10 Things U.S. Women Couldn’t Do Before the 70s

women_5by  (Reposted from Ms. with permission)

While we still have a long way to go to secure total equality for women, let’s take a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. Before the 1970s, an American woman could not:

1. Keep her job if she was pregnant.

Until the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, women could be fired from their workplace for being pregnant.

2. Report cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The first time that a court recognized sexual harassment in the workplace was in 1977 and it wasn’t until 1980 that sexual harassment was officially defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

3. Be acknowledged in the Boston Marathon.

Women could not don their running shoes until 1972!

4. Get a credit card.

Until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, women were not able to apply for credit. In 1975, the first women’s bank was opened.

5. Refuse to have sex with her husband.

The mid 70s saw most states recognize marital rape and in 1993 it became criminalized in all 50 states. Nevertheless, marital rape is still often treated differently to other forms of rape in some states even today.

6. Compete as a boxer in the Olympics.

It wasn’t until the 2012 London Olympics that women could compete in boxing in the Olympics. This was marked with the amazing victory by Britain’s Nicola Adams.

7. Get a divorce with some degree of ease.

Before the No Fault Divorce law in 1969, spouses had to show the faults of the other party, such as adultery, and could easily be overturned by recrimination.

8. Celebrate International Women’s Day.

In 1980 President Carter declared one week in March to be National Women’s History Week, including International Women’s Day on March 8th.

9. Have a legal abortion in most states.

The Roe v. Wade case in 1973 protected a woman’s right to abortion until viability.

10. Read Ms. Magazine!

Ms. was launched as a sample inset in New York Magazine in 1971.

BroadBlogs’s note regarding #10: Ms. was the first feminist magazine, and this piece is reposted from Ms.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Tangled Up in Femininity
What Happens When “A Woman’s Place is in the Home”?
So Nice We Let Others Hurt Us

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 6, 2013, in feminism, sexism, women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I have multiple feelings when I read this article. On one hand, I feel sad as there were so many things that women couldn’t do in the past and men just took their right away. But on the other hand I am glad that things have changed now and we can see more equality between men and women. However in some countries that were not so civilized, for example China, women are still oppressed and some men still believe they are better than women. Things that women couldn’t do in the 70s, they still can’t do it. The saddest part is the women there do not even think this is a problem because they are used to it and that it became a social norm. Therefore no one is even trying to solve this issue. How can people help them while the women don’t fight for their own.

  2. I feel so sad to see so many usual things that women couldn’t do before 70s. But I’m also glad to know that the environment and rules can be changed. Thanks to numerous feminists’ efforts. Nowadays, women’s rights have been incredibly increased. However, there are still lots of inequity in our society. Gender discrimination still exists. Various stereotypes of women still affect women’s lives. For example, some people tend to think women is emotional so women can’t learn science courses well. In my country, men tend to say women’s driving skill is quite poor. But I believe that biased images of women could be changed one day.

  3. A vast majority of young woman do not realize the struggle that women have gone through in order to be treated as equals. I was a naive young girl and as I’ve continued my education, I’ve realized that I am lucky to be born the time that I did. I didn’t bother to look back at the struggle of woman in the past. Woman my era take advantage of the freedom that our mothers and grandmothers have worked so hard to attain. It awes me that just over 30 years ago, sexual harassment in the workplace was not recognized! Now it’s a social norm, but it’s crazy to think about it not being an issue. These woman inspire me to reach out to younger woman and girls to appreciate what they have and work hard in every aspect possible.

  4. In this day and age we tend to think that discrimination against women happens in third world countries and other places far away from the United States. Young people assume that such discrimination ended in our own country a long time ago. It is amazing to me to find out how many basic women’s rights we take for granted today were not in place in our own modern society until the 1970’s. The idea that a woman could not run in the Boston Marathon or apply for credit seems so unthinkable in this day and age and yet that is exactly the way our society was structured just a few decades ago.

  5. Really interesting and informative post, thanks for sharing 🙂


  6. Good and informative!

  7. Hey there! I noticed that you and I are really enjoying each others’ blogs lately 🙂 Thanks for being a reader!

    By the way, I’m encouraging everyone to nominate a post for my brand-new Gender-Bender Award! Details posted here: http://tiffany267.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/tiffanys-gender-bender-award. Please check it out – you can self-nominate one of your own write-ups or nominate anything else on the WordPress network!

    Thanks and keep up the great content!

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