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10 Things Women Used To Be Banned from Doing

Things Women Used to be Banned

Apparently, nobody is unaware of the fact that at some point in history, women didn’t have the right to vote, and it took some serious efforts and time after which women too, were involved in the process of choosing their own representatives. However, the question is, was it just the suffrage that women were denied, or does the list continue? Actually, the latter is the case, and women were not allowed to do some things that now seem unbelievable. The following is the list of 10 such things women used to be banned from doing.

1. Serving on a Jury

Women were considered too fragile and sympathetic to take part in serious cases and so were not allowed to sit on a jury except when they were defendants or third parties. The conditions changed just decades ago when the US Supreme Court finally revoked the ban in 1975.

Serving on a Jury
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The ban on women from serving on juries was put into law in 1879 with the Supreme Court ruling decision that asserted the state may constitutionally confine the selection of jurors to only males.

A number of states started practicing the law and as of 1927, only 19 states allowed women to serve on a jury.

The grounds for such legislation were stated as a “defect of sex” straightforwardly. It was considered that women should be obliged to their families and children and should be shielded from the details of serious criminal cases, especially sex offenses.

It was believed that women would approach be too sympathetic towards the offenders, and keeping male and female jurors during lengthy trials could be injurious to women.

Technically, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, but not all 50 states passed similar legislation until 1973 to 1975. (1, 2)

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2. Voting

It was a presupposition that women had inferior brains, were not mentally prepared, were just not made for politics, and so shouldn’t be voting. A decade-long battle ripped into the ultimate women’s right in 1920, and the 19th amendment granted women the necessary right to vote.

Voting
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The reasons laid out in favor of not allowing women to vote in those times were even considered as mainstream science which was, in reality, a complete pseudoscience. The notion was that if women overexerted their inferior brains, their health could suffer. Also, their ovaries could atrophy if they participated in politics, do some thinking, and voted.

The responsibility of suffrage was considered surely to be harmful to both the pregnant mother and the child. Moreover, their temperament during the menstruation period was also seen as rendering them unfit for politics; it was just too destabilizing.

The fundamental right of suffrage was denied to women during the first 144 years of American independence. The entire suffrage movement was popularized across the nation in the 19th century, and it substantially picked up some pace in the first two decades of the 20th century.

Groups of people from a variety of backgrounds came together and stuck to the primary conviction that our forefathers might have overlooked women when saying “all men were equal,” and the vote was their natural right too.

On 26 August 1920, Americans witnessed the 19th amendment to the constitution, and women finally had, the right to vote. (1, 2)

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3. Contraception

Couples were prohibited in many states to interfere with nature’s course until the 1965 Supreme Court ruling. However, single pregnant women were still prohibited from taking oral contraceptives in 26 states. It was only in 1972 that Supreme Court, at last, overruled a Massachusetts law that made distributing birth control to single women illegal.

Contraception
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Contraception was made illegal first in 1873 under the Comstock Act. The act prohibited the selling of birth control through postal mail. Many states thereafter passed similar laws.

The term “birth control” was coined in 1914 by Margaret Sanger who stated that enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty. The campaign of making contraceptives legal and available to women started at this particular point.

Then in 1921, Sanger founded American Birth Control League to push her campaign forward. That later was known as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The first oral contraceptive was approved by FDA in 1960, and by 1965, married women were legally allowed to use birth control.

However, the real problem of single women was only solved in 1972 when Supreme Court legalized birth control for unmarried women as well. (1, 2)

4. Smoking in Public

Some of the US cities, particularly New York City, prohibited women from smoking in public in the earliest years of the 20th century. However, these sexist legislations were very short-lived.

Smoking in public
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Taking the case of New York City, the law passed in 1908 that banned women from smoking in public. It was called the Sullivan Ordinance, nonetheless, it was revoked in just a couple of weeks.

Timothy Sullivan proposed a bill that obligated the owners of public establishments to not let women smoke.

The excuse for such laws was public decency. The act of publicly smoking was detrimental to the character and dignity of the fair sex.

A woman with a cigarette was considered dangerously sexual, immoral, and not trustworthy. Women who smoke were thought of as rebellious, and one without a respectable man on the streets was looked at as a prostitute.

Officially, the only known victim of the law was Katie Mulcahey, but nobody knows how many more women were tapped on their shoulders on the street and asked to stop smoking.

The smoking ban on women by Sullivan in 1908 wasn’t the last one. Just three years after that, the board of Alderman attempted to do it again. (1, 2)

5. Wearing Pants

Women only wore skirts in the past since it was not socially acceptable for them to wear pants. In some countries, wearing pants was even illegal because the act was seen as a symbol of masculinity and rebellion.

Wearing pants
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In the US, women used to wear long skirts with some exceptional women wearing pants-like garments to be comfortable at work or sports.

Women wearing pants was only formalized in the mid-20th century. However, the roots of the change could be traced back to the dress reform movement that started in the mid-19th century. Some women found skirts as bulky, heavy, and it limited their mobility, whereas for others the freedom to choose to wear pants was linked to the women’s rights movement.

The first-ever pant-like version of clothing for women was introduced in 1851 which looked something like a skirt extended below the knees. These were called “bloomers,” and they didn’t survive daily use for long.

World War I brought some changes since a decent number of women took over traditional men’s jobs, and up until World War II, women started wearing pants at work and socially too.

Even during the 1960s and 70s, women’s clothing centered around skirts. The trends gradually changed and pants were accepted since then at home, work, in public spaces. (source)

Also read: 10 Powerful Protests That Changed the Course of History

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