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Women Didn’t Have These Basic Rights Until the 1970’s

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Women have been fighting for equal rights for well over a hundred years. While they have come quite a ways, there are still issues where men are treated more fairly than women. Living in the 21st Century, you may feel like women are pretty equal. However, looking back 60 years ago, it was a whole different story. These are some of the basic rights that women didn’t have until the 1970’s.

Women Couldn’t Own a Credit Card

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Women could not take out a credit card in their own name. It had to be in either their husband or father’s name. It wasn’t until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974 that women could open up their own line of credit. However, if she was an unmarried woman, her father or brother would have to be a co-signer.

Abortions Were Illegal

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A woman’s right to have an abortion is still heavily debated today. However, during the 1970’s before Roe vs. Wade, all abortions were illegal. No matter what the reason, women could not legally receive an abortion from a doctor.

International Women’s Day Wasn’t Celebrated

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International Women’s Day was created in the early 1900’s. However, it was not celebrated until the 1970s when President Carter declared an entire week to celebrate all women. International Women’s Day is March 8th.

Pregnancy Could Result in Being Fired

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Women in the workplace risked the chance of getting fired if they became pregnant. It wasn’t until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978 that women’s jobs were safe. However, they could legally be fired for other reasons related to the pregnancy.

They Could Not Run in the Boston Marathon

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Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon in 1967. At the time, people wouldn’t acknowledge a woman running in the race. She was taunted, attacked, and even spit on while running alongside the men. Finally in 1972 women were acknowledged to run in marathons.

The Issue of Equal Pay Became Popular

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The topic if equal pay is still talked about today. In the 1970’s organizations started to pay more attention to the issue and worked to find solutions. Discrimination against women in the workplace is still extremely relevant.

Women Could Not Attend a Military Academy

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Women have held roles during wars, which started way back during the Revolutionary War. However, these roles were usually based back home or as nurses and caretakers on the battlefield. It wasn’t until 1976 that the first military school allowed women to attend. Although, women had to wait until 2013 to be able to fight in combat.

Women Weren’t Protected from Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Before the 1970’s women could be fired for refusing sexual advances from their boss. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came out with a definition for sexual harassment in 1980, which has been used in thousands of sexual harassment cases

Paid Maternity Leave was Unheard Of

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Only five states in the year 1969 allowed women to receive paid maternity leave. Once the Temporary Disability Insurance Act passed, more companies offered maternity leave. Unfortunately, there are still places that do not pay for maternity leave.

Women Did Not Receive Direct Health Consultation

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When a woman went to the doctor, her husband or another male had to join her. This was because doctors could not directly consult the women, but they could talk to a man. You may remember the disturbing scene in Mad Men where Betty’s husband discusses her cancer diagnosis with her doctor.

Marital Rape was Legal

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Up until the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, women could not refuse to have sex with their husbands. That means if a woman’s husband raped her, he could not be convicted because they were married.

It Was Much Harder to Get Divorced

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You’ve probably noticed that divorce is much more common now than it was half a century ago. This is because women were required to have proof of a reason they wanted a divorce. The No-Fault Divorce Act passed in 1969.

Women Could Not Be Judges

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While there were some women who served as judges before the 1970s, such as Esther Morris in the 1870s, female judges has just started to gain popularity. Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be the most famous female judge of all time and sits on the Supreme Court.

Women Could Not be Astronauts

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There was never an actual rule that women could not be astronauts, but taking a look at NASA’s guidelines as to what was required offers some insight as to why women couldn’t have the profession. At the time, NASA required their applicants to have military experience, which women were not allowed into.

Women Could Not Attend Ivy League Schools

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For years nobody saw the reason as to why women should be educated if they were just going to be housewives. It wasn’t until 1969 that Yale was the first Ivy League school to accept female students. Columbia didn’t accept women until 1983.

It Was Difficult to Practice Law

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While it was never actually banned for women to study law, it definitely was not easy for them. Many law schools would not accept women and law firms refused to interview them for jobs.

Women Could Not Buy the Morning After Pill

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Even though the FDA didn’t approve the morning after pill until the 1990s, it was still around in the 1970s. However, women had a hard time buying it. Women felt embarrassed to take it and had to do it in private once it did become fully available to them.

Birth Control was Hard to Get

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The birth control pill came out in the 1960s, but it wasn’t easy for women to get. State laws made it illegal for doctors to prescribe it to their patients. When Estelle Griswold started to sell the pills and was arrested, the Supreme Court heard her case, which resulted in their ruling that married women could take the pill.

Interracial Marriage was Illegal

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It wasn’t until 1967 that interracial marriage became legal in all states The famous Loving vs. Virginia case brought up the issue and made the Supreme Court reverse the unfair law.

Women Could Not Serve on Juries

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While some states allowed women to sit on a jury, it wasn’t until 1973 that it was required for all states to allow it. It was never outright banned, but most women would not be picked for jury duty.

Women Could Not be Supreme Court Justices

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With a higher acceptance of women in law schools, women tried to get a seat on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice in 1981. So far only three other women have held a seat in the court.

Women Could Not Live with Their Boyfriends

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It’s a popular idea to live with your boyfriend before getting married. However, up until the 1970’s states could dictate whether it was legal to live with your boyfriend or not. It wasn’t until 2013 that all states made it legal.

Women Could Not Buy Athletic Shoes

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Designers didn’t think to make athletic shoes for women until the 1970s and early 1980s because they didn’t have a spot in the sports world. It was mostly for men. In order to buy athletic shoes, they had to wear men’s shoes.

Women Weren’t Heard

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People did not listen to women, especially in the workplace. They weren’t considered smart and their opinions were not taken seriously. This wasn’t just in the workplace, but at home with their husbands too.

Women Couldn’t Study Women’s Studies

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Women’s Studies wasn’t introduced until 1956 in Australia. It came to the US in the late 1960’s. However, women themselves couldn’t study the program because many schools, such as Cornell, didn’t allow women to attend the school.

Women Could Only Have Certain Jobs

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Before the 1970s, women could only have certain jobs while men could have any job they wanted. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, employers could not reject women from a job simply because they were women. However, employers found their way around this rule.

Domestic Violence Was Not a Reason for Divorce

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We’ve already discussed that a woman had to have “proof” that her husband wronged her in order to file to divorce. However, domestic violence was not seen as a reason to get a divorce. It wasn’t until the 1990s that women had the power to protect themselves from domestic violence.

Women Could Only Participate in Certain Olympic Games

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Even though women couldn’t find female sports shoes until the 1980s, women were allowed to participate in some Olympic games in the early 1900s. However, they could only play in certain ones. Women are still adding sports to their roster. They could finally compete in boxing in 2012.

Women Couldn’t Own Banks

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When women were able to hold more types of jobs, they became involved in finance and banking. However, until the late 1970’s women couldn’t legally own a bank. It wasn’t until 1975 that the first bank owned by a woman was opened.

Women Could Not Have a Bank Account Without Her Husband’s Permission

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Similar to not being able to have a credit card to herself, a woman could not walk into a bank and open an account for herself. Her husband had to be there and give her permission to open the account. The reason? Men thought women couldn’t handle finances.

Discussing Sex Openly was Taboo

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Talking about sex in public wasn’t illegal, but most women kept their mouths shut about it. Of course, women probably talked amongst each other in private about sex. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique helped change the social standard about sex.

Breastfeeding in Public Wasn’t Allowed

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This concept is still debated today. While it’s a little more accepted today, back in the 1970s it was unheard of. If a woman breastfed her child in public, some businesses would discriminate against her.

Women Did Not Receive an Equal Education

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Discrimination against women in the academic world has always been an issue. The idea that a woman belonged in the house and kitchen rather than in a classroom was common back in the 1950s and 1960s. This thought fed into the unequal treatment of women in education.

Single Women Could Not Adopt a Baby

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If a single woman wanted to adopt a child, she was not allowed. She had to be married to a man in order to adopt a baby. It didn’t matter if she was able to provide for the baby and give it a good life. If a husband wasn’t in the picture, neither was a baby.

Women Could Not Be CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies

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Katharine Graham was the first woman to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 1972. She worked at the Washington Post and broke the glass ceiling for women everywhere.

Women’s Minds Weren’t Valued

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The mind of a woman was seen as simple compared to men. That’s why women were expected to stay home to clean, cook, and take care of the children. Oftentimes a woman’s opinion wasn’t valued and she would require permission to do many things in everyday life.

Education Trumped Marriage

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Once women were able to attend colleges and universities they started putting family life on the backburner. They stopped focusing on finding a husband and having children and invested more energy in getting a degree and starting a career.

There Weren’t Many Women in Washington DC

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Men have always ruled politics. It wasn’t until the 1970s that there was an increase of women in politics. While the scale is still outweighed today, there are more women than ever in politics right now.

Women Protested the Miss America Pageant

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Women across the country protested the Miss America Pageant in 1968. They protested the fact that women were being seen as objects and not as people during the pageant.

Women Couldn’t Protest

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Before the 1960s, women could not put together protests and demonstrations. They first protested for equal rights, then moved on to other issues they felt strongly about. When men started to join these protests, people started paying attention.