What rights and privileges were women denied up until the last 50ish years

In another thread I saw thispost talking about how even if a woman had the money, banks would not provide a mortgage to a woman unless she had a male cosigner.

I hadn’t really thought about that as something women had to deal with, but it isn’t surprising.

I believe up until 50-60 years ago women were locked out of pretty much all careers except nursing, teaching and secretary. Is that true (were those the only options)?

Did women get a share of a parents estate when the parent died or did it all go to male siblings? If the woman did get a share, did it go to her husband?

What about visitation rights when there was a divorce? How were those determined? Did a woman even have the right/ability to request a divorce or could only the husband do that?

What about signing a lease on an apartment, getting a car loan, credit card, student loan, etc could women do that by themselves?

I know spousal rape wasn’t a crime up until about 40 years ago, which was surprising when I first heard about that. Its not just that the crime wasn’t taken seriously, it was the idea that there was no crime recognized by law. I assume the same applied to domestic violence, it wasn’t even codified as a crime.

What about female on male domestic violence, was that considered a crime?

In 1964, the number of females who worked on air in the broadcast media (news anchors, disc jockeys, etc.) was very close to zero. I knew one who started in 1964. I can’t remember ever hearing one before that. but I must have known of some as I was not surprised when she was put on the air. The first female DJs, I think, worked all-night shifts with sexy voices.

But the idea was not unknown – there was Tokyo Rose. And VOA and RFE used female news announcers in the '50s because their voices more easily penetrated jamming efforts.

Keep in mind, too, that if a woman in any profession married she was expected to quit. Some married nurses continued to work, but it was often a requirement that female teachers NOT be married, ever. Likewise, flight attendants were often required to be single and mandatory retirement ages like 32 were accepted as OK and business as usual.

There were a very few women outside the professions you name but they were VERY rare.

Depended on the time and the jurisdiction. In some places women inherited equally, in others they would only inherit if there were no sons, and whether or not the money became their husband’s or not likewise varied

Again, that varied.

Frequently, a woman would need a co-signer for an apartment lease, and there might be restrictions on her activity (to make sure she wasn’t a prostitute, you know?). Car loan? Credit card? How ever would she pay for those? Work? At a woman’s wages? (My maternal grandmother worked as an accountant in the 1920’s. While doing the exact same work as the men at the firm she earned less than half what they did - and this was an open fact and accepted as perfectly right and normal). Student loans are a relatively recent innovation so that largely doesn’t apply, but, seriously, you’re talking about a time when most colleges wouldn’t even accept a woman as a student.

Yes, again, it’s been a fairly recent development in history that what we call “spouse abuse” or “child abuse” has been recognized as wrong and a crime.

A man who let his wife abuse him wasn’t a man - remember, it was entirely legal for him to fight back and he would be expected to “discipline” an unruly wife.

Off the top of my head, women were not allowed to attend to the military service academies in the United States until 1976.

Not true. Wife beating was considered wrong since the beginning of the 20th century, at least, and continually condemned. A man who beat his wife was considered contemptuous.

For instance, in McTeague, from 1899, McTeague hits rock bottom when he beats (and kills) his wife. Broken Blossoms has Lillian Gish being rescued by beating from her father, who is the villain of the movie. Temperance propaganda always showed a married man laid so low by drink that he beat his wife and children.

Wife beating went on behind closed doors, and the woman often had no place to go. And authorities were reluctant to break up homes, not understanding that the abuse could pretend to reform (and even do so until the next time). But it was recognized as wrong and the crime of assault and battery was on the books to deal with it.

On other subjects, women did go into professions and stayed in them; my wife’s pediatrician was female and had been practicing for years. But there were a lot of forces discouraging them from doing so.

I was 21,working and needed a car. So I go to the bank and am told that I needed a male co-signer! I was angry:mad:

Over the entire scope of human history, “the beginning of the 20th Century” actually is pretty damn recent.

The job situation mentioned above, I think, directly connects to many of the others. E.g. the mortgage thing — I assume (I may be wrong) that there needed to be a male cosigner is because the job market and stability for women was so close to nonexistent that that was the only way banks could guarantee that the loan would be repaid.

Seems to me that male on female spousal abuse is still depressingly common. In fact, there can be photographic evidence and you can confess on national television and nothing much will happen.


Women in the sciences had their contributions overlooked or ignored (Rosalind Franklin, for example).

Even after contraception was made legal, many doctors required married women to have their husband’s consent before the doctor would prescribe it to her. This lasted well into the 1970s.

What of a single woman who wanted contraception? Surely you jest. What on earth would a women need contraception for if she wasn’t married? :eek: Contraception wasn’t made universally legal to unmarried women until 1972, in the judgement Eisenstadt v. Baird.

Tubal ligation or other permanent sterilization for a young woman or a woman of any age before she had multiple children was nearly unheard of until this century (that is, the 21st, not the 20th!), and it’s still nearly impossible in many areas of the US. It’s not illegal, but it’s very very hard to find a doctor willing to do it (although it’s improving.)

There were a lot of careers for women 50 years ago: Shop clerk, phone operator, receptionist, seamstress, factory labor, garment worker, policewoman, women’s prison guard, social worker, librarian, waitress, actress, hair dresser, cosmetologist. It’s pretty ludicrous to say that women could only be a nurse, teacher, or secretary.

The only careers I know of that forced women to quit when they got married were flight attendant and Playboy Bunny. Certainly teachers were not forced to quit, at least not in my part of the world. All of my grade school teachers were old women who were married, except for one. If that were true, there would have been a phenomenal turnover rate in teachers. You wouldn’t have all the old school marms.

As for women being expected to quit when they got married, well that may have been true in the suburban upper middle class world of Ozzie and Harriet, but in the blue collar lower middle class world that was often not an option. Women would pour out of the factories in the industrial corridors at four o’clock in the afternoon.

My mother worked in factories until she was in her fifties and had plenty of friends, all of them married, who did likewise.

One of the things that did change in my mother’s lifetime was the law (I don’t know whether it was local or state, but it wasn’t national) that women could not work more than eight hours a day (except nurses). That was a mixed blessing. While it certainly put professional women on a more equal career footing, other women like my mother and her friends were exhausted working at the factory after eight hours. Even though they got time-and-a-half, they hated it when the bosses started telling them to stay late. Not to mention it upset the balance of dealing with their responsibilities with home and family.

The women working in factories thing for the most part didn’t occur until WWII, which actually did quite a bit to give women a financial freedom they mostly had not had until then.

Well, OK, you had women working in textile mills - because they could be paid less than men. But WWII was really the first time you had a lot of women working outside the home. Go Rosie!

My great aunt (who never married because she wanted to travel and not be stuck at home taking care of a man) ran in to that in the early '60s when she tried to get a loan from the bank. At first they insisted her brother cosign, but they changed their mind once she pulled a senior bank officer downstairs demanding they close all of her bank accounts immediately and give her cash.

It was illegal in some places in America as far back as the colonial era. Punishable with everything from prison time, to whipping, to shunning depending on where you were. Women’s rights (and civil rights in general) have gone up and down a fair amount in history, it hasn’t been a smooth upward curve. In many ways the 50s were a low point for women; they weren’t the norm.

I’ve heard that up until the '60s or '70s then in some high schools shop class was only for boys and home ec was only for girls. That is of course a policy that affected boys as much as girls, with neither being able to take a class that taught skills traditionally associated with the opposite sex.

In the '60s my aunt had to get my grandfather to cosign her mortgage, even though she was a successful fashion designer and made more money than he did.

Then you’re really going to be surprised when you hear that martial rape wasn’t a crime in some US states until 1993. Several states still have a different legal standard for martial rape, and a couple even have less severe punishments for martial rape than non-marital rape (Wikipedia).

That reminds me, Chicago used to have two “technical” high schools. One served students who lived on the north side and one served students who lived on the south side. Originally they were founded as schools for training in the “manual” arts such as carpentry, but in the 1930s morphed into college preparatory schools for the best students in the system. Girls were not allowed into the north side technical school until 1971 (there was no option to attend the south side school for girls living on the north side). But even then the school board had to be dragged kicking and screaming by a judge. It was feared that the girls would lower the high academic standards of the school.

Drafting was a popular course in all the high schools. Even if a student did not make it to college, there was always a job for a good draftsman. Girls were not allowed to take drafting.

My family moved to Camarillo, CA, in 1962. I’m told that in 1963, my mother asked to receive in-patient treatment at the state mental hospital (perhaps you’ve heard of it). I think it had to do with the loss of my youngest brother to SIDS. She was turned down because my dad withheld his permission.

It’s not impossible to fathom his rationale – there were seven of us kids (all younger than twelve) who needed a parent in the house, and he didn’t really have anyone else to call on to fill in for her for any length of time. But when she sought treatment in 1991, he just had to suck it up for two or three weeks. Which he did, I hasten to add, even though it was very hard on him.

The point is that in the intervening twenty-seven years, norms shifted to the point where asking for his permission would no longer even occur to a mental health professional.


Americanitis and recentitus. Truly a unique case. Women worked in factories in WW1 in Britain quite a lot. Actually, for most of the Industrial revolution, women worked in factories. And little children. And the elderly. All were paid a pittance. They also worked in mines. Farms, and any other place you can think off. It was the Victorians, especially from 1870 onwards who rallied against this. Women’s absence from the factories for the few decades before WW1 was the aberration, not the other way around.

A colleague at work celebrated her 40 year anniversary last year - I remember her telling us that in the 70s, our company (a pharmaceutical) decided that it might benefit from employing more women in more diverse roles. But she still had to get written permission from her father before the company would offer her a job.

It’s true. Women have always worked outside the home. What you said up thread, about women having careers - that’s where you’re wrong. Men had a careers. Women had jobs. Women’s jobs were subordinate positions and grunt work, and even then, their work was often labelled as “helping out” or “making ends meet”. And women got home, there wasn’t any wife waiting for them to cook them supper, wash their dirty clothes, and keep the kids out of their hair.

The real difference of course is that women, in addition to jobs, had children and housework and a husband who expected to be given control of her paycheck. They didn’t earn as much money, they didn’t have management opportunities, they weren’t offered partnerships. There was no career track for women. They could maybe get a job managing the other ladies in the typist pool but managing the men? No.

Women could be workers. They couldn’t be the boss, not even of their own homes.