40 Basic Rights Women Did Not Have Until The 1970s
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Women have come a long way in this world; well, in America, especially. Although ladies can pretty much hop in their car, get a job, have a drink, and do whatever else they please, this was not always the case. Although you might be familiar with the fact that women had to fight for their rights, you probably don’t realize how many basic things females were denied. (White) Men, on the other hand, were not rejected from these same primary benefits. Luckily, times have changed, but some even in the 21st century, ladies still struggle for equal pay — something that has been a fight for decades..
A woman shopping with magnetic stripe technology in the 1970s. IBM
40. Credit Cards Were Not For Women
Financially, there were many things that women couldn’t do without their husbands and taking out a credit card under their name was one of them. Legally, banks could deny women credit cards until 1974 with the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The applications from women who tried to take a credit card out under their name received the stamp of “denied” or told them to get their husband’s’ signature on the form. If the woman wasn’t married, the bank would still request she bring a male, such as her father or brother, who could co-sign the application.
Gloria Allred with client Norma McCorvey who was Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade) in 1973. Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia Commons.
39. Women Couldn’t Legally Get An Abortion For Any Reason
Legal abortion isn’t only a hot topic today, but it’s been a hot topic for decades. In fact, women’s weren’t able to legally have an abortion for any reason until 1970 when a college student from Texas known as “Jane Roe” decided to challenge the law. She claimed that she had to right to abortion in her own state. Roe went up against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade in Texas’ Federal Court. While the case started in 1970, it didn’t end until 1973 in Roe’s favor with the Roe Vs. Wade case stating states which ban abortions are unconstitutional.
Women’s Rights Protest. Mic.com
38. They Couldn’t Celebrate International Women’s Day
By the time the 1970s rolled around, women all over the world were tired of being treated as second class citizens. They started to demand equal treatment across the globe and in every aspect of their lives. This call included being able to celebrate themselves. While International Women’s Day history started in the early 1900s, no one acknowledged the date in the United States. It all changed in the mid-1970s and the further improved in 1980 when then President Carter stated that the States would celebrate International Women’s week, including International Women’s Day, which is March 8th.
A woman answering the phone at work. FPG / Getty Images / Vox.
37. Women Could Get Fired For Becoming Pregnant
Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, women could quickly lose their jobs because of a pregnancy. The passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act stated that women could not get fired because they became pregnant as this was an act of discrimination against women. Of course, this didn’t mean that women would receive payment for the time they missed due to their pregnancy. It also didn’t say that they couldn’t be fired for “other reasons” once they became pregnant. The act just meant that the reason for firing a woman could not be because of her pregnancy.
Kathrine Switzer attacked while running in the Boston Marathon in 1967. Getty Images / Jezebel.
36. They Wouldn’t Be Acknowledged For Running In The Boston Marathon
The first woman to try to run in the Boston Marathon was Kathrine Switzer, a student at Syracuse University, in 1967. At the time, the Boston Marathon didn’t acknowledge women, and while Switzer registered, ran, and made history, she was attacked, spit on, and taunted. In fact, it wouldn’t be until five years later, in 1972, when women didn’t receive an acknowledgment as runners in the Boston Marathon. Nina Kuscsik from Huntington, New York, was one of the first women to be acknowledged, coming in first for women at 3 hours, 10 minutes, and 26 seconds in 1972.
A woman demanding equal pay. NY Times / Bentley.edu.
35. Organizations Started Focusing On Enforcing Work Equality For Women
Even though the 1964 Civil Rights Act stated employment places could not discriminate based on gender or race, females continued to face work discrimination and inequality well into the 1970s. It seemed that no matter what act Congress passed, women continued to face discrimination. Therefore, the National Organization of Women started to focus their attention on the issues that women faced in the workplace. This organization worked to make sure employment agencies enforced the new acts. Unfortunately, discrimination is still a struggle in the workplace as women are still underpaid and often harassed.
Andrea Hollen graduating from West Point. Department of the Army / army.mil.
34. Women Couldn’t Receive Admittance Into A Military Academy
While women have always had a part in wars, starting with the Revolutionary War, they didn’t have the choice of combat roles. On top of this, girls were not allowed to attend a military academy simply because men believed that women would not be able to make through the academy. This idea changed when West Point admitted its first female students in 1976. Four years later, Andrea Hollen and 61 other females became the first women to graduate from a military academy on May 28, 1980. However, women couldn’t fight in combat until 2013, per a 1994 ban.
Pilots with flight attendants in the 1970s. Flashbak.
33. Women Couldn’t Protect Themselves From Workplace Sexual Harassment
During the 1970s, courts began ruling that people who sexually harassed women in the workplace violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and women should be able to protect themselves from sexual advances. This ruling occurred in 1977 when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stated women could not get fired if they refused sexual advantages from their boss. In 1980 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came up with a definition for sexual harassment and stated it created a hostile work environment. Six years later, the United States Supreme Court would agree with their ruling.
Pregnant Workers Demonstration. Fordham news.
32. They Didn’t Receive Any Paid Maternity Leave
The first time anything about paid maternity leave became a news topic was in 1969 when five states agreed that women should be able to take time around the time they gave birth. On top of this, the state courts ruled that the women should be able to receive some sort of compensation while they were out on maternity leave. Therefore, the Temporary Disability Insurance Act was born. However, this act didn’t fix everything required for paid maternity leave. Currently, there are still hundreds of workplaces which do not pay maternity leave.
January Jones as Betty Francis in Mad Men. socialjusticesolutions.org.
31. Women Couldn’t Receive Direct Consultation About Physical and Mental Health
If you’re a “Mad Men” fan, you might remember a scene when Betty’s second husband, Henry Frances, discussed Betty’s cancer diagnosis with the doctor. At the time, Betty was sitting off to the side listening to their conversation. If you’ve ever wondered why it is because women didn’t receive direct consultation about their health from doctors. A wife had to have her husband speak on her behalf for many reasons; one being women couldn’t understand what the doctors were saying.
Women’s Rights Against Violence rally. Circulating Now.
30. She Couldn’t Refuse Sex From Her Husband
Wives finally started to receive some legal protection in the 1970s from their husbands. State courts began to realize that there was something called marital rape. However, very few states would do anything about any type of spousal rape accusations from a woman until the early 1990s with the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. With this act, women became legally protected from any act of violence from their husband, including physical assault and rape. Before the action, many police departments around the United States believed any abuse from a husband towards his wife was a private family matter.
A photo of Sonny and Cher in 1971. CBS Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.
29. Divorce Became Quicker And Easier
Many people question the reason that the divorce rate is so much higher today than it was 50 years ago. One of the biggest reasons for this is because women have the right to get divorced without having needing proof. Generally, the evidence pointed to their husband cheating. However, lawmakers started to notice that some women had trouble proving who was at fault. Therefore, they came up with a solution, legalizing the No-Fault Divorce Act in 1969. This act allowed women to obtain a divorce easier as they no longer had to prove their partner’s fault when requesting a divorce.
Esther Morris. WSA Sub Neg 2666 / WYO State Archives.
28. They Couldn’t Serve As A Judge
While some states had selected female judges before the 1970s, women weren’t typically able to sit in the at a regular rate in the United States until the 1970s when the majority of states allowed women to serve as judges. In fact, women as judges is a slowly growing trend historically. From the first female Justice of Peace, Esther Morris, in Wyoming during the 1870s until today, the profession for females is still growing. Fortunately, the rate of female judges is starting to build a bit quicker than in the past.
Sally Ride on Challenger’s mid-deck during STS-7 in 1983. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.
27. Women Couldn’t Be Astronauts
While NASA didn’t have an actual ban on women becoming astronauts before the 1970s, their guidelines took women out of the process. They just didn’t allow women to interview for the possibility of becoming an astronaut. Part of this was because NASA only accepted military applications and the military didn’t take women. However, this all changed in 1979 when NASA first started hiring women so they could train them as an astronaut. Then, in 1983, Sally Ride became the first female astronaut to go up into space.
Harvard University. Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock / Business Insider.
26. They Wouldn’t Be Admitted Into An Ivy League University
For decades, educating males became more important than females. Because of this, it became harder for women to receive admittance into colleges. Furthermore, it became even harder for women to apply to an ivy league college such as Harvard or Yale. These type of colleges didn’t regularly accept women until close to the 1970s. Yale became the first ivy league college to admit women in 1969. After that, many other ivy league college started to accept women but at a pretty slow rate. For example, Columbia University didn’t allow women until 1983.
Christine Beshar was one of the first females to become a partner of a NY law firm in 1971. wealth365.
25. Ladies Couldn’t Easily Practice Law
For nearly about a century, women had to fight for their right to practice law. While there were previous female judges and lawyers, it was scarce to see a woman in the legal field until the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. In fact, Cornell University ran a study which confirmed that 90% of law firms refused to interview women who applied for placement in their firms. On top of this, most law schools wouldn’t admit women into their programs.
The morning after pill. Bustle.
24. Women Couldn’t Receive The Morning After Pill
Another thing that women struggled receiving before the 1970s was the morning after pill. The morning after pill would not become FDA approved until the late 1990s, even though it became more available for females during the 1970s. Moreover, when the contraceptive became available, women still had almost secretly to find a way to take the morning after pill. Even so, women today still reportedly feel embarrassed or ashamed when they have to take the morning after pill. Many professionals think that the reason behind this is because of the slow acceptance of contraception regarding women.
Birth control pills. Unsplash / Philly Voice.
23. They Struggled To Get A Birth Control Pill
The birth control pill went a little faster than the morning after pill. The FDA approved the medicine during the 1960s; however, individual states could create their own laws when it came to the birth control pill. Many states didn’t allow doctors to give their patients the birth control pill for various reasons. One woman from Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, started to sell the contraception, getting herself arrested. Her case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld that married women could receive the birth control pill in 1965. During the 1970s, more states started to allow doctors to prescribe the medication.
Richard and Mildred Loving had three children together. History.
22. Interracial Marriage Was Illegal In Most States
One of the most famous cases of interracial marriage is the Loving Vs. Virginia case. This hearing made it to the United States Supreme Court, which declared states that didn’t allow couples to marry on the base of color was unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Mildred Loving and her husband, Richard, brought forth the case after their arrest and prison sentence for marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court forced states to allow interracial marriage in 1967, which helped increase interracial marriage during the 1970s.
A group of women trying to register for jury duty in Portland, Oregon in 1912. Gardiner P. Bissel, Oregon Journal / Wikimedia Commons.
21. Women Couldn’t Serve On A Jury
There are many gray areas throughout history, and this is one of these areas. Prior to the 1970s, females serving on a jury was rare but not impossible. It did happen but it hardly ever occurred before the 1970s, especially once the 20th Century rolled around. This notion is because allowing women to serve in a jury became a law for individual states to decide. Many states didn’t allow women to sit on a jury until 1973 when all 50 states made it a requirement that females were allowed to participate.
Supreme Court Justice-nominee Sandra Day O’Connor talks with President Ronald Reagan outside the White House, July 15, 1981.
White House Photographic Office
Then Supreme Court Justice-nominee Sandra Day O’Connor talking with then President Ronald Reagan in 1981. White House Photographic Office / Wikimedia Commons.
20. Likewise, They Couldn’t Serve On The Supreme Court
The 1970s became a groundbreaking decade for women in the legal field. During the 1970s, more law school started accepting women; they could serve of juries and become lawyers. The legal industry began to bloom with women interested in a legal career. However, it wasn’t until right after the 1970s, in 1981, when Sandra Day O’Connor received a seat for the Supreme Court. She held this position until 2006 when she retired. Other than O’Connor, three other women have served on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan.
John Travolta and actress Diana Hyland briefly dated in the 1970s. Julian Wassar / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images
19. Girlfriends Couldn’t Legally Live With Their Boyfriends
Today many dating couples don’t think twice about living together with each other before getting married. In fact, common law marriage, when you live with your significant other for so many years, and your state considers you “married,” is becoming more and more popular. However, this wasn’t the case around 50 years ago. During the 1970s, many states had laws against living with your significant other before marriage. It wasn’t until 2013 when all 50 states adopted the law to allow couples to live together without getting married first.
1970s TRAX tennis shoes. Pinterest.
18. Women Couldn’t Purchase Athletic Shoes
The history of women in sports is different from the history of men in sports. While women usually purchase at least one pair of athletic shoes today, this was something women couldn’t buy until the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s. The biggest reason for this was that women didn’t have a considerable spot in the sports world until around the 1970s. However, just because women didn’t have athletic shoes designed for them didn’t mean they didn’t buy the shoes. Instead of women’s shoes, they had to purchase athletic shoes designed for men.
A clip from the Mary Tyler Moore show. The 1970s Story.
17. Women Didn’t Really Have A Voice
Of course, females have always been able to talk, but this didn’t mean that the things they said had any impact on what people thought. While countless girls fought for women’s suffrage and other rights marches, most males, especially in professional careers, wouldn’t and didn’t have to listen to what girls had to say. This concept not only included their opinions on civil and household matters but also opinions for their own bodies. Typically, until around the 1970s, most women had to listen to their husband in how he wanted things down in his home.
Women at Radcliff Institute at Harvard. library.hbs.edu.
16. They Couldn’t Obtain A Degree In Women’s Studies
It wasn’t until 1956 when the Women Studies program came into existence in Australia. From there, the program slowly grew into other parts of the world. However, the United States’ colleges didn’t start catching on to women studies until the late 1960s. In 1969, Cornell University became the first college to offer women studies classes. A year later, San Diego State University established the first Women’s Studies Program in the United States. 1972 saw the establishment of Feminist Studies, and then 1977 saw the creation of the National Women’s Studies Association, which focuses on women’s history in education.
Woman in the 1970s. Vintag.es.
15. Women Weren’t Able To Get Any Job
Today, it’s hard to think about all the jobs women couldn’t get before the 1970s. Before women started demanding gender equality for jobs, women could only apply for specific positions, such as secretary or teacher. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 worked to end workplace discrimination; however, it continued in several states and among hundreds of professions. Even though employers couldn’t legally reject women for jobs because of their gender, they could reject women for other reasons. Some employers would skip applications by women while others would come up with a different reason for not hiring them.
It was not until the EEOC was actually enforced in 1982 that women were allowed to obtain professional jobs such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc. and the courts would begin to enforce anti discrimination laws.
A wedding photo. vintage.es.
14. She Couldn’t Divorce Over Domestic Violence
Before the 1970s, getting divorced was difficult. Females had to prove that their husband had wronged them in order to obtain a divorce. However, proof didn’t mean that women would be able to get a divorce successfully. Some of the reasons, such as adultery, became acceptable. However, other reasons were not seen as acceptable, such as spousal abuse. Wives couldn’t officially protect themselves from domestic violence until the 1990s. However, starting in the 1970s, it became acceptable for a woman to ask for a divorce because of domestic violence.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee running for USA at the Olympics in the 1980s. STAFF / AFP / Getty Images / CBS News.
13. They Couldn’t Be A Part Of All Olympic Games
No matter how far women feel they still have to go for complete equality, no one can deny that they haven’t broken glass barriers throughout history, especially in the past 50 years. One of the obstacles that girls keep breaking is in the Olympic Games. While women started to participate in the Olympics during the early 1900s, their numbers and events began to grow considerably during the 1970s. In 1976, women added ice dancing, basketball, rowing and handball as events in the Olympics. Today, ladies are still adding games to their credits. In 2012, women could finally compete in boxing.
A vintage photo of an early Bank of America. Bank of America.
12. Women Couldn’t Own A Bank
Before the 1970s, career choices for ladies were scarce. However, this slowly started to change before the 1970s but boomed during the 1970s. One of the careers that became more available for women in the 1970s dealt with finances and banks. In 1975 the First Women’s Bank opened in New York City. This place became the first bank owned and operated by a woman for women. Of course, the law didn’t officially accept the bank right away, but it remained opened and is known as a significant milestone during the 1970s women’s rights movement.
A woman using an ATM for the first time. Pinterest.
11. Women Couldn’t Open A Bank Account
One reason women couldn’t legally own a bank before the 1970s is because they couldn’t legally open a bank account. Just like women couldn’t get a credit card without their husband’s signature, they couldn’t open a bank account without their husband’s permission. One of the reasons ladies couldn’t open their own bank account was because people believed they wouldn’t be able to handle the financial part. Men saw females as delicate creatures who couldn’t understand many of the things they could.
The Feminine Mystique. Amazon.
10. Women Couldn’t Discuss Sex Openly
It’s hard to think of this one today, but before the 1970s, women could not discuss their sex lives or anything having to do with sex openly. Of course, many females probably addressed the topic of sex privately to their friends, but it wasn’t acceptable to discuss in public. While it wasn’t illegal, many women often followed the rules of what people considered socially acceptable and what people didn’t. The woman and book that really changed the way women discussed sex is Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
A mother with her baby in the 1970s. Flashbak.
9. Women Couldn’t Breastfeed In Public
Realistically, breastfeeding in public is a controversial topic today. However, before the 1970s, this topic was not even a controversy because it simply wasn’t allowed. Mothers were not allowed to breastfeed their children in public. In fact, many places discriminated against mothers who breastfed as they worried it would happen in their business. The discrimination against breastfeeding mothers legally ended when Congress passed a law saying that a public place could not discriminate against women who breastfed as they saw it as a violation of their equality rights.
Females at school during the 70s. Reddit.
8. Females Couldn’t Receive An Equal Education
Women dealt with discrimination in education regularly. Not only weren’t they allowed to obtain a law degree or go to ivy league colleges before the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, but they faced discrimination in the educational setting in many other ways. By many men, women just couldn’t handle higher education. Some people actually felt that girls weren’t smart enough to obtain a certain level of education. For decades, some people felt women belonged in the kitchen more than they belonged in school. This idea created much discrimination and unequal treatment in the educational system.
Women walking in Hermosa Beach in the 1970s. Reddit.
7. They Couldn’t Adopt A Baby As A Single Woman
Women couldn’t do tons of things before the 1970s, and one of these things was they couldn’t adopt a baby if they didn’t have a male partner. Even though the majority of women before the 1970s stayed home and raised the children while their husband went to work, the lawmakers believed that they shouldn’t be able to adopt a baby without having a husband. Even if the single woman lived wealthy, remained healthy, and could give the child a great home, no one would allow her to because she was wasn’t married.
Katharine Graham, pictured in 1975, was the publisher of The Washington Post. Wikimedia Commons.
6. She Couldn’t Be The CEO OF A Fortune 500 Company
With all the rules, laws, and regulations surrounding women before the 1970s, it’s probably no shock that it took until the early 1970s for a woman to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. Katharine Graham became the first female CEO in American history of a Fortune 500 Company when she took over The Washington Post in 1972. While what she did had never been illegal, this doesn’t take away the fact that Graham broke barriers for many other ladies.
Angela Davis in 1969. Bettmann / CORBIS.
5. They Couldn’t Have Their Own Mind
Of course, women actually had their own mind before the 1970s, but this didn’t mean that their intention was considered valuable. While women acquired certain tasks, they were tasks that men felt women were capable of doing, such as taking care of the children, cleaning the house, and cooking a meal. An example of this is the fact that wives needed their husbands’ permission to do many things, including getting a job. There are also examples of requiring a husband’s signature to obtain a credit card.
Nurses from the 1970s. Godmanchester County Primary School.
4. They Cared More About Education Than Marriage
Starting in the late 1960s and into early 1970s, women began to focus more on their higher education than getting married and starting a family right out of high school. This idea became a drastic change from a few years before when women often got married young because there wasn’t much for them in higher education. However, with ivy league colleges allowing women and more female professionals, higher education started to become more important than getting married after high school.
Ruth Bager Ginsburg in 1972. Jitter Bugged.
3. They Were Scarce in DC
While a few females found their spot in the political field, locally or nationally, before the 1970s politics and women were not a hot topic until the 1970s. In fact, the late 1960s and into the early 1970s saw an increase in women in the political field. In fact, in 1970, about a dozen women had their seat in Congress. On top of this, women had found their political position in their own neighborhoods and continued to write their names on ballots.
Women protesting the Miss America pageant in 1968. folkways.si.edu.
2. They Did Rally Against The Miss America Pageant
In 1968, many women from around the United States got together to protest the Miss America pageant. During this time, they complained because they wanted to be treated as people and not objects. They stated that the Miss America pageant promoted sexism. This opposition is the same mentality that females carried into the 1970s. Instead of feeling like a sexual object or a piece of property, women fought to be able to feel like they mattered and were human beings just like men.
Women’s Strike for Peace And Equality in 1970. Eugene Gordon / The New York Historical Society / Getty Images.
1. Women Fought For The Right To Protest
Before the late 1960s and into the early 1970s women rarely held marches and protests and if they did, these moments saw hostility from males and other females. It all started to change during the 1970s when men joined in on the women’s protests for their rights and equality matters. On top of this, ladies began protesting beyond the majority of discriminatory practices they faced in the United States. They protested for a variety of reasons throughout the United States. Something that wasn’t often seen in the United States previously.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:
“Landmark Cases: Roe Vs. Wade (1973).” Alex McBride. Thirteen.org.
“6 Things You Won’t Believe Women Couldn’t Do In 1970.” Suzannah Weiss, Bustle. December 2015.
“Women Officially Acknowledged in BAA Race.” Boston.com.
“10 Things That American Women Could Not Do Before the 1970s.” Natasha Turner, Ms. Magazine. May 2013.
“Things That American Women Couldn’t Do Until the 1970s.” Lisa Waugh, Ranker.
“First female West Point graduate reflects on historic anniversary.” Rachid Haoues, CBS Evening News. May 2015.
“Who’s to Blame for America’s Sexual Harassment Nightmare?” Mark Joseph Stern, Slate. October 2017.
“7 Shocking Things Women Weren’t Allowed to Do Until Pretty Recently.” Beth Dreher, Woman’s Day. August 2016.
“Crazy things women couldn’t do 50 years ago.” Adria Valdes Greenhauff, The List.
“Interracial Relationships that Changed History.” PBS.
“Things You Wouldn’t Believe Women Couldn’t Do Before The 1970s.” Brittany Greco, Rebel Circus. January 2016.
“Women’s Studies” Wikipedia.
“Participation of women in the Olympics.” Wikipedia.
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