Today in Feminist History: Women Deemed Better Credit Risks Than Men (April 12, 1973)

April 12, 1973: Credit abuses against women, such as a rule requiring a married woman who wants a loan to produce a doctor’s certificate stating that she is either using “accepted methods of contraception” or unable to have children, may soon be illegal in New Jersey.

PHOTO: New Jersey General Assembly Room at the State Capitol in Trenton.

By a unanimous vote, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed the State Assembly today, and now goes to the Senate. If passed there and signed into law by Governor Cahill (R), the bill would ban discrimination in credit on the basis of sex or marital status statewide.

According to the bill’s sponsors, four men and two women: “There is an assumption in the business community that women are poor credit risks. This assumption is false. To the contrary, available relevant studies indicate that women are better credit risks than men.”

Additional examples of the kinds of bias women still encounter are as numerous as they are offensive.

Banks can refuse to issue a credit card to a married woman in her own name instead of her husband’s. They can require a co-signer for a woman when one would not be required for a man submitting an identical application, apply stricter standards to women when seeking personal loans, refuse to count child support payments or alimony as income, and not count the salary of a wife when a married couple makes a mortgage loan application.

The case that sparked the legislation is that of attorney Cynthia M. Jacob of Kingston, who applied for an automobile loan with the Franklin National Bank. The bank refused the loan because the application lacked her husband’s signature. Her complaint was heard by the Senate Division On Equal Rights, and while it is still deciding whether to act, the Assembly has taken quick action.

The state bill is based on one introduced in Congress by U.S. Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ), so this nationwide problem may finally be getting national attention.


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.