Almost exactly 100 years ago, women were about to start celebrating their national right to vote. After a long fought battle where states each slowly granted women the right to vote, the United States Congress officially ratified the 19th amendment to state that the right to vote “shall not be denied… on the account of sex”.
Throughout history, women have battled and fought to have equal opportunity in big & small ways. In the last 100 years, women have accomplished the right to many things… the ability to vote, pursue higher education, and opportunities with nearly any kind of employment. 100 years later, women are enjoying many freedoms that our ancestors couldn’t even imagine.
Today, women are freer to succeed than they’ve ever been in history before. From 1919 to 2019 a lot has changed. Check out our list below of laws, prejudice, and discrimination that women faced in 1919 that is.
Apply for a credit card or a loan
As late as 1974, women could be denied a credit card or a loan without their husband or father’s signature when the Equal Opportunity Act was passed. Women were seen as “high risk” investments by banks and were even refused mortgages, even if they were making more than their husbands or families.
Have their own name printed on a passport
Female travelers in the 1920s could be rejected based on the name they used if their husband already had a passport. Women had to file for a joint passport with their husbands and passports were titled, “wife of” their husband.
Hold a job during pregnancy
It wasn’t until 1978 that working moms and pregnant women were protected. Women could get fired from their jobs if they found themselves pregnant; especially in the 1920s, this was not uncommon. Women went to great lengths to cover their pregnancy as employers were known to fire women long before their due date.
Run the Boston Marathon
Women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972 when race directors officially changed the rules. Before the rules changed, some women “illegally” ran the Boston Marathon in the attempt to change the rules.
Attend a Military Academy or fight in combat
During World War I, many women volunteered and worked for the war efforts, but were cut off once the war ended. It wasn’t until 1976 that women could attend Military Academies like West Point. In 2013, a law was overturned that allowed women to fight in combat.
Become a lawyer
In the 1920s following the 19th amendment, women were legally allowed to take the bar exam and practice law. That being said, law firms were still legally allowed to deny hiring women. Even when hired, women were mostly in secretarial or librarian positions. For many years, if a woman wanted to argue a case in court, she had to work for her father or husband. It wasn’t until 1971 that it became illegal for a law firm to prohibit women from practicing law.
Protection against sexual harassment
If a woman was sexually harassed at work, she could not legally charge her employer until 1977 when multiple courts ruled that it was legal for a woman to sue her employer on the basis of harassment.
Women in Science weren’t recognized for their achievements
Rosaland Franklin was a pioneer in discovering that DNA was a double helix, one of the biggest and most groundbreaking achievements in scientific history. The Nobel prize was only attributed to James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkons in that same year, 1962. Likewise, Esther Lederberg, a microbiologist conducted groundbreaking research that helped her husband, Joshua, win a Nobel Prize in 1958. Esther was not cited in the award. Many more women achieved huge scientific accomplishments, but their names are lost in history.
Serving on a Jury
Even after the passing of the 19th amendment that qualified women as “electors”, women could not decide the guilt or innocence of their peers by serving on a jury in all 50 states until 1969.
Go to a Co-Ed Ivy League School
As a woman, to go to an Ivy League school like Harvard or Colombia, men and women were segregated and did not become Co-Ed until the 1970s. Yale and Princeton did not admit women until 1969.
Involvement in Sports
Women’s involvement in sports was nearly nonexistent in the early 20th century and while some sports became more prevalent, Title IX, the law ensuring that schools offered women an equal opportunity to sports was not passed until the 1970s. Likewise, shoe companies did not make athletic shoes specifically designed for women until Reebok came out with a shoe in the 1980s.
If there’s one thing that history has taught us, it is that women can change history. Share this with a friend if you are proud of all women have accomplished in the last 100 years!