Things Your Female Ancestors Were Not Allowed to Do

There are things that people do today that their female ancestors were not allowed to do. You might be surprised by some of the items on this list of things – especially the ones that you can easily do today. Your female ancestor’s were not allowed to:

Use a Public Bathroom
Ancient Rome had public bathrooms – for men. Women were not allowed to use public bathrooms at all. Lack of access to public bathrooms forced women to either “hold it” or to always stay very near their homes.

In 1877, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law that required workplaces that hired women to provide bathrooms for the women to use. Other states passed similar laws after that.

Ride in Trains
Cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell has noted that women were not allowed to ride on steam locomotives. The reason was because there was concern “that women’s bodies were not designed to go at 50 miles an hour”. There were worries that female passenger’s “uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed.”

Serve Jury Duty
In 1879, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a state may constitutionally “confine the selection [of jurors] to males.” Women were deemed unfit to serve on juries because of a “defect of sex”.

It was believed at the time that women should be excluded from juries because: “their primary obligation was to their families and children; they should be shielded from hearing the details of criminal cases; particularly those involving sex offenses; they would be too sympathetic to persons accused of crimes; and keeping male and female jurors together during long trials could be injurious to women.”

In 1898, Utah became the first state to deem women qualified for jury duty. By 1927, only 19 states allowed women to serve jury duty. You may be surprised to know that, in 1961, the Supreme Court, in an unanimous decision, upheld a Florida law that automatically excluded women from jury duty.

Women in the United States were not allowed to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified to the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920. It came after a huge effort made by the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. On November 2, 1920, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the first time.

It should be noted that 12 states did not approve the Nineteenth Amendment until 60 years later. The last state to ratify it was Mississippi, on March 22, 1984.

Get a Credit Card
Women in the United States were not allowed to have a credit card until 1974, when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act went into effect. Previously, women who applied for credit cards were told they were not “credit-worthy” and were turned down Women were told they could not have a credit card unless their husband signed for it.

Related Articles at

* What Life Was Like for Women 100 Years Ago

* What Your Mom and Grandmother Weren’t Allowed

* The History of Public Restrooms

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