March 16, 2006

National Women’s History Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — chapterhouse @ 6:43 am

In honor of National Women’s History Month, I’d like to tell you about the changes in women’s rights in my lifetime. So far. I’m 56, and I do hope there will be more for me to see.

Most young women probably don’t realize how things were for us a few decades ago. I’m not making these things up, so read on:

At one time or another in job interviews, I was legally asked:

Are you married?
Do you have any children?
Do you plan to have any children?
Are you pregnant now?
Do you take birth control?

Men could smoke in the office; women could not.

Women could not wear slacks to work.

Men were addressed as “Mr.” – women by their first names.

If a woman was unmarried, she was assumed to be looking for a husband.
If she was not looking for a husband, she was a “Career Girl,” or worse, a lesbian.

If a girl got pregnant in high school, she was expelled.

Out-of-wedlock pregnancies were not openly acknowledged. Usually, a girl would be sent by her parents, or a woman would go, to another state, country, or city, where she would wear a wedding band and say that her husband was in Vietnam. Single, unmarried mothers would wear a wedding band and say their husbands were killed in Vietnam.

Abortions were illegal. (Get ready to march in the streets over this one, sisters.)

I was a legal secretary, and when I typed the Notary’s acknowledgment for a woman’s signature, I had to add the words, “that she read the above document, and it was explained to her.

Women could not get credit in their own name.

Women did not make the same salaries for the same jobs as men (not that women could even get many of the same jobs as men.) Women were told, legally, that was because “men have families to support.” Employers cannot use that excuse today, but women still do not make as much money as men in the same jobs.

I’m sure I could think of others, as soon as I hit “Post.” For the women of my age group and older, please share your experiences.



  1. Not sure that much has really changed, in spite of superficial appearances. Did you know that there is no country in the world where women earn more than men? 80% of all world labor (and most of it is not in the “official” GDP calculations) is done by women; 10% of all world income is earned by women. Women make up 51% of world population…. and the older the population, the higher that percentage grows. But the killer of all is when I was a professor in a French university, from 1979-82 (that ain’t the Middle Ages, folks), we were given the pre-stamped envelopes for inter-office correspondence to other profs on campus. The first line was OFFICIALLY PRINTED with “Monsieur….” [there were no female professors?? hello?]. Cheers anyway to all!

    Comment by judith — March 16, 2006 @ 8:17 am | Reply

  2. And it has been explained to her?!?


    I had a friend who in the early 90s went into a car dealership and asked them to take a car off the floor for her to test drive — and they told her to go get her husband and come back and they would!

    Comment by pooks — March 16, 2006 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  3. Girl Power!

    Comment by Dan — March 17, 2006 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  4. By the way, the main character in your book sounds a lot like me. Is his name Dan too?

    Comment by Dan — March 17, 2006 @ 2:38 am | Reply

  5. As they tell us in Detroit now days “Just be glad you have a job”.

    Comment by tjames — March 17, 2006 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  6. Candace! Are you telling us that all that stuff has CHANGED?

    Gee, I’d better go read some of those legal review brochures that Janie is filing for us over by Mr. Smith’s office.


    Comment by Duke_of_Earle — March 17, 2006 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

  7. Dan: that is way funny!

    Duke: and you call yourself a career boy!

    tJames: yeah, well there’s that.

    Judy: things have changed a lot, IMO, but there’s still no such thing as equal pay for equal work.

    Pooks: so, she punched him where it hurts, right?

    Comment by Candace — March 17, 2006 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  8. Thanks for the reminder about this. Things are much worse in some parts of the world of course. There’s an article called “Why Men Rule” in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine (FP) as well as an article on the male-dominated societies like China that are ascending. Interesting stuff and an implication that things could get worse. A good book on long term history I enjoyed is: “Women’s Roots” by June Stephenson. Also, “The Once and Future Goddess” by Elinor Gadon is a fascinating account going even further back. It’s quite an eye-opener. I believe these should be required reading for all–males and females.

    Comment by ronniebeegood — March 17, 2006 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  9. Ronnie, that’s great! You’ve read so much more than I have about it. You know, it just kills me to hear about how women are still being treated in I*l*mic countries. They really are considered livestock. I haven’t seen the FP article, but I’m assuming they mentioned that culture, too.

    At least the Chinese have abandoned foot binding (um, they have, haven’t they?)

    Comment by Candace — March 17, 2006 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

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