Women have struggled and fought for basic human rights for eons. One hundred years ago, the 19th amendment marked a victory for the suffragette movement, at last winning American women the right to vote. Yet even in more recent history, there are many more now ordinary things women used to be banned from doing.
Get a Credit Card or Opening a Bank Account
Women couldn’t open a bank account or get a credit card without a man’s signature (husband or male relative) until Congress passed the Equal Credit Act in 1974.
Obtain a Business Loan Without a Male Cosigner
It took even longer for women entrepreneurs to be able to access business loans without a male cosigner. The Women’s Business Ownership Act became law in 1988. It provides equal access to business capital and eliminates the requirement that women get help from a man to get a loan.
Serve on a Jury
The Supreme Court decided in 1879 that women couldn’t be jurors because of their sex. Many states treated the decision as absurd and allowed women to serve—19 states by 1927. Congress amended language applying to federal juries in 1957. States could still exclude women and continued to do so until 1968 when Mississippi became the final state to permit women jurors. The Supreme Court didn’t change its decision until 1975.
Work While Pregnant
Although maternity leave became available in the ‘60s, working women who became pregnant routinely got fired until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978. Even then, disparities in restroom facilities for women left them standing in lines and walking long distances to find relief.
Breastfeed in Public
Pumping rooms at the office have become commonplace, and it is now legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states. It took until 1999 for Congress to pass a law allowing breastfeeding on federal property and in federal facilities. Idaho and Utah finally passed laws allowing public breastfeeding in 2018.
Wear Pants To Work in the Senate
In 1993, Senator Carol Moseley-Braun was greeted with “audible gasps” when she walked into the Senate building in her favorite pantsuit, unaware that the Senate rules prohibited women from wearing pants. Senator Moseley-Braun let that horse out of the barn, and Senate staffers began to question why they weren’t allowed to wear trousers if a sitting Senator could do so. The rules were revised shortly after.
Women have come a long way, but hard-won advances still face opposition. In 2020, women can take a moment to appreciate the work and dedication that removed restrictions on women doing ordinary things in public.