To commemorate 100 years of women’s right to vote, USA TODAY recognizes influential women from every state and U.S. territories.
The claim: In 1971, women could not do these nine things.
It wasn’t that long ago a woman couldn’t get a credit card in her own name, or serve on a jury, or get an Ivy League education.
In fact, a viral Facebook post lists nine things a woman could not do in the United States in 1971. The post, made by Julia Siergiey Juraez, who said she copied and pasted it from someone else, has been shared more than 105,000 times.
Here is the list of “nine things a woman couldn’t do in 1971” in the post:
- Get a credit card in her own name.
- Be guaranteed that they would not get fired for getting pregnant.
- Serve on a jury.
- Fight on the front lines.
- Get an Ivy League education.
- Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment.
- Decide not to have sex with their husband.
- Obtain health insurance at the same monetary rate as a man.
- Take the birth control pill
Let’s take this step by step, verifying each of the nine points and keeping in mind that the list says “a woman,” not “all women.”
Fact check: In 1952, Charlotta Bass was the first Black woman to run for vice president
Get a credit card in their own name
Banks could refuse women a credit card until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 was signed into law. Prior to that, a bank could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman, and if a woman was married, her husband was required to cosign.
Many banks required single, divorced or widowed women to bring a man with them to cosign for a credit card, according to CNN, and some discounted the wages of women by as much as 50% when calculating their credit card limits, according to an article from Smithsonian Magazine.
This claim is true.
Be guaranteed that they would not get fired for getting pregnant
Women didn’t get this protection until 1978.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibited sexual discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website. It stated that women who are pregnant or have been affected by pregnancy or childbirth must be treated the same for all employment-related purposes.
An employer cannot refuse to hire a woman because of her pregnancy as long as she is able to perform the major functions of the job, according to the EEOC.
Before that law passed, however, there were numerous Supreme Court cases that dealt with employment discrimination against pregnant women, according to an article from jurist.org. The enactment of the law was in response to two Supreme Court cases.
This claim is true.
Serve on a jury
The post states that women were kept out of some jury pools because they were considered the center of the home and were “too fragile to hear the grisly details of crimes and too sympathetic by nature to be able to remain objective about those accused of offenses.” It says that this varied by state, as Utah found women were fit for jury duty in 1879.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, however it was not until 1973 that all 50 states passed similar legislation, according to an article from Associated Press. It was not until the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Taylor v. Louisiana when the Court held that states must treat men and women in the same way in respect to jury service in 1975, according to an article from Humanities and Social Sciences Online.
Utah became the first state to deem women qualified for jury duty in 1898, according to the ACLU and Cornell Law School, not 1879. The post also misstated that women could serve on juries in all 50 states in 1973, when the date was actually 1975.
This claim is partly false.
Fight on the front lines
Women were admitted into military academies in 1976, but it was not until 2013 that the military ban on women in combat was lifted, according to the post. It also states that before 1973, women were only allowed in the military as nurses or support staff.
Service academies did first admit women in 1976, according to The Women’s Memorial.
On Jan. 24, 2013, the Pentagon rescinded the rule that restricted women from serving in combat units, according to a Congressional Research Service report. On Dec. 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ordered that the military open all combat jobs to women with no exceptions, according to the report.
Conscription, which was mandatory enlistment for state services, ended in 1973 and with that women’s participation in the military increased, according to a research article titled “Women and War: What Physicians Should Know.”
While women have participated in U.S. wars since the American Revolution, serving as nurses or other staff, it was not until 2013 when women were allowed to serve on the front lines.
This claim is true.
Get an Ivy League education
The post states that Yale and Princeton did not accept female students until 1969, and Harvard in 1977, when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College. Brown, Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981 respectively, it states. In some specific instances women were allowed to take certain classes at Ivy League institutions, the post states.
“A handful of female graduate students were permitted to earn advanced degrees starting in 1962,” according to “A Brief History of Women at Princeton” on the Princeton Alumni Association website. Princeton began coeducation starting in the fall of 1969, according to Princeton Alumni Weekly.
For some Ivy League colleges, women were accepted beforehand in specific circumstances or in a separate female college. At Harvard, for instance, women were taking classes in the early 1900s, according to the Harvard Gazette. However, Harvard merged with Radcliffe College officially in 1999, and in 1975 the two colleges merged their admissions.
In 1977, Harvard started “sex-blind admissions,” according to the Harvard Gazette.
Women began attending Brown University’s female college in 1891, but it was not until 1971 that Brown became coeducational, according to Brown University’s website. Dartmouth began admitting women in the fall of 1972. For Columbia, the decision was made in 1981 to make classes coeducational for the fall of 1983, according to Columbia’s website.
This claim is partly false. Some Ivies were open to women before 1971
Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment
The post states that the first time a court recognized that office sexual harassment as grounds for any legal action was in 1977.
A 1974 case called Barnes v. Train is commonly thought of as the first sexual harassment case. It was not until 1977 when the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the woman, Paulette Barnes, had been mistreated and that a supervisor had sexually harassed her, according to an article from Wenzelfenton.com.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created the basis for discrimination cases in its Article VII and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But it wasn’t until 1980 that the EEOC determined that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination.
This claim is true.
Decide not to have sex if their husband wanted to
Spousal rape was not criminalized in all 50 states until 1993, the post states.
This is accurate.
In 1979, “a pair of cases highlighted changing legal attitudes about the concept,” according to Time. In 1986, the Federal Sexual Abuse Act criminalized marital rape on all Federal lands, but it was not until July 5, 1993, when marital rape became a crime in the sexual offense codes in all 50 states, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
By 1996, 16 states had repealed all of their exemptions to marital rape, and 33 states had partially repealed exemptions.
Obtain health insurance at the same monetary rate as a man
Sex discrimination was not outlawed in health insurance until 2010, according to the post. It also says that many people, including sitting elected officials at the federal level, feel that “women do not mind paying a little more.”
Women were routinely charged more for health insurance coverage than men, and it was not until the passage of the Affordable Care Act that it started to change, according to the American Bar Association.
Women still often pay more in health insurance than men. For health insurance companies, women are considered high risk because they tend to visit the doctor more frequently, live longer and have babies, according to healthline.com.
This claim is true.
Take the birth control pill
While the birth control pill was approved by the Federal Drug Administration for “severe menstrual distress” in 1957, it took years before it was approved for family planning.
“Issues like reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to decide when and whether to have children were only just beginning to be openly discussed in the 1960s,” the post said.
In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. However, it was illegal in some states and could only be prescribed to married women for purposes of family planning, the original post states. It says that not all pharmacies stocked the pill, and some who opposed birth control said, “oral contraceptives were immoral, promoted prostitution and were tantamount to abortion.” It states that birth control was not approved for use by all women until several years later. A CNN list on “5 Things Women Couldn’t Do in the 1960s” states the same.
PBS also confirms those dates, and says five years after the Food and Drug Administration approved the pill for contraceptive use, 6.5 million American women were on the pill.
Though it was not until 1972 that the pill was available to unmarried women, according to Time.
This claim is partly false, because birth control was available to some women in 1960.
Our rating: Partly false
The post presents claims that include a lot of truth but also some inaccuracies. Women could not get a credit card in their own name and serve on the front lines in 1971. They could get fired for getting pregnant, they could not take legal action against workplace sexual harassment, they paid more in health insurance and they were unable to take their husbands to court for rape. But the post is not accurate on women and juries, an Ivy League education or contraception.
Our fact-check sources:
- CNN, Aug. 25, 2014, 5 things women couldn’t do in the 1960s
- Smithsonian Magazine, Jan. 8, 2014, Forty Years Ago, Women Had a Hard Time Getting Credit Cards
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
- Jurist, Dec. 20, 2014, History of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Humanities and Social Sciences, Nov. 2013, Shoehorning American women onto American juries
- Associated Press, Nov. 16, 2018, History made when women were allowed to serve on jury
- Cornell Law School, Billy J. TAYLOR, Appellant, v. State of LOUISIANA.
- The Women’s Memorial, Women Enter the Military Academies
- Congressional Research Service, Dec. 13. 2016, Women in Combat: Issues for Congress
- US National Library of Medicine, Women and War What Physicians Should Know
- Princeton Alumni Weekly, Oct. 5, 2016, When Women Came to Princeton
- Princeton Alumni Association, A Brief History of Women at Princeton
- Harvard Gazette, April 26, 2012, Hard-earned gains for women at Harvard
- Brown University, A Brief History of Women at Brown University
- Columbia College Today, July/August 2009, 25 years of Coeducation
- WenzelFentonCabassa, Jan. 1, 2018, A History of Sexual Harassment Laws in the United States
- History of Sexual Harassment Law
- National Criminal Justice Reference Service, July 2003, Martial Rape: History, Research, and Practice
- American Bar Association, July 1, 2010, What Health Reform Means for Women
- Healthline, June 25, 2016, Should Women Pay More for Healthcare Services?
- PBS, May 7, 2010, A brief history of the birth control pill
- Children and Youth in History, Age of Consent Laws
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