Women's Financial Rights: We're Still Playing Catch Up

Jun 10, 2024

When did women get the right to have a bank account or credit card? When could the ladies start controlling their own money, take out a loan, or own property? It took much longer than you might think for women to have equal rights when it comes to money and other assets.

This might not even be something you've thought about much, but look back on your childhood and the money messages that you were sent. Do you remember your mom talking about finances as you were growing up? Chances are, it was a hushed conversation anytime your parents talked about money. After all, "it's not polite to talk about money."

And even more likely, when your parents had the money talk, your dad did most of the talking. It used to be a given that women were to be "seen and not heard" in many situations, especially when it came to financials.

So, when did women start to gain rights in the financial world?

The Married Women's Property Act of 1848 started a movement in the right direction for women's financial rights in New York. Finally, married women could own property. Before that, only single women were allowed to own real estate. If you were married, it was your husband who owned and controlled the land.

But even though women could own land, they were still limited in their access to financial products. In the 1960s, women were technically given the right to open bank accounts, but most banks wouldn't allow them to do so without a signature from their husbands. Imagine essentially needing permission from your husband to get a checking account!

It wasn't until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that women were finally guaranteed the right to open their own accounts. No permission needed! Women also got the right get loans on their own without a male co-signer, and banks and financial institutions were prohibited from treating women differently during the loan process. Previously, banks were known for making women make larger down payments and for assigning them higher interest rates.

Things were still not necessarily equal, however. The Great Recession in 2008 showed that women were the first to lose their jobs, and were more likely to be the victims of predatory lending and subprime loans.

We've come a long way financially and in the workplace, but the Pew Research Center reports that women still earn just 82% of what men earn.

When it comes time to divorce, the financial stress rears its ugly head.  Modern women often enter their marriages as the low earner, set their career aside to manage the home and care for the children, and then despite their financial sacrifices, they leave the marriage with a larger financial burden than their husbands. It's time to look out for yourself and your money.

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