8 Things Women Couldn't Do On The First Women's Equality Day In 1971 -- And 6 They Still Can't

08/26/2014 11:02 am ET | Updated Aug 27, 2014
  • Emma Gray Executive Women's Editor, The Huffington Post

In 1971, Congress declared August 26th -- the day in 1920 on which the 19th amendment, which gave American women the right to vote, was certified as law -- Women's Equality Day. Every year since, we've had a designated 24 hours to reflect on how far we've come since women couldn't even cast a vote for President in this country, and how far the country still has to go, when it comes to gender equality.

8 Things Women Couldn't Do In 1971...

1. Get credit cards in their own names.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 gave women that right. The law forced credit card companies to issue cards to women without a husband's signature.

2. Legally get an abortion.
The seminal Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, which protected a woman's right to choose, didn't happen until 1973.

3. Access the morning after pill.
The FDA first approved emergency contraception in 1998, and the morning after pill became available over the counter just last year, in 2013.

4. Be guaranteed they wouldn't be fired for getting pregnant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 added an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specificyng that employers could not discriminate "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions."

5. Marry another woman.
Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Love is love is love.

6. Fight on the front lines.
Women were first admitted into military academies in 1976. And in 2013, the military ban on women in combat (tied to a Pentagon rule from 1994) was lifted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

7. Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment.
According to The Week, the first time a court recognized office sexual harassment as grounds for legal action was in 1977.

8. Decide not to have sex if their husbands wanted to.
Spousal rape wasn't criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.

In 2014, Beyonce is performing at the VMAs with the word "feminist" emblazoned behind her, but "equality" is still something that feels out of reach for many women.

6 Things Women Still Can't Do In 2014...

1. Receive equal pay for equal work.
Yes, the gender wage gap still exists. Just ask Joan Halloway.

2. Name a female president.
We're still waiting for the first...

3. Marry another woman in any of the 50 states one chooses to live in.
Since 1971 the tide of public opinion on marriage equality has turned -- same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C. -- but there are still 31 that ban gay marriage, 28 through constitutional amendments.

4. Necessarily access an abortion.
Despite the fact that it is legal for women to terminate their pregnancies in the U.S., states have been enacting more and more restrictions around the procedure and making it harder for clinics to perform it. In July, the Washington Post reported that more than half of Texas' abortion clinics have shut down since newly-restrictive legislation passed last year. And according to NARAL, abortion restrictions disproportionately impact young women and poor women.

5. Be guaranteed paid maternity leave.
Pour another one out for American exceptionalism. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee new mothers paid leave. (A devastatingly small percentage of U.S. companies -- 16 percent -- offer fully paid maternity leave.)

6. Be sure their health insurance will cover contraception.
Despite an Obamacare mandate, demanding that employers that are not religious institutions or houses of worship fully cover birth control, some insurers are refusing to do so. (And of course, the Hobby Lobby case gave some for-profit employers exemption from covering contraception.)

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1 "I've always wanted 'made to order dimples!'" -- said no woman ever.
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  • 2 If men hate the sight of you, tell them to kindly step off.
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  • 3 "Gap-osis:" the most offensive way to say "perhaps you should visit a tailor."
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  • 4 Um, actually it is -- and a perfectly desirable one at that.
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  • 5 Because every woman wants to fix "flaws almost invisible to the ordinary eye." Nightmares.
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  • 6 We've already ordered these for the office so we can stay warm all day (while we exercise our intellect).
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  • 7 Take note ladies, use the wrong deodorant and you will be alone forever.
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  • 8 Has your partner refused to kiss you lately? Buy Tangee lipstick! Or dump her/him.
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  • 9 We think dishpan hands should be a source of pride. It means that you wash your hands...
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  • 10 Well, this one isn't going for any subtlety.
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  • 11 Thankfully, we aren't being told that Lysol is an effective form of contraception anymore.
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  • To read more about this dangerous trend head over to Mother Jones.

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