972 and an unmarried woman could not get a mortgage. A married woman could only get a mortgage qualifying with her income if she was a nurse or teacher and had a drs. and husband’s note that she was using birth control.

    • My mother told me she wasn’t able to buy a home in the early 70s too. Was it because she was denied credit or simply wasn’t “allowed” to purhase real estate?

    • Abbe Lakenville says:

      My salary supported us when my husband was in grad school, but didn’t count in our credit rating when we bought a car. We were lucky, could borrow a few hundred from my folks and add it to the bit we had saved and the couple hundred my husband qualified for. Thus we were able to buy a brand new Datsun, for $1,200.

  6. Kathy Egan says:

    Nanci, where was that? My mom bought her first house in 1955, all on her own., before she was married. She was a pharmacist.

    • Danoota says:

      Did she take out a mortgage or pay cash? Cash has always talked. If she got a mortgage I would ask if she had someone co-sign for her.

  7. Danoota says:

    I wasn’t until the early ’80s that health insurance companies had to pay pre-natal and maternity costs for children born “out of wedlock”.

  8. Gabriella F says:

    Natasha Turner blew my mind when she gave a list of 10 things that women could not do before the 70’s but it was nice to see how far we have come since then. Women were oppressed, disrespected and restricted only 40 years ago, which is not a huge number. Life has really changed and for women, I believe its changed for the better. These days, many feminists including myself believe they need more and more rights, which I completely agree with, but to see how times have changed and how much we have overcome is really refreshing and quite lovely. One thing I was not aware of was that women were not allowed to “refuse to have sex with her husband,” which is so disturbing and degrading. It is great to know that a woman today can say “NO!”

  9. In America, 2013, our Congress voted against a bill to criminalize employers who paid women Less for doing the Exact Same job as a man! It is still not a crime to discriminate against women in the workplace. Appalling

    • Christine says:

      My maternal grandmother was paid less for her junior-high teaching job because grandpa was a college professor so she “didn’t need” a full salary.

  10. It is unbelievable to see how “America the land of the free” was towards women in its past. Women did not even have the right to get a divorce. if you ask me, marriage is a beautiful thing, but all beautiful things come to an end. Some of the things have reasons, others do not. But to have to have a reason to get a divorce is crazy, i think a lot of the divorce have to do with the fact that the women were obligated to have sex, truly disturbing.

  11. Jessica L. says:

    Some of these things that are listed on here aren’t too surprising. Women really weren’t allowed to do much of anything before women started fighting for their rights. The only one that did sort of surprise me was that women could be fired form their job if they were pregnant. I think that that sucks that they were punished just because they wanted to start a family.

    • I remember teachers had to quit their jobs because it wasn’t nice for children to see her that way. At one time, in some states they didn’t even hire married women to teach unless they were past child bearing age.

  12. Elizabeth C. says:

    It is amazing how far we have some. We tend to forget what we started out with. The saying “children should be seen and not heard” was brought to mind because that was how it was with women. Women did not have a voice-they were thought of as property so by looking at what we started as to how we are now makes me extremely grateful for what I have been privileged to having. We take so many things for granted.

  13. Its these kinds of articles that really make the youth of today sound and look so bratty. Look at what women had to go through for just a little bit of their rights in this country. Getting fired for being pregnant, not being able to claim sexual harassment. It was like you were damned for being a woman back then. Nowadays young girls just take all this history for granted. It would be really great if Women’s Studies could be more widely taught in schools. These are all landmark issues that deserve to be acknowledged. Especially since these issues are not things that were overcome centuries ago or even one century ago, this period was within a life span of time.

    • I think the only women in history I ever heard about was Rosa Parks! But, if they taught children about what women had to go through, or black history regularly (outside of black history month..etc) It would offend and frighten all of the little boys in school–and we can’t have that. How would little boys grow into ego stroking men that think there is no such thing as white male privilege? #institutionalized racism/sexism

    • That doesn’t make us bratty, that makes us see that there is room for improvement. I will not settle with the way I am living right now. I will not settle that my male co- worker who just started is already making 40% more than what I am making and I have been working here for 3 years and I went to college and got my degree. I am grateful for all that has been done, but there is so much more to do that y’all don’t see…

    • Maggie Wilkinson says:

      I agree, ‘Women’s studies’ should be taught. it doesn’t take long for the public memory to forget

  14. Reading this article demonstrates the growth of our society in modern times. This growth is owed to education, empowerment and the start of an idea. Although we have come a long way, it is still important to recognize that we still have a long way to go. It’s still crazy to me to see how little women, had rights to, because now they are seen as such simple things, such as owning a credit card. With continuous education, empowerment and newer ideas we will be able to achieve more.

  15. Tatiana Kohanzad says:

    Although we still have a long way to go, it is good to take a moment to realize how far we have come and give credibility to the women that have helped us get to this point, along the way. It is jaw-dropping to read of some of the things that women were not allowed to before the 1970’s and it makes me so grateful to the people that have helped reform our society to what it is today. These women were oppressed and weren’t able to even do many standard things. It is just sad to see. It also shows what women today take advantage of, as we sometimes believe that women have always had the same rights. We need to not take these rights for granted and become more appreciative for what the women in our history has done for us.

  16. It’s crazy to see how oppressed women were before the 1970’s. Being born into the time period that I have been born into, it was mind-blowing to see how difficult it was to do things back then that are more common and done with ease now. This article shows me the great accomplishments that the women’s rights advocates have achieved and how much they have succeeded in getting the equal right’s that the women deserve. To see the big improvements made in just 40 years is a great triumph. The development of women’s rights is great to see, but I feel like there is more to come and more to be made because women are still not looked at as equals to men. The oppression and disrespect towards women back then and even in some cases today, is crazy to see. Reading that women could not refuse to have sex with their husbands and cannot report cases of sexual harassment shows that women back then are treated as property and not given the respect that they deserve. And this oppression faced towards women back then has had a huge influence in the women today feeling that they are expected to have sex with their husbands sometimes and they are too scared to report incidents of sexual harassment.

  17. Daniella S. says:

    I was astonished while reading Natasha Turners article on the 10 Things That American Women Could Not do Before the 1970s. Thinking about the things some women were forced/ expected to do while being stuck in a forced marriage was extreme. Women were being oppressed and forced to accommodate their husband’s needs without having any say or a voice in their marriage. Today, there are similar situations that go on in which women feel helpless and stripped from their rights but still decide to stay in the relationship that they are in because they are scared to leave and feel like they are the ones at fault. Many women tend to blame themselves when they are being abused and not treated with the respect they should be treated with. It’s crazy to think how this was going on only 40 years ago and where women stand in society today.

  18. Jacqueline C says:

    None of these obstacles really comes as a shock, except for the fact that it was actually pretty recent that htey were overcome. I am just embarrassed and ashamed of having not known about Presdient Carter’s declaring of the International Women’s Day, let laone WEEK. We have a whole entire week devoted to us and who knew? Who knows now?! I’m so ashmed for not knowing this, its incredible. I am sure more than many others do not know either or it wouldn’t have been included in this post1 I will definetly share!

  19. Women weren’t allowed to run in the Olympic Marathon until 1984……………..

  20. I remember all of these things listed. In 1973 I played on a city organized baseball team. We were undefeted. I was a shortstop and left fielder. My Dad was so proud of me! Then it came time to okay in the end of summer tournament and I was told I wasn’t allowed to play because I was a girl. Can I just tell you how P.O.’d my Dad was at the city?! In 1980 I joined my local volunteer fire department with becoming a paramedic as my goal in life. I was liked and accepted by the guys at my station, but NOT so much by the 6 other stations in town. I was a “token”, a joke, and not taken seriously at all. I had to work 10 times harder than the men (for 4 years I was the only woman among 150 volunteers and 60 Fulltimer’s) just to prove that I could do as good of job as they could. 34 years later, I’m still paid less than the men that do my same job. As long as men run this world, we will never be treated equally.

  21. I initially misread this title and (wrongly) assumed I would already be familiar with 10 things women couldn’t do prior to 1970. I guess I thought it would list the obvious like women couldn’t vote until 1920 and things like that. Then I realized it was things that American women could not do until the 70’s. Never did I realize how ridiculous, and recent, some of these things were. Even though I wasn’t born until the mid-80’s, I do realize how incredibly recent the 70’s were and it’s appalling to me that some of these issues even existed. What reason could anyone even give for not allowing women to run in the Boston Marathon? The reasons for any of these are all stupid and ridiculous to start, but I can’t even think of a reason that anyone could possibly give to justify that. Also, it is terrifying to think that women really had no recourse in regards to sexual harassment at work, marital rape, or losing your job due to pregnancy. It really makes your realize how powerless a women could’ve been rendered prior to this.
    Additionally, I find it comical that Carter deemed a whole week in March to Women’s History. Were we supposed to be grateful for that? I guess we weren’t even important enough to him to get the whole month. Great Article, thanks!

    • As another child of the 80s, I’ve picked up on most of these details over time, but every new one I encounter still shocks me. One of the commentators above described how married women trying to get a mortgage needed affidavits from your doctor AND your husband that you were using birth control! Women were treated as little better than animals.

      As for Women’s History Week, I’m with you, Kari. 50% of the population get a token acknowledgement. Change it by not limiting the telling and teaching of women’s history– incorporate it everywhere, whenever. Be armed in your discussions with perspective, self-awareness, and historical facts.

  22. Rachel Moreh says:

    After I read this article I started to think..what would the world be like if women were still restricted from certain natural rights. The power was directly in the hands of men in those times, clearly being a dominating Patriarichal society. An example of how women were seen as subservient beings for men was the restriction of not being able to say no to your husband if he wanted to have sex. These restrictions for women are shocking to read about, however it isn’t hard to believe this was acceptable in society ,as women are still being discriminated against in the workplace environment, abused in relationships ,and unaknowledged for their accomplishments in todays world. These laws were acceptable very recent in history, and this just shows how much further we as a society must grow in order to treat one another as equals.

  23. …and in another 40 years, people will be reading an article about 10 things American women couldn’t do before 2010. Hopefully included on the list will be:
    – Hold the majority in government (It’s not law restricting this, but it would be a great change)
    – Complete medical control over their bodies and reproductive systems
    – keep their last name without guilt, ridicule, etc.
    – have undisputed equality in employment wages/salaries
    – have a stay-at-home husband who doesn’t have to be “that 1 father who is part of the PTA and carpool group”.
    – wear comfortable clothes that are also found in magazines to be stylish (heels, tight clothing, and layers of makeup are far from casual/comfortable)

  24. I was not permitted to go to college in 1974 because I was female (by my parents). Marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington DC in 1977. We *still* don’t have the ERA.

    • My college roommate’s parents paid for her brother’s 4 years at Oklahoma State University. They paid for 1 semester for her so that she could “find a husband”. It was 1975.

  25. APatientGod says:

    I think many young women today would do well to remember how far women’s right have come in less than 100 years. They take a lot for granted.
    Just remember, when the next man-made or natural disaster knocks out our infrastructure, you will be begging men to save you and provide for you.
    Men have created a comfortable modern world for women to thrive and succeed in.
    Do not take this for granted.
    Do not be ungrateful to the men who fought your wars and protected you from monsters.
    Show respect to good men, and you will get the respect reciprocated.
    The world owes you nothing.

    • Sod off.

      • lily fassbinder says:

        ‘A Patient God’ my a** – you no doubt believe in and promote a judgmental, punishing, hateful god, and women will not let you sling that feces, here.

    • Kaiser says:

      “A comfortable modern world for women to thrive and succeed in” that’s why a lot of women are blamed for being raped. That’s why there’s still child marriage. That’s why women are still “spoils of war” ,I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

    • The next time a human-made or natural disaster knocks out our infrastructure, women will be working alongside the men to rebuild it and providing for ourselves, thank you.
      The wars are not “our wars”. They’re created by men. And women provide for themselves just fine when men have been off fighting those wars. Also, have you noticed? Women can now fight those wars too. There are no such things as monsters.
      Our modern world is so comfortable that a women is still sexually assaulted by a man every 23 seconds, that we are still deemed second-class citizens in work, pay and family relationships, that children and women are forced into unwanted marriages all over the world. Thanks.
      That’s not the sort of comfortable world I want to live in.
      The world owes women nothing, but likewise it owes men nothing. Each individual should get off their backsides and fend for themselves.
      As far as being a patient god is concerned – you’re not. You’re an Ass and you’re talking out of it.

  26. A good friend was required to have her husband’s written permission to obtain a desperately needed hysterectomy in Texas in the 1960s.

    • I had to get my husband’s permission to get a tubal banding in 1979. My husband was unemployed and putting us in debt with his spending, we already had 2 kids, and I was the main support of the family (working in a male-dominated field and having to work harder to prove myself plus putting up with harassment from male co-workers). All I needed was another child in my life! But do you think my (male) doctor would let ME make the decision on my own? Heavens, NO! Husband had to sign the paperwork.

      • My mother needed permission from my father in 1976 to have a much – needed hysterectomy. I still can’t wrap my brain around that.

    • I had a coworker who experienced the same from her husband. She was still attractive while he had let himself go and was afraid she might cheat on him if the fear of pregnancy wasn’t hanging over her head. It wasn’t until she had serious hemorrhage that he relented.

  27. In 1971, although I was employed, made decent money and had been the money manager in my family, I could not purchase a $300 Zenith TV on credit without my then husband’s signature. We were in the process of divorcing but he signed the paper anyway. I’m pretty sure the store never got paid for that TV because the signer never actually took any fiscal responsibility. That was my way to get even!

  28. You can still get fired for being pregnant it happens all the time. FMLA only covers like 42% of people. The pregnancy discrimination laws don’t cover complications or anything and leave accommodations up to the employer to decide if they are reasonable. It’s a joke!

  29. A few clarifications are in order here. Not ALL women worked to end the discrimination, a very few did and were villified by their fellow citizens as feminazis, wanting to be men, and accused of hating women. I was raised in a traditional family with an extended family of unmarried and very hardworking mend women who were role models. When you hear phrases like “you are just lucky to have a job” remember back to when that meant you might have to sleep with the boss to keep it. Be vigilant.

    • lily fassbinder says:

      THANK YOU, Janeann, for those reminders. One phrase is particularly important for young women to grasp:…’back when that meant you might have to sleep with the boss to keep it.’

  30. Here is a little known fact. Prior to 1920 when women got the right to vote, if an American woman married a foreign man, she lost her American citizenship.

  31. In 1980, I walked into a car dealership and had difficulty even getting waited on. When the salesman finally waited on me I was told to go home and come back with my husband!

  32. I received an AAS degree in Instrumentation, which is male dominated, and never got a job in the field. I was told that men do not women in the field. All the men that I went to school with received jobs in the field but I did not. I was even chewed out about going to Texas State Technical College because they do not teach women what they need to know. That was totally strange to me since I was in the same classes as men and made better grades. If black people think they have problems talk to women, it is worse.

    • Jennifer says:

      Let’s not go there, OK? It was bad for women. It was worse for black women and black people in general.

    • Are you fricking serious? A White woman could vote years before a Black woman and the Voting Rights Act still continues to be extended and this is the 21st Century! And don’t get me started on the “Feminist” movement because none of it pertained to women of color!!! Gloria Steinem recently admitted that finally. Black women were divorcing, single parents, working , buying homes (if they could afford it) and doing what they had to do in order to survive despite every racial hurdle thrown their way let alone being a woman! And we all know that a divorced woman and single parents were ostracized back then and the children considered ‘bastards.’

      Even today, when Affirmative Action is used as the reason for every Black person’s own meritorious achievements, they fail to forget that White women have benefited from that program more so than any other group.

      Had the ‘founders’ of this country not started a racist footprint just think of all the good that could’ve been accomplished in unity!!! Women would’ve been united today thru history not separated by race.

  33. Liz Breckow says:

    I went with my mother around 1970 when she went to get her credit card changed to her name to “Jane Doe” from “Mrs. John Doe”. The man at the desk refused, kept lecturing her on how it was the same thing, her husband had the credit that obtained the card, etc. My mom, a very ladylike woman, politely stood there insisting as he got more and more upset. Finally another clerk (a woman) walked over, told him company rules allowed it and she’d wait on my mom. And APOLOGIZED to him for his having to deal with it. They shared a commiserating look.

    My mom was rigid with anger. But she filled out the paperwork and got her name back.

  34. Well the women of years ago really had to Struggle to make ends meat along with their men, and getting married years ago was a lot Easier for a single man in those days since many women were raised by very good parents. Today many women are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, and very greedy, which really speaks for itself as to why there are many of us Good men that are still single today which we really Can’t blame ourselves at all. Most women back then did make a good wife since they did raised their children very well, and today Most of the women are Not raising their children right at all.

    • Bill you are still single today because of your hostile attitude towards women. Your post says it all.

      • More of these independent women these days were able to get an education, with many thanks to their female forebears for ensuring that possibility. These driven, self-sufficient women outperformed Bill in school in order to get jobs that were almost as good and paid some portion of the wages he receives. They probably don’t have time for the uneducated, sexist, entitled bullsh*t he has to offer in marriage.

    • the single men got married easier during those more patriachal times because men made a system(patriachy) that benefitted them more than women,an immoral system.that’s why we women were played around with and used as toys by men,fathers selling each other their daughters(bride price/dowry system) etc,refusing women to learn etc.its funny how you say the women were good then yet you men treated them bad and unfairly -_-‘ men and their stupidity as well as hypocrisy.and btw it’s you men that started the wars,would kill each other and would then take women as sex slaves/toys(called ‘war booty’ in your men-made religions like christianity,islam,judiasm) <<< once again another thing you creeps(men) did,you men are deceivers!!! arghhhhhhhhhhhh

  35. When I graduated from college in 1968, Mobil gave me a gas credit card. After marrying I could get a credit card. I worked in a prenatal clinic that did do some abortions in 1969. I could wear pants to college classes in 1964. In order to wear pants teaching, it had to be a pants suit, 1970 . I do remember discrimination in the workplace in the hospital and in teaching. I had to quit on maternity leave when “showing”

  36. Constance says:

    It was 1976 before girls could play on a “boys” little league team. I was one of the first five across Texas who signed up the same day and broke that barrier. However it is 2015 and a pregnant woman still cannot get divorced in Texas, even if her husband is in jail for beating her! Let that one sink in for a minute!

  37. 1965 The Supreme Court (in Griswold v. Connecticut) gave married couples the right to use birth control, ruling that it was protected in the Constitution as a right to privacy. However, millions of unmarried women in 26 states were still denied birth control.

    1972 The Supreme Court (in Baird v. Eisenstadt) legalized birth control for all citizens of this country, irrespective of marital status.

  38. Albert Calvo says:

    What I don’t understand is WHY? Why don’t many people know how things were in the past? It’s similar to much other discriminatory history in many areas of study. Much of our history was written by Certain category of MEN….white men. I don’t know how it happened that WHITE MEN are the dominant, prominent leaders of everything, except Childbirth. LOL. Study American History during the Civil Rights Movement. I invite all women to study the history of DISCRIMANTION of many ethnic and sexual subgroups. Nature and Evolution, and Mother Earth have always found the way to fix things for the better. Please study history, and don’t limit yourselves to FEMALE or FEMENIST studies. You can gain great knowledge from studying the true history, not fiction. THANKS!

  39. All of these reasons are why it drives me absolutely insane when I see women who write “I don’t need Feminism because….” On their Facebook pages or elsewhere on the Internet. Usually they are under 30 something and obviously have NO CLUE what Feminism and the women before them have fought for and won the rights to. They take advantage of those very rights everyday of their lives in complete ignorance of them and then arrogantly state “I don’t need Feminism”. Makes me want to reach into their Facebook pages and grab them by their shirts and shake some sense into them. Or, at the very least educate them!

  40. When I had my first job in 1979, I remember hearing a married coworker on the phone, trying to get a credit card, and arguing that no, she did not need to provide information about her husband’s income, as the card would just be in her name and her husband’s income was irrelevant. Very frustrating, and I can’t remember if she did get the card. I still have the credit card I got at about that time–but I was single then, and apparently they were willing to take a chance on me.

  41. Every American teenage and adult woman need to read this! Each one should appreciate the live they can lead now after reading this !

  42. Victoria Read says:

    In 1978, when my husband and I bought a house in Boston, we were listed on the deed as “His Name et ux”. I was the “ux” (nameless wife).

  43. Debra Bowers says:

    Yes…I had to beg to get a Montgomery Wards card after my marriage in 1973…my husband had a Sears card and the salesman insisted that I get my husband’s permission to have one in my name. I also had to throw myself on the mercy of the accountant at the music store I inhabited in order to buy a guitar on time ($200) though I made more than my husband at the time. I was asked why I wanted to build my credit “was I planning on leaving my husband?” I worked in the field of domestic abuse and found that women could not apply for financial assistance without the signature of their husband (who was violent and who she had just left and hidden from) so could not get food stamps or temporary help in order to leave with her children. I remember a California congressman saying publicly “If you can’t rape your wife who can you rape?” I remember catcalls on the street and harassment at work and other women saying “boys will be boys”. I remember being told that women should not be too physical because their uterus would shift and they couldn’t have babies. I remember being told not to speak up or show any intellectual prowess or men would be offended. I remember being told that not shaving my legs or underarms was “dirty” but men had hairy legs and underarms. (and the shaving of legs began with French prostitutes BTW). And women were not believed when they said they had been raped (still somewhat true today). And there were no women in Congress and …..all in my short lifetime…So I am saddened when I see young people take these changes for granted….

  44. My mom got pregnant at 17, her senior year of high school. She and the father, also in her class, were immediately married of course. My mom wasn’t due until July and wanted to stay and finish out her senior year. She had to get written permission from her new husband to continue going. It was also him who had to write her absent notes if she stayed home sick a day or sign her permission slips for field trips.

    It’s something she chuckles about now, how he sat right next to her in home room and took on the “parental” role of excusing absences and such. But really? It’s not just sad but the implications or ownership are creepy as well.

  45. I was cold and wore pants to school in 1970. The principal was adamant that I not wear them even if I was cold. My mother refused to pick me up so I spent two weeks in the principals office doing my school work and burning his ears about equal rights. After two weeks of constant recitations of feminist books from a middle schooler, he finally got weary and let me wear pants and changed the rules. An activist was born in those two weeks. I often debated the Equal Rights Amendment with my friends in high school. As a 56 year old, we are still fighting for constitutional gender equality and the ERA and every young person I encounter I ask, “Do you know women are not covered in the U.S. Constitution but die in wars for a country that does not recognize them as human beings with rights under our laws?

  46. My first job, I looked in the newspaper under Help Wanted Female and searched through job descriptions like “Gal Friday, Admin Assist and Secretary”. Not surprising, the better positions, “Executive Trainee, Business Associate, Management Trainee”, were all listed under Help Wanted Male. That was 1976-ish. Women today need to understand that we have more work before our daughters see true equality in the workplace.

    • True equality would only exist if males and females were exactly the same, which they are not. Males will always be better suited for certain things and women will always be better suited for certain things. I agree that we should have equal opportunities for both but we shouldn’t ignore the differences that do exist between the sexes. However, an honest conversation about differences between sexes can never occur if people let their emotions dictate the discussion. But it’s a simple fact that male and female brains are different, with different strengths and weaknesses.

      • I just have my doubts that society as a whole can have honest discussions about the differences between sexes though. For one thing, everyone would need to study evolutionary biology. Then we’d have to be able to not only criticize men but also women. Both have their flaws. Both have their needs.

        • I really meant evolutionary psychology. Of course we need to study biology.

          • the problem is men trying to controll and dictate another’s body(through fathers being able to marry off their daughters{which btw still happens in many places,and often to old men ewww},men deciding how a woman should dress,men making the laws,men trying to rstrict education from women{which can be seen in most of past}).anyway my point is,the problem is men…

  47. Regarding credit, I applied for and got a credit card at Best & Company (no longer around) in 1970. And after that, I had a Bloomingdales care, B. Altman & Co. (also gone), all before 1974. But that was NYC, and I was a professional, and single.

  48. Teen pregnancy was actually higher in the 50s than it is today. We didn’t hear much about it though thru covert means–shotgun weddings, homes for unwed mothers and interfamily adoptions. In many districts if a girl became pregnant she could not return to school unless she was married. Women stayed in loveless abusive marriages. Even some pastors encouraged women to stay in domestic violence. Fast forward today and look at how society has changed against that grain, some for the worst not better. Many young adults are waiting longer to marry. No more staying home with your parents until you got married like in the 40s. No more marrying someone right after high school graduation. Many college students have created different ways for dating now with no commitments. They saw the bad marriages of the past. Senior divorces–people married 40, 50+ years has increased over the last 15-16 years! We realize those ‘shot gun’ marriages were primarily unhappy ones that were forced due to a pregnancy. This is why when I hear today that people remained married longer back then I cringe because a person must know the whole story. There were a whole lot of unhappy people behind those picket fences, mowed lawns and cute doors.
    I’ve taught my daughter to be independent, to have a career after college and live on her own before getting married. That’s what my mom taught me too–to have one’s own identity before getting into a relationship and easily adopting his.

  49. In 1975 I worked at a store where the dress code said employees had to wear “suits and ties or dresses.” Tired of shivering in winter in the short skirts popular back then, my friend and I borrowed ties from our dads and showed up wearing pant suits and ties. We were sent home and told to change. But we made our point, and the company soon changed its dress code as a result. The same company, a music story, also told the “girls” worked in sheetmusic and records and the “men” sold pianos. I got an enlightened assistant manager to teach me how to take a keyboard apart, show off the felts inside and write up contracts. One day the men were all out delivering pianos and I sold one. The old manager was furious, but when I offered to call up the customer and return that $2,000 check, he conceded-and I became the first woman keyboard salesperson in the company.

  50. Sally Thayer says:

    I was 18 in 1970. Men had it easy then. Women worked hard, too hard. They had no say About their situation in life.. They relied on the husband for everything. If the husband had other uses for the food money well tough luck. Women are so much better off now. At least we have a chance to have a decent life. I am of the age that fought for these rights and yes it was a fight, we fought in the courts, retraining men, retraining women to believe that they deserved better. I am shocked and dismayed at this ridiculous idea that the 50’s were a better option for women. Maybe for men bot certainly not for women. We still have a long ways to go for total equality. I guess I will know we have made it when I ask a repair person to please fix the shelf and they don’t ask me if my husband is ok with it.

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