A Woman’s Rights

One day back in the late 1960’s one of the accountants in my section, a lady in her late 5o’s who I’ll call Margaret, came to work in an obviously foul mood.  I asked her what was bothering her, and I was shocked by what she told me.

Margaret had a son in his early 30’s who had not yet reached a degree of maturity that one would expect at his age.  He had difficulty holding jobs, was not on any clear career path, and didn’t manage his finances well.    He had been quite fortunate, however, in having a doting mama to turn to in troubled times.  Margaret had always been there for her only child – letting him move back home, paying off his debts and giving him spending money.

Margaret’s husband, her second, felt that the son was never going to grow up and be responsible as long as he could always count on mama to rescue him.  This issue had apparently arisen fairly often, causing conflict in their marriage.  In the past Margaret had always prevailed, but on this occasion hubby number two said “no more” – the boy would have to deal with his problems on his own.

Margaret’s husband was retired.  She was the breadwinner.  She had a good income and substantial savings.  I figured that Margaret was going to go ahead and bail out her son against her husband’s wishes and that was going cause problems at home. So I thought that was the reason for her foul mood.

Then she told me the real problem.  At that time in the state of Florida a married woman could not withdraw any funds from any bank or investment account without her husband’s signature, even though the account was solely in her name.  That’s what she was so pissed off about.  Her husband refused to sign a withdrawal and her credit union would not permit her access to her own money!

I was absolutely flabbergasted that in the Twentieth Century in the United States of America  women were denied control of their own property even in a state as backward as Florida was at the time.  Times have changed however, and that is not the case today.

I never found out how the matter was resolved.  Margaret never mentioned it again.  I suspect she eventually got her way.  Margaret was a very strong willed woman.




Filed under People, Reminiscences

2 responses to “A Woman’s Rights

  1. When I began working for a gay rights group in the UK it was said over and over again that women’s liberation should go hand in hand with our struggle. And, sure enough, that is how it was seen.

    Back in 1967 David Steel (later to be Leader of the Liberal Party and then the Liberal Democrats) proposed a Bill to make abortion legal and for it to be the woman’s choice. Meanwhile Roy Jenkins (Home Secretary and later co-founder of the Social and Liberal Democratic Party) proposed the legalisation of consenting gay male sex, providing both guys were over 21 and it took place behind locked doors with nobody else present. Both bills were eventually passed into law – albeit after some rather illiberal amendments from those on the right wing of politics.

    But of course these were both ground shaking reforms because up until 1967 gay acts had carried the death penalty which had more lately been commuted to life imprisonment, while abortion was completely illegal but could be bought on the back streets of any city. That arrangement had allowed richer men to buy their way out of trouble while keeping the women/girl quiet and effectively stopped ordinary girls and women from getting terminations.

    Oh and, of course, both Bills meant taking on the church’s and most of the right wing of politics to get them through. Apparently there were some humdinger debates!

  2. Ed

    It is amazing how much progress has actually been made in recognizing and guaranteeing rights in most of the Western countries, just since the mid-twentieth century. Granted, there is still more to be done, but I sense an inevitability. I believe that historians will consider this as one of the most significant movements of our times.

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