Imagine you had to be married in order to get a credit card on your name. Having to depend on men for every official document to be issued, so on and so forth. Now, it might sound out of this world, but women before the 1960s were living their lives in absolute suppression.
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Many women’s rights that are taken for granted, such as access to birth control and the ability to openly talk about sex, even as a single woman, have not always been available for all women. Your rights as a woman were drastically different in that time period.
1. Pregnancy means you would quit your job
It wasn’t until 1978 that an act was passed to protect women from being able to get fired from their job for being pregnant. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed which outlawed this practice.
2. Sexual harassment was deemed normal
Sexual harassment was not recognized by the court system, meaning women could not sue for sexual harassment. Title VII was passed in 1964 to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, but it wasn’t until 1977 that courts began to recognize sexual harassment in the workplace. Many women found that even when they expressed their abuse, their predators were often dismissed as trivial and harmless.
3. Ivy League was out of the league
Although Cornell University and Pennsylvania University started accepting women in 1870 and 1876, other Ivy league universities did not follow their lead until after World War II. Yale and Princeton did not start accepting women until 1969, with the other universities following their lead. In 1972, Title IX was passed, making it illegal in America to discriminate against any person based on their sex in any federally funded education program(s).
4. Abortion was illegal
Before the Roe vs. Wade case in 1973, which legalized abortion, women faced restrictions on terminating a pregnancy legally. This often led to many women ending pregnancies using very dangerous methods. Prior to this case, a few physicians and trained medical personnel would perform abortions, risking imprisonment, loss of their medical license and other consequences.
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5. Pay disparity was a commonplace
While equal pay for women is still not fully available, it was much worse for a woman in the 1960’s. Women made as little as 59 cents for every man’s dollar in 1963. In 1960, 38 percent of American women were working and often found they were limited to only a few occupation choices as well.
6. The jury was strictly men-only
Due to the belief that women were too delicate to hear gory details of a trial and should not be asked to leave the home, women were not allowed to serve on a jury. Women were thought to be the center of the home and that was their primary responsibility. Female jurors were permitted throughout the country in 1973.
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7. Birth control pills were simply not available
The pill was not approved by the FDA until 1960, but this approval still did not give many women access to take advantage of the pill. Only some pharmacies stocked the prescription and even then, it was only prescribed to married women for the use of family planning. It wasn’t until the supreme court decision, Baird v. Eisenstadt in 1973, that the pill became accessible to all women, regardless of their marital status.
8. Credit cards were off-limits
Until the 1970’s many banks would deny women a credit card unless they were married. Often times, women still had to also have their husband co-sign for them on the credit card. Credit cards would often not be issued without a husband’s signature. In 1974, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed, making it illegal to deny a woman a credit card based on her gender.
9. Marital rape was not a crime
Until 1993, when it became recognized as a crime in all 50 states, a woman could not refuse her husband sex or legally fight back if she felt he had raped her. In fact, most rape definitions explicitly excluded spouses.
10. Talking about sex was forbidden
At first, the situation that women were frustrated about this topic was not even openly known. Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl” introduced the idea that it was OK for women to enjoy sex and openly discuss it, regardless of marital status. “A woman today has been made to feel freakish and alone and guilty if, simply, she wants to be more than her husband’s wife,” said author Betty Friedan in her book “The Feminine Mystique.”