Life for a Woman in the 1970s

I finished university in 1971. I know, that’s a LONG time ago and how things have changed.

To me, the Internet has done a lot to promote change for women. We can talk with each other, get angry about why things are the way they are and the more we do that, the quicker change is made.

When I left university there were heaps of things that we look back on now and think, “How could it be that way?”  What’s worse is that nobody seemed to think it was wrong.

When I got pregnant it was just fine for my employer to give me the sack so he (and I use that word liberally) could hire a “full bodied worker.” I was required to step down from my office job at 6 months pregnant because “it’s better for the baby.” Yeah right.

It was perfectly all right for men in my office to call me honey or sweetie or tell dirty jokes. It was fine for men to have girly calendars on their office walls. It was fine for the men in the office to take off for several days fishing while the women stayed behind and did the work.  “Women don’t want to go fishing with a bunch of men,” they said.

I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name in 1971. I had a good job and was paid well but that counted for nothing at the bank in Tennessee. “Bring in your husband to co-sign,” the manager said. It was perfectly legal to discriminate against us.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that it was a criminal act to rape your wife. By law a woman had to submit sexually to her husband whenever he demanded it. Too bad if he was a drunken asshole, yes was the only acceptable (and legal) answer.

No legal abortions until 1973 and even then it wasn’t easy. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses to school until 1972 – no pants allowed for girls. Flight attendants couldn’t be married back then either. Get married and you get fired.

In 1976 – I remember it as if it were yesterday – I wore a pantsuit to work and then out to lunch with a friend who was a lawyer. By the time I got to lunch I’d been told that “trousers were for men and were very unladylike for women” and perhaps I should reconsider my work attire. I got to lunch and I was fuming and my friend couldn’t understand my anger.

In 1975 I needed surgery and before it could happen, my husband had to give his permission. I was outraged but I had no choice.

For women living today, you wouldn’t think twice about applying for a credit card in your own name or applying for a home loan if you were single. The complaints I see about boomers have wrecked it all for everyone – remember how times have changed. We complained, we burned our bras, we were the first to take the pill and we helped change the world for women.

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