When Women Were Not Allowed to Have Credit Cards
Last August was the centennial of women gaining the right to vote. I feel grateful to live in a time when men and women can be treated more equally, though admittedly we still have a long way to go. Even though this past year was very challenging, sometimes I really have to pinch myself when I think about how privileged I am to live in a time where women can not only vote, work full time and still have a family if they choose to, and gain financial independence, but also become Vice President of the United States.
However, none of what we’re experiencing now would be possible if it weren’t for the amazing women of our country’s past who broke down barriers and aimed high when taking a shot for equality.
Women Have Always Been Great
The women in my family have been my first example that speaks to how strong and valuable women are. Growing up, I was one of four daughters, so my dad was seriously outnumbered.
In 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which allowed women to get credit cards in their name without having a male co-signer.
Growing up in a household with a female majority taught me to never see myself as less than men. My mother encouraged my sisters and me to have a passion for education and learning. After my parents split up and our family went through rocky times, my mom was the stabilizing force that my sisters and I so desperately needed. She went back to school and did an exceptional job of putting food on the table, making sure everyone was clothed, and working her full-time nursing job.
The women in my family — including my grandmother and great-grandmother — have shown me firsthand that women have always been great and deserve equal treatment, especially in a country that was founded on equality and freedom.
That said, I am just as grateful for the women who went out of the way to make their voices heard and their requests honored on a national level. Here are just three freedoms that I never want to take for granted.
The Right to Vote
As noted, 2020 marked 100 years since women marched at the Capitol to gain the right to vote. For women of color, however, they had to wait a few more decades to earn this basic right. It wasn’t until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, that Black women could vote with no restrictions.
I couldn’t imagine not voting, as this is something that seems so easy and accessible now. To initially help the cause, the National Women’s Suffrage Publishing Co. released an article titled 12 Reasons Why Women Should Vote.
My favorites from this list are:
- #1 Because those who obey the laws should help to choose those who make the laws.
- #3 Because laws that affect women are now passed without consulting them.
- #9 Because public spirited mothers make public spirited sons.
The Right to Be Financially Independent
In 2019, I watched the remake of Little Women starring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, and Florence Pugh. Florence played the character Amy March, and one particular scene of the movie cut deep. In the scene, Amy was telling Laurie that marriage is an economic proposition, since she wouldn’t have any right to money, property, or even her kids after getting married. Everything would be her husband's, so marrying for love was really an afterthought.
It’s clear that life was extremely difficult and unfair for women living in the 1860s. More than 100 years later, in 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which allowed women to get credit cards in their name without having a male co-signer.
Just before that, in the 1960s, women gained the right to open their own bank accounts. As someone whose favorite quote is "A man is not a financial plan," I want to salute all the women who marched, lobbied, and made their voices heard consistently over the decades to allow all women in America a chance at financial independence — with or without a partner.
In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed, which forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including:
- Job assignments
It’s difficult to believe that, not too long ago, pregnant women were discriminated against in this way in the workplace. I would love to see this act amended or even a new policy introduced to require employers to offer suitable paid maternity-leave options, as well.
Good Start, But Still So Much More to Do
There are so many additional things I can mention that women were able to achieve in the past, and many of these accomplishments benefit all American citizens, both men and women.
Women's History Month is also a time to applaud women of the present who are continuing to fight for equality.
In my humble opinion, Women’s History Month is a great time to celebrate women of the past whose actions and determination allowed me many of the freedoms I enjoy today. It’s also a time to applaud women of the present who are continuing to fight for equality, along with the little girls who will one day grow up and take their place.
The more I dive deep into the accomplishments of women from the past, the more motivated I feel to make a difference and leave my footprint somewhere in this, too.
Women’s History Month is not just about a single woman or an elite group of women. Any of us can make our voices heard, whether it’s online, by gathering peacefully, or by calling and writing legislators. In fact, this is just what we need to do in order to keep making progress.
This post is part of a month-long March CircleAround series, tied to Women's History Month — the first since the global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted women around the world — in which we asked writers to explore the topic of women's history in America, from the past to very much the present. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."