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As a woman, there are many things I do daily that I take for granted. I was never a bra burner, nor was I born on an island full of Amazon women, but I’m not naive enough not to realize that there are many things I can do today that my mother and grandmothers were not allowed to do. I do come from a long line of very strong women who, to me, did and got just about anything they wanted. But history says that wasn’t so. Sure, we all learned in school about when women were allowed to vote in 1920, but my oh my, that barely scratched the surface of changing the gender laws.
In the spirit of gratitude to strong women who made these things possible, and to celebrate National Women’s Month, I thought I’d explore a few “rights” I have now that didn’t exist when I was a girl and teen.
Women could not open a bank account unless they had their husband’s or a male relative’s permission until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. Women also could not get credit cards in their own names until this Act was passed.
Allowing women to serve on juries was legalized state by state, and it was a slow process. It wasn’t until 1968 when Mississippi legalized it that all 50 states allowed a female presence in the jury box.
Even if a woman had made it through law school and passed all the tests with flying colors, they were not allowed to practice law until 1971.
There was no such thing as maternity leave when I was a girl. If a woman became pregnant, she was immediately fired. It wasn’t until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 that this changed.
Harvard didn’t allow women until 1977, but Yale and Princeton admitted the first females in 1969. Texas A&M University (my alma mater) was an all-male school until 1963.
The legendary Boston Marathon was an all-male event until 1972.
Women have been allowed into the military for decades, but they weren’t allowed to serve in frontline combat until 2013.
NASA didn’t allow women astronauts until Sally Ride changed that in 1978.
Despite all of the obstacles that women face today, there is no question that the situation has improved over the last 50 years. Every day, gutsy women continue to battle for equal pay, appropriate maternity leave regulations, and autonomy over their own bodies. As long as women continue to work together, more progress will be made. History has shown us that dedicated women can alter the course of events.
This month, and every month, honor the progress we’ve made by commemorating all the courageous women who battled for our rights.
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