The United Kingdom has come on leaps and bounds since the 1970s, particularly when it comes to gender equality and women’s rights.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go but the list of things British women couldn’t do in the ’70s shows just how much we’ve changed as a society in the last 50 years.
Ready for a trip down memory lane? Here’s 10 things you couldn’t even dream of doing as a British women 50 years ago…
1. Get a mortgage
Working women were refused mortgages in their own right as few
women worked continuously. They were only granted mortgages if they
could secure the signature of a male guarantor.
2. Keep her job when she was pregnant
It was only in 1975 that the Employment Protection Act introduced statutory maternity
provision – and made it illegal to sack a woman because she is
3. Be guaranteed equal pay to men
It was in 1970 that the Equal Pay Act finally made it illegal to pay women lower rates than men
for the same work.
4. Practise safe sex
Well, safe sex – with no risk of pregnancy – meant NO sex. Contraception finally became available through the NHS in 1974 as a direct result of
pressure from the women’s movement.
5. Work in the Foreign Service after marriage
The marriage bar prohibited married women from joining the civil service, and required women civil servants to resign when they became married (unless granted a waiver). It was not abolished until 1973 for the Foreign Service.
6. Expect protection from domestic violence
In 1976, the Domestic Violence Protection Act finally gave police more powers to arrest and increased courts’ protection of battered wives.
7. Work in the London Stock Exchange
A landmark 10 women were finally admitted to the London Stock Exchange in 1973.
8. Accuse her husband of rape
For centuries, marriage created conjugal rights between spouses – meaning a spouse could not revoke conjugal rights, therefore there could be no rape between spouses. The law was it was not overturned until 1991 by the House of Lords.
9. Have a legal abortion
Well, in 1967 the Abortion Act legalised abortion in England, Scotland and Wales, for women who were up to 24 weeks pregnant. Two consenting doctors had to agree that continuing the pregnancy would be harmful either to the woman’s physical or mental health, or to the child’s physical or mental health when it was born. But in Northern Ireland, the 1967 act has never been adopted.
10. Ask for help from a women’s refuge
The first women’s refuge was set up in Chiswick in 1971 by Erin Pizzey. It provided protection for women who were being abused by their husbands and needed a safe place to stay. Eventually refuges across the country were brought together into one national organisation, Women’s Aid, in 1974.
We are looking forward to seeing how we progress even further in the next 50 years.