1969: Nation's first ‘no fault’ divorce law passes
California's no-fault divorce law, adopted in some form by every other state by 2010, made it much easier to obtain a divorce. Instead of couples having to prove that their spouse wronged them in some way, one person’s desire to leave a relationship became grounds for ending unhappy marriages. Advocates believed that with this law in place, women were able to leave relationships they did not find fulfilling in a safer, fairer way.
1970: First woman plays American football
Patricia Palinkas joined the Orlando Panthers alongside her kicker husband, beginning a short, but historic career as the first woman signed to a professional football team. As a holder for her husband, Palinkas only played a few games before deciding she'd rather do something other than hold the ball for someone else. Still, her short career impacted a generation of female athletes, who wouldn't see another woman in professional football until Katie Hnida in 2010.
[Pictured: Football players in 1971.]
1971: Reed v. Reed is decided
Reed v. Reed was a Supreme Court case that invalidated an Idaho law requiring a man to be chosen when an equally qualified man and woman were arguing over who should execute a will. As such, it is a consequential case for the legal rights of American women. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment applied to discrimination against women. This established a stricter standard for sex discrimination and set a precedent for others—like future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—to argue more cases on gender discrimination.
1972: Title IX goes into effect
Title IX is part of a larger education reform act that requires gender equality for boys and girls in any education program that receives funding from the federal government. This applies to college athletics, sexual assault and harassment, employment, financial aid, and more. Title IX has been subject to a number of controversies since it was passed, most recently around issues of sexual assault, even as schools continue to work toward gender equity.
1973: Roe v. Wade is decided
One of the most well-known and controversial Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade established a woman's right to an abortion at any time during the first three months of her pregnancy, and, with some restrictions, in later trimesters as well. In the decade since the decision, the battle over abortion and reproductive rights has been among the most heated in American politics.
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1974: Women earn the right to open their own credit cards
Before Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, banks made men co-sign when a single, widowed, or divorced woman wanted to open a credit card, no matter how much she made. The new law made it illegal to discriminate based on gender, race, or national origin when issuing credit cards, giving women more independent access to money. Studies today still find that women are paying more for their credit cards.
1975: Icelandic women go on strike
The women of Iceland were tired of being paid less than men and not seeing women in government. So on Oct. 24, 1975, 90% of Icelandic women didn't go to work, take care of their children, or do any housework; instead, 25,000 marched in the streets of the capital city. The rousing turnout led to some changes, and Iceland's first female president was elected five years later. Iceland, the country where political representation of women is highest in the world, is now considered one of the best places in the world for women, and it is currently working on ending its persistent pay gap within five years.
[Pictured: Iceland's first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, in 1980.]
1976: First class of women enters West Point
American women worked alongside men in wars throughout the country's history, but on July 7, 1976, 119 female cadets first entered the service academy at West Point. Sixty-two would graduate in the class of 1980, completing their training as future military officers.
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1977: First woman wins an EGOT
Actress Helen Hayes—the first woman to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award—started on the stage at age 8, and went on to have a Tony-winning Broadway career spanning decades. She also picked up an Oscar in 1931 for her performance in “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” during a brief stint in Hollywood. After discovering an allergy to theater dust in the 1970s, she went on to star in several TV shows and took home a Grammy in 1977 to finish her sweep.
1978: Pregnancy Discrimination Act passes
Prior to the passage of this law, some employers refused to hire a woman if she was pregnant, while others commonly refused to promote or give raises to pregnant women for fear they'd soon quit and stay home with their families. The law protected the rights of women who also wanted to have children, but working mothers are still not treated equally compared to their male counterparts; studies have found the gender wage gap increases when women start families.2018 All rights reserved.