The 13 most surprising things women couldn’t do 100 years ago

3. Open a bank account or apply for a loan

Women also faced financial discrimination and were seen as a high-risk investment by banks as little as just 50 years ago. It wasn’t until 1975 that women could open a bank account in their own name.

Single women still couldn’t apply for a loan or credit card in their own name without a signature from their father, even if they earned more, as recently as the mid-Seventies.

Working women were also refused mortgages in their own right in the Seventies, unless they could secure the signature of a male guarantor.

A 2011 report, by left-wing think tank The Institute for Public Policy Research, found evidence of discrimination against businesswomen by banks still existing in the 21st Century. It also found an unlawful denial of fair access to mortgages on the basis of pregnancy or maternity leave.

“It is a picture that seems to be based on stereotypes about women as inevitable primary care-givers to children and secondary earners and one which plays into discursive norms of the undervaluing of women,” it said.

4. Be refused service for spending their own money in a pub

Women could also be refused service for spending their own money in a pub up until a law change in 1982.

“In the 1970s women could legally be refused the right to go drink unaccompanied,” notes The First 100 Years history project.

5. Become an accountant or lawyer

The Sex Discrimination Removal Act 1919 changed the law on women being disqualified from certain professions on the grounds of sex. It gave women access to the legal profession and accountancy for the first time and meant they could also hold any civil or judicial office or post.

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Dr. Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the Bar in England in 1922 and the first woman to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law in Oxford in 1923.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made it illegal to discriminate against women in work, education and training.

However, horrendously sexist adverts objectifying women from the era highlight the disparaging attitude towards women that still existed.

The Equality Act 2010 would eventually replace a number of different anti-discrimination laws.

It was not until 2013, a 200-year-old law for bidding women to wear trousers in Paris was finally revoked.

6. Have a right to equal pay

A strike by 187 female workers at a Ford car factory in Dagenham in 1968 is cited as being instrumental in the passing of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The machinists walked out and went on strike for three weeks in protest against their male colleagues earning 15 per hundred more than them.

Former Labor Party MP Shirley Summerskill said the women played a “very significant part in the history of the struggle for equal pay”.

The Equal Pay (Amendment) Act 1983 allowed women to be paid the same as men for work of equal value. However, equal pay is still an issue today, with women losing out on nearly £140bn a year due to a gender pay gap in 2018.

According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely. In 2017, women effectively worked “for free” for 51 days of the year because of the gender pay gap.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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