The Women's March: You Didn't Just March For You, You Marched For All Of Those That Came Before You

As I saw a quarter of million people descend on Chicago last Saturday, it moved me to tears.

I've run the gamut of emotions since the election, but the most prominent one has been fear.

Fear of a President who gives cover to people whose sole goal is to deny me my fulfillment of the American dream.  Fear that behaviors we would punish our children for is the new normal.  Fear that being a woman just got a little bit more difficult.

When I saw a crowd full of hyped up, pissed off and vocal women (and allies) I just about lost it on the red line.  It made me proud to be a Chicagoan.

It also reminded me why this march is needed.

My parents divorced when I was very young in the early 70's.  Eventually, my mother found out that my father had not paid a number of bills that were his responsibility.  One of which was the rent on our home.

It turned out that my father had not made a single rent payment to our landlord for years.

Not months---years.

So imagine a young woman just turning 30 with two small children and a mountain of debt that more than likely exceeded her public school teacher salary.

I almost forgot to mention---She was also working on a Masters in Education or she would have lost her job.  Our school system had made an advanced degree a requirement for continued employment.  She had no choice but to go back to school.

To this day I have no idea how she pulled it off.

But that's not what this post is about.

As my mother was rebuilding her life, she proceeded to have the utility bills switched over into her name.  The one bill that she couldn't get switched into her name was the water bill.  Why?  She never found out.  My mother was never given an answer.  She was just told no.

And it remained that way into the late 80's or early 90's when the South Bend Water Department finally put the bill in her name.

Ironically, the account was transferred over to the house that she purchased in 1979.

She was able to purchase a modest home but wasn't able to get a utility bill changed over into her name.

Let that sink in.

My mother strongly suspected that the bill wasn't switched to her name partially because at the time she had no credit history.  She had no credit history because, as a general rule,  woman weren't allowed to have their own credit.  The thought process was that women either didn't work or had such low paying jobs that they couldn't keep up payments. Then of course there were others who simply didn't give women credit because they thought they didn't need credit.  It was an arbitrary decision left up to the individual business or institution.

It also could have been that she was a recent divorcee in a city and region where that label carried a heavy stigma.

As I stated, the answer remains a mystery.

Prior to the behemoth credit agencies that we're familiar with today, most credit was granted locally or on an individual basis.

What some of you may not have known or fail to remember that until 1974 the Equal Credit Opportunity Act didn't exist.  The ECOA "prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or age..."  In short, if the bank, car dealership, department store or utility company did like the looks of you---regardless of your steady employment status , assets or income they could simply deny you credit and not have to give you a reason why.

Simply being a woman at one point in our country meant that you could be routinely denied your own credit.

The law that gave women a better grasp on their financial lives only happened 43 years ago.   It's widespread adoption took much longer.

Because of that financially crippling divorce, it took my mother and our family down a road where money was extremely tight growing up.  Our story was no different from many other families who scratched through the 70's and Reganomics of the 80's.

And stiring that memory in me is why I thank all who marched last Saturday.

I thank you for reminding our new President that his brand of governing is being closely watched.

I thank you amplifying the voice of other marginalized groups who are concerned about the forthcoming changes in Trump's America.

But most of all I thank you for letting America and the world know that we as women will not stand idly by as the misogynists attempt to roll the clock back to a time when a single or divorced woman couldn't even have a simple utility bill put in her name.

We've come too far to have to rely on our father's or husband's credit again.

 

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