This Month in History: Women Finally Get Credit


Enacted in 1974 to prohibit lenders from discriminating against women, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was amended in 1976 to further prohibit discrimination, including on the basis of race, religion and national origin. President Gerald Ford signed the ECOA amendment at the White House Rose Garden on March 23, 1976. Photo courtesy of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum | Public domain

What: Congress passes Equal Credit Opportunity Act
When: October 9-10, 1974
Where: washington d.c.

Prior to 1974, lenders could refuse to issue credit cards to single women. A married woman could get a credit card, but only if her husband co-signed the application. Lenders could also deny women mortgages or require them to meet different lending standards and down payment requirements.

A 1971 US Supreme Court decision paved the way for legislation against financial discrimination. In Reed v. Reed, the court ruled that an Idaho law giving preference to men when appointing an estate administrator was unconstitutional. Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg co-wrote the case brief as a volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

First introduced to Congress in 1973 by then-Rep. Bella Abzug, D-NY, the ECOA was signed by President Gerald Ford on October 28, 1974. The Federal Reserve enforced the law until the Dodd-Frank Act transferred that responsibility to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Knowing the members who make up this committee as well as I do, I’m sure it was just an oversight that we didn’t include ‘gender’ or ‘marital status’. I have dealt with it and I hope it will receive the approval of the committee.
—U.S. Representative Lindy Boggs, Democrat of Louisiana, after discovering that the text of the ECOA bill did not mention discrimination based on sex or marital status, as reported in her 2013 obituary by ABC News .

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Banker & Tradesman is highlighting important moments in the history of Massachusetts’ real estate and banking industries. To suggest a topic, email [email protected]


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