The following list is of NINE things a woman couldn’t do in 1971 – yes the date is correct, 1971.
In 1971 a woman could not:
1. Get a Credit Card in her own name – it wasn’t until 1974 that a law forced credit card companies to issue cards to women without their husband’s signature.
2. Be guaranteed that they wouldn’t be unceremoniously fired for the offense of getting pregnant – that changed with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of *1978*!
3. Serve on a jury – It varied by state (Utah deemed women fit for jury duty way back in 1879), but the main reason women were kept out of jury pools was that they were considered the center of the home, which was their primary responsibility as caregivers. They were also thought to be too fragile to hear the grisly details of crimes and too sympathetic by nature to be able to remain objective about those accused of offenses. In 1961, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Florida law that exempted women from serving on juries. It wasn’t until 1973 that women could serve on juries in all 50 states.
4. Fight on the front lines – admitted into military academies in 1976 it wasn’t until 2013 that the military ban on women in combat was lifted. Prior to 1973 women were only allowed in the military as nurses or support staff.
5. Get an Ivy League education, with the exceptions of Penn and Cornell, who began admitting women in 1870. Penn and Cornell are large universities and have always accepted hundreds of women in their entering classes. Penn always had a College for Women, which was for counseling purposes only; all classes were mixed, men and women. Classes at Cornell were mixed.
Yale and Princeton didn’t accept female students until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977 (when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College). Brown (which merged with women’s college Pembroke), Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981, respectively.
Other case-specific instances allowed some women to take certain classes at Ivy League institutions (such as Barnard women taking classes at Columbia), but so many women in the ’60s who harbored Ivy League dreams had to put them on hold.
6. Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment. Indeed the first time a court recognized office sexual harassment as grounds for any legal action was in 1977!
7. Decide not to have sex if their husband wanted to – spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993. Read that again…1993.
8. Obtain health insurance at the same monetary rate as a man. Sex discrimination wasn’t outlawed in health insurance until 2010 and today many, including sitting elected officials at the Federal level, feel women don’t mind paying a little more. Again, that date was 2010.
9. The birth control pill: Issues like reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to decide when and whether to have children were only just beginning to be openly discussed in the 1960s. In 1957, the FDA approved of the birth control pill but only for “severe menstrual distress.” In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. Even so, the pill was illegal in some states and could be prescribed only to married women for purposes of family planning, and not all pharmacies stocked it. Some of those opposed said oral contraceptives were “immoral, promoted prostitution and were tantamount to abortion.” It wasn’t until several years later that birth control was approved for use by all women, regardless of marital status. In short, birth control meant a woman could complete her education, enter the workforce and plan her own life.
Prior to 1880 the age of consent for sex was set at 10 or 12 years old in more states, with the exception of our neighbor Delaware – where it was 7 YEARS OLD!
Gender equity is NOT just for other women. It’s for all men and women as a human rights issue!