WTF Fun Fact 13546 – Women Couldn’t Open Bank Accounts

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.

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Source: “A Bank of Her Own” — JSTOR

WTF Fun Fact 13056 – Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin

Did you know a woman was elected to Congress before women in the U.S. even had the right to vote? Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin was elected to represent the state of Montana in 1916. That was four years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

Who was Jeannette Rankin?

Born in 1880 near Missoula, Montana (then a territory), Rankin was born to a prosperous rancher who had emigrated from Canada.

Jeannette Rankin was educated at what was then called Montana State University in Missoula (now known as the University of Montana). She graduated in 1902 with a biology degree, became a teacher, and then an apprentice to a seamstress.

After a trip to San Francisco in 1904, Rankin started volunteering and developed an interest in social work. She graduated from the New York School of Philanthropy (now called the Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1909. Then she moved to Spokane, Washington to take a job helping children in need.

Rankin served two nonconsecutive terms in the House during World War I and II but was known for voting against America’s entry into those wars. Her platform largely centered around expanding women’s voting rights, ensuring better working conditions for American laborers, and improving access to healthcare for women and children.

In 1917, when she took office, she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress. But I won’t be the last.”

Jeannette Rankin’s road to Congress

Rankin then traveled around the country, doing everything from organizing immigrant laborers after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to supporting nationwide suffrage for women.

She played one of the most significant roles in helping women gain the right to vote in Montana and then decided to run for one of Montana’s at-large House seats in 1916. While there was no national right to suffrage for women at the time, many Western states had passed their own laws.

When Rankin ran for office, she was one of many women who ran that year but the only female winner. In Kansas, over 300 women ran for office. In her own state, Rankin’s campaign was entirely ignored by the local press.

According to her webpage on the U.S. House of Representatives website (cited below), she won the Republic primary by more than 7000 votes. “Her platform supported several prominent issues during the Progressive Era—including nationwide suffrage, child welfare legislation, and the prohibition of alcohol.

“Because Montana was so sparsely populated, election results trickled in over three days. But in early November 1916, news arrived that Rankin had become the first woman in American history to win a seat in Congress. Although she trailed the frontrunner, Democratic Representative John Morgan Evans, by 7,600 votes, Rankin secured the second At-Large seat by topping the third-place candidate—another Democrat—by 6,000 votes.”

Not surprisingly, as the first female member of Congress, she was held to different standards, often being asked about her clothing more often than her politics.

But when she was sworn into office, she was greeted with loud applause.

Rankin’s political career

As a pacifist, she was criticized often, despite correspondence from her constituents leaning in favor of the U.S. staying out of WWI. But once the U.S. entered the war, she turned her attention to ensuring troops had what they needed while continuing to fight for national suffrage and workers’ rights in factories.

Redistricting eliminated her at-large House seat in 1917, so she ran for Senate in 1918. However, she lost by 2000 votes.

She continued her service work outside of Congress until 1940, when she challenged an anti-Semitic House Representative for Montana’s western district. She won the primary and then the election, returning to the House with 54% of the vote.

When Jeannette Rankin returned to Congress decades after her first stint, she sat alongside six other women.

However, her second stint was less successful since her pacifism was even less popular during WWII. She did not run for re-election in 1942. At the time of her death in 1973, however, she was considering another House campaign to protest the war in Vietnam.  WTF fun facts

Source: “RANKIN, Jeannette” — U.S. House of Representatives

WTF Fun Fact 12739 – The Dreams of Men

Multiple studies have shown tend to have more male characters in their dreams.

We have very little control over what we dream about, even though many of us try to direct our dreams. (I know I do – if I could spend all night dreaming about being a wealthy villa owner on an abandoned tropical coast instead of reliving a made-up scenario about missing a vital exam and never graduating high school, I would!)

Studying dreams

Anyway, there are hundreds of studies on dreams. Most of them involve having people use dream journals where they write down the contents of their dreams any time they awaken. The journals are then processed by a researchers who looks for certain characteristics without knowing anything about the person the journals belong to (that’s why they’re called a “blind judge” in many research papers).

Researchers usually start with common themes and types of characters and count mentions of them. And a lot of the research has backed up the data we’ve collected over time. (However, there are some differences between cultures as to what we dream about.)

Demhoff’s dream research

For example, G. William Domhoff wrote one of the most widely-cited papers on the genders we dream about (nearly two decades ago, before talking about more than two genders was a cultural priority). It’s called “The Dreams of Men and Women: Patterns of Gender Similarity and Difference,” and it was published in 2005.

In the paper, Domhoff is very clear that “The study of gender similarities and differences in dream content has proven to be a dangerous mine field for dream researchers.” That’s because this kind of information has the “potential to stir up all the tensions that inevitably accompany any discussion of gender in a world where gender discrimination–and conflicts between men and women on many personal issues–are pervasive.”

Limited interpretations

In other words, it’s likely that a large number of people will dislike this “fun fact” because they somehow feel judged by it or don’t like whatever they think it implies (which is largely nothing).

Demhoff was also careful to not that variations across cultures and across genders make generalizations difficult. He’s just reporting on one characteristic that he found to be statistically significant – the gender of the characters in people’s dreams.

Demhoff concentrated on American subjects since he was most familiar with the cultural characteristics of Americans. But other researchers have studied other cultures and found some key differences.

To make sure everyone is categorizing things in a roughly similar way, Demhoff used a coding system developed in 1966 called the Hall/Van de Castle system, where most things fall into pretty simple categories like: men/women; indoor setting/outdoor setting, etc. But that system was created based on the dream journals of white, middle-class college students at Case Western in the 1950s and 60s. In general, other studies have found these categories useful too.

So, on to the results (because results don’t mean much without some context first!).

What men dream of

Demhoff asked what percentage of dreams had a negative element “such as aggressions, misfortunes, failures, and negative emotions (anger, apprehension, confusion, and sadness)…” And the results were that “men and women are similar in that 80% of men’s dreams and 77% of women’s have at least one of these negative elements.”

When it comes to positive aspects, “such as friendly interactions, good fortune, success, and happiness, 53% of dreams for both men and women have at least one of those elements. Men and women also have an equal number of dreams in which food or eating is mentioned–about 17%.”

In addition, “Both men and women are more often victims than aggressors in the aggressive interactions in their dreams, and they face the same attackers, namely, men who are not known to them (“male strangers”) and animals. On a more positive note, both men and women are equally likely to befriend another character in their dreams.”

But we started with the most reported-on finding, which is that “men dream twice as often about other men as they do about women (67% vs. 33%), and women dream equally about both sexes (48% men, 52% women).”

What’s implied by the dreams of men? Not much

And here’s where people get offended. No one is implying that men fantasize about other men. They can be someone you fight on the street, your 5th grade math teacher, your dad…whatever.

Women may also have more of a character gender balance because their dreams tend to have more characters overall. This may be a result of women’s dreams being longer overall than men’s.

But Demhoff points out that this in not universal. Even among Black Americans, men and women tended to have an equal gender breakdown in dreams. Studies of Mexican and Peruvian teens as well as German college students also showed more of a gender balance. However, in each case there were slightly more men than women in everyone’s dreams.

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Source: “The Dreams of Men and Women: Patterns of Gender Similarity and Difference” — G. William Domhoff

WTF Fun Fact 12559 – The Roman Gladiatrix

The Romans were entertained by some pretty gruesome violence. And while gladiatorial combat didn’t originate in ancient Rome, that’s where we think of most of it taking place.

Gladiators were either born poor or were being punished for something. The most famous gladiator, Spartacus, had served as a soldier until a mistake got him imprisoned and enslaved and sent to train as a gladiator (prisoners had no choice – they could either train or be easily killed in the arena).

But if everything you know about gladiators comes from Spartacus or Russell Crowe’s turn in the arena, then you might be surprised to learn that every now and then, Romans could catch a glimpse of women in the arena fighting for their lives.

Referred to as gladiatracies (or Amazons, colloquially), they found topless, and there was an erotic element to their skillset. They weren’t pitted against men but other women or, occasionally, dwarves. It all depended on the predilections of that particular emperor at the time.

In fact, the memorably unstable emperor Nero put Ethiopian men, women, AND children in the arena together, presumably to shock and (for some) delight.

There were female gladiators in ancient Rome. They were rare, but we know gladiatrices existed partly because they were viewed as symptoms of a corrupt society and officially banned in 200 AD.

After all the scandal of seeing women this way, Septimius Severus (the emperor after the also-unstable gladiator-loving Commodus) decided that people had seen enough debauchery from women in the arena and banned female gladiators in 200 AD. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Did female gladiators exist?” – BBC Culture

WTF Fun Fact 12424 – Marilyn Monroe’s Drone Skills

At 18-years-old, Norma Jeane Dougherty was the wife of a U.S. merchant seaman who worked in a factory for Radioplane in Burbank, California. Founded by actor Reginald Denny, the company made remote-controlled, pilotless aircraft – also known as drones.

Of course, in the 1940s, the word “drone” didn’t carry the baggage it does today. These drones were used to perfect the targeting skills of U.S. soldiers in the Army and Navy. Then came D-Day and Operation Aphrodite, in which similar drones were packed with explosives and used to bomb Nazi sites after the pilots ejected.

Back on the homefront, Norma Jean Dougherty ignored advice to quit her 10 hour/day drone factory job (where she sprayed and inspected parachutes) for fear it would ruin her hair and skin. Already a beauty, she was later named “Queen” of the company picnic and awarded a $50 war bond. She continued to work.

A year later, Norma Jean was photographed in color film (rare at the time) while holding a Radioplane propeller to show the role of women in the war effort. It’s part of what helped turn her into a star. She would soon change her name to Marilyn Monroe and leave the factory for Hollywood. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: Marilyn Monroe’s World War II Drone Program — The New York Times

WTF Fun Fact 12416 – The Dodge La Femme

In the 1950s, more and more women were driving, and car companies decided to manufacture cars that they thought would somehow meet more “feminine needs.”

Among the cars were:

  • Dodge La Femme
  • Chrysler La Comtesse
  • Pontiac Parisienne
  • Chevrolet Impala Martinique
  • Cadillac Eldorado Seville Baroness

They could all be purchased in pink (and some in lavender).

The La Femme, a car marketed for “the discriminating, modern woman,” even came with its own matching pink handbag, lighter, compact, lipstick, boots, and cape, along with places to hang or store them within the car.

Most of the cars were simply regular models with feminine trim options and floral interiors, but they were often marketed as easier to drive.

Car literature was careful to point out that nothing under the hood was pink (you know, just in case it might make a husband or mechanic feel less manly to work on it).

The cars were not a success, but that didn’t stop automakers from sending literature to dealers telling them to market the pink vehicles as wildly popular. Dodge tweaked the La Femme a bit to include gold interior elements, thinking that would make it sell better. It did not.

None of the cars were made for very long, and some think that the failures of the pink “lady” models led to more gender-neutral marketing for ubiquitous-but-pricey products such as automobiles. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Dodge’s LaFemme is the First Automobile with A Gender – It’s Female” — Popular Mechanics

WTF Fun Fact 12414 – Betty Robinson Wins Again

You may not know the name Betty Robinson (or, perhaps, you do!), but she’s an Olympic success story for the ages – and a weird one at that.

Betty “Babe” Robinson grew up in a small town south of Chicago called Riverdale. She had many natural abilities, including running. She was fast.

Her Biology teacher, Charles Price, noticed how fast she was when he was her run down the hallway. He timed her, and after clocking her speed, he encouraged her to train with the boy’s track team a few towns over at Thornton Township High (there were no girl’s track teams in that area at the time).

She soon ran in regional events and kept pace with female US world record holders. After that, she was invited to join the Illinois Athletic Women’s Club. Then she beat the world record and moved on to the US Olympic trials.

In 1928, she was selected to represent the US in the Amsterdam Olympics, the first Olympics that allowed women to compete in track and field. She won gold in the 100m at the age of 16. At the time, she has only been running competitively for five months.

(A fun fact for those old enough to remember: Those were the same games in which swimmer Johnny Weissmuller competed. After that, he would go on to his iconic role as Tarzan!)

Babe Robinson returned to her country, state, and town a hero and continued to set records until one fateful day in 1931. Robinson wanted to cool off on a hot day, but her coach wouldn’t let her swim because he insisted it would interfere with her training. So she asked her cousin to take her flying in his small plane to get some reprieve from the heat. Then, disaster struck.

The plane took a nosedive into a field, and the wreckage indicated no survives among the mangled metal and bodies. The man who pulled her out assumed she was dead and put her in the back of his vehicle to drive her to the undertaker.

But she was alive (as was the pilot)! Unfortunately, Robinson suffered injuries to her head, hip, and arm – and badly broke a leg. She also had internal injuries and drifted in and out of a coma for days.

By all accounts, that should have ended her running career. After surgery to put a pin in her left leg, it was shorter than her right leg. She walked with a limp and was told her days of competition were over.

But Babe Robinson wasn’t about to let doctors tell her what was possible. She missed the 1932 Olympic Games but made the team again in 1936 when they were held in Berlin. She couldn’t run as fast, but it was still fast enough. The only problem was she was no longer physically able to crouch down in the starting position – something required of those running in the 100m race.

That’s when she decided to join the women’s 4x100m relay team, a race that didn’t require her to crouch. She was 24 years old and, at the time, the oldest member of the team. The Germans were heavily favored to win but got disqualified on a handover of the baton. Meanwhile, Robinson handed the baton off to Helen Stephens, who had just won the 100m (the race Robinson so dearly wanted to run in). The US team took the gold, and Robinson became a two-time gold medal winner after being assumed dead in that plane crash.

This time, her victory took a back seat to the amazing feats of runner Jesse Owens, who won an astonishing four gold medals. But Betty “Babe” Robinson would remain involved in the sport for decades, later being inducted into the USA National Track & Field Hall of Fame and even carrying the torch for a bit at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta when she was 84.

She passed away in 1999 at age 87 after suffering from cancer and Alzheimer’s, but she remains the youngest woman in history to win gold in the 100m.

If you want to know more, writer John Carroll wrote an incredible story about her in Runner’s World in 2019, and you can read it by clicking here. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Betty Robinson: how the fastest woman in the world came back from the dead” — Runner’s World