Many years ago there was a commercial that claimed, “You’ve come a long way baby.” After reading this article, you’ll realize and appreciate that today’s women have truly come a long way toward greater financial independence and freedom. And I’m sure we have many more financial trails to blaze.
I recently read a poll that was very interesting. Here’s the gist: “Of all the freedoms that women have earned over the past 100 years, which do you feel is the most important?”
a. right to control own money
b. right to vote
c. getting rid of the corset
d. greater educational/employment opportunities – and a few more choices.
Which do you think was the leading vote getter?
If you chose – a. right to control own money, you’re right.
Here are some interesting facts you may or may not know about what women were legally “allowed” to do and not do with their own finances.
~ As recently as the 1960’s married women could not borrow money in their own name.
~ In the 1960’s it was legal to pay women and men differently for doing exactly the same job. In fact it was legal to advertise jobs: Help Wanted – Men or Help Wanted – Women.
~ In early American law there was a legal concept known coverture. Basically it decreed that a women’s legal status after marriage changed so that husband and wife became one legal entity. What did that mean? A woman lost her legal identity as far as financial and property rights were concerned. Wives could not control their own property (physical or financial), could not bring lawsuits and could not make contracts. The husband had complete control to sell or dispose of property without her permission, even if the property belonged to her before the marriage.
~ Dower was the portion or share of a woman’s deceased husband’s real estate to which she was legally entitled to inherit. Generally, the wife was entitled to just one-third of her deceased husband’s property. As the widow, she had no rights to sell or bequeath her share of that property. The United States abolished dower in 1945.
Why do I even bring up the past? I believe, many of the old “truisms” about women and money are still affecting money beliefs today. As modern capable women, we may be dragging around old beliefs, insecurities and “truisms” about the ability to expertly handle money.
Ask yourself this, what did you hear in your family or neighborhood about wealthy women?
Your negative and positive beliefs and values about money are handed down from generation to generation. Beliefs and values are formed through family stories, watching the behavior of important role models and even unconscious emotional reactions to day-to-day financial situations. What great-grandmother believed and felt generations ago may still be a part of your unconscious belief system today.
The lessons to be learned: The past is the past – it’s our time and choice to go forward in positive, empowered and productive financial ways.
Note from Sharon Michaels: I wrote this post in 2009 as the editor of the BellaOnline.com Abundance and Wealth site. In light of the historic “breaking the glass ceiling” moment we’ve recently experienced here in the United States, I’m re-posting this as a reminder of just how far we women in the United States have come. No matter your political affiliation, let’s all step back and appreciate the history that has been made.
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