When women couldn’t open bank accounts in the U.S., their financial autonomy was severely restricted, hindering their progress toward economic independence and equality.
It wasn’t until 1974 that women in the U.S. were allowed to open a bank account on their own.
A Time When Women Couldn’t Open Bank Accounts
Women’s Financial Independence in the U.S. saw its roots in a long history of legal restrictions. Historically, women in America operated under coverture, a legal doctrine derived from English common law. This principle dictated that a woman’s legal rights and economic identity were covered or absorbed by her husband upon marriage. Consequently, women couldn’t possess property, sign contracts, or maintain their wages if they worked.
Shift in Dynamics Post-WWII
The period following World War II marked significant changes for women in the workforce. With a large number of men deployed overseas, women took on roles traditionally held by their male counterparts. They began earning and managing money, thereby getting an initial experience of financial independence. However, the post-war era saw a push to restore conventional gender roles, making the drive for financial autonomy even more critical.
The 1960s and 1970s witnessed an intensified push for equal rights. The pinnacle moment for women’s financial independence came with the passing of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) in 1974. This act made it unlawful for creditors to discriminate against any applicant based on sex or marital status. Following this, women could independently open bank accounts, secure credit cards, and obtain loans without a male co-signer.
Impact of the ECOA
Post-ECOA, women had the capacity to establish individual credit histories, which were essential for various financial endeavors ranging from home buying to starting a business. However, this newfound freedom was just one step. Many women continued to navigate challenges, including wage gaps and limited representation in high-ranking professional roles.
The ability for women to open bank accounts without male intervention was more than just a legislative change; it was a significant milestone in the broader context of women’s rights in the U.S. While challenges remained, the legal recognition of a woman’s right to financial independence marked an essential shift in the journey toward gender equality in the country.
Source: “A Bank of Her Own” — JSTOR