Women and Credit - A Brief History
By Sharon Secor
With women just as likely as men to use a credit card to make a purchase
and able to apply for and receive a loan or mortgage, it’s easy to forget
that it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, it’s only been a few decades
that women in the United States have universally enjoyed the privileges
and rights that they have today in the realm of credit and finance, guaranteed
and protected by law. It was legislation from two different perspectives
that brought about the current, relative equality in credit opportunity.
wasn’t too long ago, comparatively, that women were not able to participate
in the work force in the way that they do now. While women, those of
the lower socio-economic classes in particular, have always worked,
until the 1960s, they did not have access to the same job and career
opportunities as men, nor the same rates of pay. This has an obvious
role in credit matters, as income and credit opportunities are obviously
linked. Legislation is 1963 guaranteed equal pay to women for equal
work, though achieving that goal completely is still a struggle. In
1967 came affirmative action benefits for women and in 1968 it became
illegal to place help wanted advertisements that specified the gender
of the employee sought.
While these changes improved
the income situation, it still did not bring equal access to credit
opportunities to women. Still, they found themselves – and their
credit worthiness – judged in terms of their husband. They had access
to credit in their husband’s name or as an appendage of their husband,
but not in their own individual right, in their own name. Naturally,
as divorce became more common, this became a very significant problem
for women who were forced by circumstances to start a new life as
In 1974, legislation came into
being that addressed this, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. With
this legislation, it became illegal to discriminate in terms of
credit opportunities based on such things as gender, marital status,
race, religion, age, nation of birth or prior residence, and even
the receiving of assistance from social services or public assistance.
However, as with civil rights legislation for African Americans
and other non-Caucasian groups, it took time for legislation to
translate into common practice.
to enjoy the access of credit that they have today, those two
factors had to come together, access to the same high paying
employment that and recognition of their full, adult personhood
outside of, and even within, the marital relationship. However,
legislation can only go so far in resolving such matters, and
it took the widespread social acceptance of such concepts to
create the opportunities enjoyed by women today, when they can
borrow to start a business, obtain their own mortgage for their
own home and have credit cards in their name.
Other historical perspectives: History of Credit | History of Formal Lending | History of Credit Reporting and Scores
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