These stories about female financial independence will have you reflecting about struggles past and future this Women’s History Month.

Looking back, and ahead, for Women’s History Month

It’s incredible to think that less than 50 years ago, American women couldn’t sign up for a credit card of their own without a man’s say-so. I presented this fact to my Facebook followers, and what resulted was a fascinating mix of personal reflections on the long and difficult road women trod to gain a measure of financial independence, as well as the further financial obstacles today’s women still face. Use these stories as a jumping-off point to teach your children—your daughter in particular—about credit cards, banking, and negotiating.

I asked, “Did you know single women needed to have a man cosign credit applications up until 1974?”

Here’s a sampling of reactions, organized by category:

Memories of injustice

Deneen Crandell: “In 1973 I worked for a bank. As the receptionist, I was responsible for verifying information on loan applications. The branch manager made the decision to award the loan. We had a woman come in who wanted $500 to get an apartment so she could leave her husband. The manager denied the loan and told me that any woman who couldn’t hold a marriage together couldn’t pay back a loan. I was divorced myself at the time.”

Chris Sweeney: “That’s why I have always used the name Chris instead of Christine and never changed my name when I married.”

Jean Costello: “So true. In 1966 my husband had to sign for me to get a driver’s license.”

Susan Grandt: “Bought cars and had a credit card back in the early ’70s as a single woman. But was shocked when I bought my first house in the mid-’80s…bank loan papers titled me as a “spinster”!!! Very offensive to a liberated woman!”

Eileen McCarty Donlon: “I found that out the hard way when I separated from my husband in 1971, after which I became a feminist.”

Tammy Russell: “It’s quite sad that a lot of the progress was only made in the last 50 years. I never would have survived any other time period!”

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Battles won

Nancy E. Murphy: “My mother insisted on buying a vehicle for her thriving business on her own credit record in 1964, and after a standoff with the sales team and my dad stepping back and letting her take the lead, she succeeded, earning her merit badge for being a badass.”

Kaye Barrett Neuenfeldt: “Grrrr. I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but early 1970s. I wanted to get a credit card at Herberger’s [department store] … At first they refused to give me a card on my own. I was married. They said they’d need my husband’s information and his name on the card. I said, ‘No. I make just as much money as he does, and I don’t want his name on it.’ They said, ‘Well, we don’t like to do it that way.’ I said, ‘Well I DO like to do it that way.’ … I finally did receive the card in my name only. I was so proud of myself!”

Matt Conrad: “I used to work with a female attorney who wanted to buy a car … sometime in the 1980s, I believe. The male salesperson asked if her husband would be joining her. The response was, ‘No, it’ll be my car for me to drive., I have my own career, and I’ll be paying for it myself. My husband won’t be involved in the purchasing decision.’ Salesman refused to deal with my colleague and told her to come back with her husband, so he’d know she was a ‘serious’ buyer. Well, she was serious, … and that dealership lost a sale. She bought her car elsewhere.”

The struggles ahead

Eileen Padberg: “I wish the young women today understood what gains were made by blood, sweat, and tears. I worry that we are losing ground.”

Joyce Ward: “Interesting and shocking stories here. A reminder that we must be vigilant, for we may lose the progress made.”

Pat Brhel: “We have been making progress, but we still have a long way to go. I helped fight some of these battles, and younger people need to be aware that a lot of what they take for granted has only taken place in the past 50 years.”

Kelly Barrett: “Even today, if I get a sexist attitude from a company, I let them know I’m taking my money somewhere else. Vote with your wallet, but let them know why.”

Judy Anderson: “And we still don’t have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution.”

Cindy Jones: “Don’t forget!”

(Quotes were edited for length and clarity.)

credit application credit cards equal rights female financial independence financial obstacles gender inequality sexism women women’s history month


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