We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

I know this meme is essentially about black women, but that green square brought up unexpected emotion for me.

For all of my adult life, I’ve never had to worry about my financial independence.  As a young adult, I opened checking and savings accounts in my own name.  I had a Jordan Marsh charge card that I used to buy vinyl back when they were called record albums.  Through the years, I have opened checking accounts and credit cards for businesses as a sole proprietor.

But my mother didn’t have that experience.  She is one of those women who couldn’t open a checking account without her husband’s permission.  When my father left, she didn’t have a credit card and could not have gotten one without a male co-signer.  Eventually, she did get her own bank accounts but she had such bitter experiences trying to get credit in those early days of women’s financial independence, partly because my father hadn’t allowed her to work outside the home and so had no earning history since the early 1950’s, that she stubbornly refused to get a credit card and bought everything with cash.  If she didn’t have enough money for something, then she really didn’t need it, was her philosophy.  (My interpretation: if they wouldn’t give me credit, then screw ‘em!)

I think I got teary eyed when I read the significance of the green square because I’d forgotten how hard it was for my mother back then and how easy it’s been for me—anger for what she’d been subjected to and deep appreciation for the financial freedom I’ve been fortunate to enjoy.

It was interesting, but not surprising, to discover that Ruth Bader Ginsberg figured crucially in the financial liberation of women in the early 1970’s.  RBG argued several key gender discrimination cases before the all-male Supreme Court, winning 5 out of 6.  She founded and served as general counsel for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, one of the civil rights groups that pressured the US government to enact the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.  She was instrumental in presenting women as capable, intelligent entities, independent of the influence of men.

So, my heartfelt thanks for RBG and all the men and women who fought within relatively recent history for a woman’s right to make her own financial way in the world.  When I think of the work and sacrifice of the people who won these rights for me, that I’ve pretty much taken for granted most of my adult life, I feel equally spoiled and blessed. 

And as happy as I am to have lived to see a female Vice President (about f*#@ing time, IMHO!!), I hope that in the next few years, I’ll also see a female President!

RBG Photo credit: Bettman/Corbis/AP Images

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