Updated: Dec 1, 2019

By Barbro Andren

When I was first married, in 1973, women were not allowed to have credit cards in their own name. If you were single, your parents had to co-sign. If you were married, your husband had to. If you were single and your parents were dead, I suppose you’d have to find a co-signer. But you, as a single woman, get credit on your own? Forget it.

In 1974, with the passage of the Equal Opportunity Act, that changed. So after divorcing husband #1, and before marrying husband #2 in 1978, I decided to get my very own credit card. It wasn’t a VISA or a Mastercard, rather, it was a Marshall Field’s Department store charge card.

Having already been married once (in a brown dress I bought in London. It was the 1970s) I didn’t want a traditional wedding dress (as if my first one was) Instead, I wanted something flowing and tea-length and that I could wear again. (My thought process on that was my mother’s black wedding suit. When she and my father eloped in 1939, she said that if she was going to spend that much money on an article of clothing, it was going to be something practical. A black suit and City Hall was good enough for her.)

I never bought a Bride’s magazine, but rather, paged through Vogue every month in search of the perfect dress. (No internet browsing back then.)And then I saw it. It was a beautiful ivory slip dress with a sheer, long-sleeved overdress that had a very faint delicate pattern of roses and leaves. I can’t believe that I don’t remember who made it, (and it burned up in a house fire a few years ago so I don’t have it any longer to reference) but it was perfect.

Back in those days, you could call the Bridal Department at Marshall Fields and say, “I say this dress I loved on page whatever of Vogue, and it says it can be gotten at the Milwaukee store.” Whereupon, they would find the dress and ship it to you.

It was $300. Back in 1978, $300 was a fair amount of money, two month’s rent. However, a “real” wedding dress would have set me back even more.

And that’s what prompted me to get my own credit. I had a job. I didn’t have the $300, and so I applied for my first credit card. If I paid them $50 a month for six months (plus tax) a saleswoman at Marshall Fields would order the dress of my dreams for me.

I remember getting, and paying off, the bills. It was a truly liberating experience. All of my life, men had dictated the “rules” for women. We had to wear skirts or dresses. We were shuffled into traditional “women’s jobs” Secretary. Teacher. Nurse. Airline Stewardess (which is what they called them back then).

We couldn’t have safe, legal abortions. We held precious few political seats. We were brought up to do defer to men. To do as we were told. That we, as girls and women, didn’t matter as much as men. Even as a kid I cried “Bullshit!”

And so a bunch of women older and younger that me got mighty pissed off in the late 1960s and early 1970s and picked up where the Suffragettes left off. We got the vote - but little else.

I know that my daughter, in her mid-thirties, has been somewhat astonished over the years learning of the rights my generation didn’t have. And why shouldn’t she? All of the rights we fought for have been a given. Until now. Women are being threatened worldwide. The proverbial “they” don’t want us to have rights. To have voices.

But just as they didn’t want us to have the vote. Or wear pants. Or get jobs. Or fight on the front lines. We will get what we want. What we deserve.

@OurCirNews is fortunate to have some topnotch money management contributors who will share there extensive knowledge on how women should approach their finances. I encourage every woman, regardless of age, to establish credit in your name. To ask questions. To become informed. For unless women have true financial independence, they have no independence.

This advice may sound foolish to younger generations, who, for the most part, are blazing their own trails. But to us aging baby boomer women, some of whom are stuck in bad marriages or relationships because they never took the initiative to take care of themselves, please know that it is never too late to liberate yourself financially. And by doing so, you will take control of more in your life than money.

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