Nine Things a Woman Couldn’t Do in 1971

As we bar­rel toward the cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tion of wom­en’s suf­frage in the Unit­ed States, it’s not enough to bone up on the plat­forms of female pri­ma­ry can­di­dates (though that’s an excel­lent start).

A Twit­ter user and self-described Old Crone named Robyn recent­ly urged her fel­low Amer­i­cans to take a good long gan­der at a list of nine free­doms women in the Unit­ed States were not uni­ver­sal­ly grant­ed in 1971, the year Helen Red­dy released the soon-to-be anthem, “I Am Woman,” above.

Even those of us who remem­ber singing along as chil­dren may expe­ri­ence some shock that these facts check out on Snopes.

  1. CREDIT CARDS: Pri­or to the Equal Cred­it Oppor­tu­ni­ty Act of 1974, mar­ried women couldn’t get cred­it cards with­out their hus­bands’ sig­na­tures. Sin­gle women, divorcees, and wid­ows were often required to have a man cosign. The dou­ble stan­dard also meant female appli­cants were fre­quent­ly issued card lim­its up to 50% low­er than that of males who earned iden­ti­cal wages.
  2. PREGNANT WORKERS: The Preg­nan­cy Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act of 1978 pro­tect­ed preg­nant women from being fired because of their impend­ing mater­ni­ty. But it came with a major loop­hole that’s still in need of clos­ing. The lan­guage of the 41-year-old law stip­u­lates that the employ­ers must accom­mo­date preg­nant work­ers only if con­ces­sions are being made for oth­er employ­ees who are “sim­i­lar in their abil­i­ty or inabil­i­ty to work.”
  3. JURY DUTY: In 1975, the Supreme Court declared it con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly unac­cept­able for states to deny women the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve on juries. This is an are­na where we’ve all come a long way, baby. It’s now com­plete­ly nor­mal for men to be excused from jury duty as the pri­ma­ry care­givers of their young chil­dren.
  4. MILITARY COMBAT: In 2013, for­mer Sec­re­tary of Defense Leon Panet­ta and for­mer Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen­er­al Mar­tin Dempsey announced that the Pen­ta­gon was rescind­ing the direct com­bat exclu­sion rule that barred women from serv­ing in artillery, armor, infantry and oth­er such bat­tle roles. At the time of the announce­ment, the mil­i­tary had already seen more than 130 female sol­diers killed, and 800 wound­ed on the front­lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  5. IVY LEAGUE ADMISSIONS: Those who con­ceive of elite col­leges as breed­ing grounds for sex­u­al assault protests and Title IX activism would do well to remem­ber that Colum­bia Col­lege didn’t admit women until 1983, fol­low­ing in the mar­gin­al­ly deep­er foot­steps of oth­ers in the Ivy League—Harvard (1977), Dart­mouth (1972), Brown (1971), Yale (1969), and Prince­ton (1969). These days, sin­gle sex high­er edu­ca­tion options for women far out­num­ber those for men, but the net­work­ing pow­er and increased earn­ing poten­tial an Ivy League degree con­fers remains the same.
  6. WORKPLACE HARASSMENT: In 1977, women who’d been sex­u­al­ly harassed in the work­place received con­fir­ma­tion in three sep­a­rate tri­als that they could sue their employ­ers under Title VII of the 1964 Civ­il Rights Act. In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex harass­ment was also unlaw­ful. In between was the tele­vi­sion event of 1991, Ani­ta Hill’s shock­ing tes­ti­mo­ny against her for­mer boss, U.S. Supreme Court jus­tice (then nom­i­nee) Clarence Thomas.
  7. SPOUSAL CONSENT: In 1993, spousal rape was offi­cial­ly out­lawed in all 50 states. Not tonight hon­ey, or you’ll have a headache in the form of your wife’s legal back up.
  8. HEALTH INSURANCE: In 2010, the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act decreed that any health insur­ance plan estab­lished after March of that year could not charge women high­er pre­mi­ums than men for iden­ti­cal ben­e­fits. This was bad news for women who got their health insur­ance through their jobs, and whose employ­ers were grand­fa­thered into dis­crim­i­na­to­ry plans estab­lished pri­or to 2010. Of course, that’s all ancient his­to­ry now.
  9. CONTRACEPTIVES: In 1972, the Supreme Court made it legal for all cit­i­zens to pos­sess birth con­trol, irre­spec­tive of mar­i­tal sta­tus, stat­ing “if the right of pri­va­cy means any­thing, it is the right of the indi­vid­ual, mar­ried or sin­gle, to be free from unwar­rant­ed gov­ern­men­tal intru­sion into mat­ters so fun­da­men­tal­ly affect­ing a per­son as the deci­sion whether to bear or beget a child.” (It’s worth not­ing, how­ev­er, that in 1972, states could still con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly pro­hib­it and pun­ish sex out­side of mar­riage.)

Fem­i­nism is NOT just for oth­er women.

- Old Crone

Via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Library of Con­gress Dig­i­tizes Over 16,000 Pages of Let­ters & Speech­es from the Women’s Suf­frage Move­ment, and You Can Help Tran­scribe Them

MAKERS Tells the Sto­ry of 50 Years of Progress for Women in the U.S.

Women’s Hid­den Con­tri­bu­tions to Mod­ern Genet­ics Get Revealed by New Study: No Longer Will They Be Buried in the Foot­notes

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Data­base, Will Fea­ture Works by 600+ Over­looked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Cen­turies

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Octo­ber 7 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domaincel­e­brates the art of Aubrey Beard­s­ley. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (16)
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  • Cynthia Strickland says:

    My grand­moth­er was in the first class of yale nurs­ing grad­u­ates in the 30s so idk why you’re claim­ing yale did­n’t admit women until 1969.

  • carolyn wiley says:

    Some of the items above are inac­cu­rate.

  • Jennifer Rogers says:

    While women were allowed to study in the grad­u­ate schools much ear­li­er, women were only allowed to enroll as under­grad­u­ates at Yale in 1969.,alumni%2C%20Yale%20admitted%20a%20total%20of%20588%20women.

  • Grace Loehr RN, CNM, NP says:

    Cyn­thia, the YSN is a grad­u­ate school, not under­grad­u­ate. When it began in the 1920s, it required a bach­e­lor’s degree for admis­sion; the stu­dents were grad­u­ates of col­leges like Vas­sar and Rad­cliffe. Yale’s grad­u­ate schools are not part of the under­grad­u­ate col­leges. Most of the rea­son why YSN was con­sid­ered a grad­u­ate school from the first was because Yale would not admit women to its under­grad­u­ate. The degrees weren’t MSN like we have now, advanced prac­tice RNs, but basic RN. YSN orig­i­nat­ed because Yale Med­ical School want­ed to grad­u­ate nurs­es who were of the same social class as the med­ical grad­u­ates, they could mar­ry, and become help­meets to their doc­tor hus­bands. There were Fri­day after­noon ice cream socials held between the med­ical and nurs­ing schools through the 1970s for this rea­son.

  • Carly says:

    Yale — Novem­ber 1969. Yale Nurs­ing School — 1923.

  • Wladyslaw Los says:

    The title should be “Nine Things a Woman Couldn’t Do in 1971 in the USA”.

  • Lanayre Liggera says:

    It’s not remem­bered that Jose­phus Daniels, Sec­re­tary of the Navy dur­ing WW1, grant­ed EQUAL PAY for women for Yeo­man F (F for female!)

  • John says:

    I’d like a list of “9 things Women can’t in 2020”. I“m not being sar­cas­tic, I’m actu­al­ly seek­ing out things that men can do in 2020 that women can’t legal­ly. I’m not say­ing they aren’t there… I just need some exam­ples.. thx

  • Amy says:

    As a 1972 BA grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, I fre­quent­ly try to cor­rect this arti­cle, but I have giv­en up. Appar­ent­ly who­ev­er wrote it did­n’t know that Penn is an Ivy League school.

  • Stephen says:

    No offi­cial Roman Catholic church­es ordain women priests although groups call­ing them­selves Roman Catholic do. The LDS does not as well.

    Women do not have say over their own bod­ies as men enjoy in many states. And many states give men a 50% stake in wom­en’s bod­ies when it comes to an abor­tion deci­sion.
    Par­ents are some­times required to be informed for a woman of age. Men do not suf­fer this forced dis­clo­sure as the father.

    This is just off the top of an altheizemic head…aka…i could be wrong.

  • Shelley Gilchrist says:

    I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest with­in the Asso­ci­a­tion of Roman Catholic Women Priests. We were ful­ly ordained through Apos­tolic Suc­ces­sion begin­ning in 2002. The Bish­ops who presided were (one still is ) in com­mu­nion with the Vat­i­can. Women presided equal­ly with men in the ear­ly church and the par­tri­archy strove to elim­i­nate texts and fres­cos of women cel­e­brat­ing in cat­a­combs. A good book which illu­mi­nates is, “When Women Were Priests.” It is dense but very schol­ar­ly and well worth the read. As women feel free to respond to the Spir­it’s call, our num­bers increase. We embrace an inclu­sive Catholic min­istry.

  • Ruth says:

    Re: Dis­crim­i­na­tion against women
    Women, for many years, worked for less mon­ey then a man would be paid for the same job. Your retire­ment ben­e­fits and Social Secu­ri­ty are based on your life­time of earn­ings. Because I am a woman that worked for sub­stan­dard wages my retire­ment is less than what a man of my age would be earn­ing in retire­ment years.

    We women have made great strides, but there is still something’s that need to be lev­eled out.

  • Barbara Brown says:

    Absolute­ly Adjust­ments across the board for women /reparations should be; ncr as d month­ly ben­e­fits by at least 33%.Also needs to be adjust­ed the years tak­en off, or reduced hours/opportunities for unpaid labor tak­ing care of chil­dren and so some­times the elder­ly ben­e­fit­ing the coun­try as well as indi­vid­ual fam­i­ly .

  • Barbara Brown says:

    Absolute­ly Adjust­ments across the board for women /reparations should by at least 33%.Also needs to be adjust­ed for any years tak­en off, or reduced hours/opportunities for unpaid labor tak­ing care of chil­dren and even some­times the elder­ly.

  • John says:

    I’m going to say play major league games along with men? Will we ever see a woman play for the Yan­kees? Or a woman suit­ing up for quar­ter­back for the NFL?

  • Christine Hoffman says:

    I was a Lt. in the air force nurse Corp. When I got mar­ried & got preg­nant, I had to resign because I could­n’t have a child under the age of 18.

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