Married Women Couldn’t Get Credit Until 1974 and Then Divorce Rate Skyrocketed

Earlier this summer, a historian’s tweet went viral after she said married women couldn’t get credit in their names until 1974 and the divorce rate skyrocketed as a result. But is her statement correct?

“The fact that married women couldn’t get a credit in their own names until 1974 and the divorce rate started to sky rocket a decade later is not a coincidence,” Rebecca Fachner wrote in a tweet on June 7.

Fachner then added a correction in a follow-up tweet, noting she actually meant to say married women couldn’t get “credit cards.”

Either way, Fachner’s tweet implies that once women could qualify for their own credit, it led to the breakdown of marriages.

Atlanta-based realtor Jazmyne Butler also broached the subject of women’s history with credit on Tuesday, June 26.

“Did you know that it wasn’t til the ’70s that women were able to apply for a loan without a male cosigner?” Butler posted in the caption of an Instagram post in which she encouraged women to avoid waiting until they were married to purchase a home. 

“It took around 10 years for courts to determine that a husband couldn’t take out a line of credit unilaterally for jointly-owned property with his wife. (smh),” Butler continued.

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While their goals are different, what both women are referencing regarding women’s credit is actually factual.

Until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 was signed into law, women could not get their own credit cards. If a woman was single, she couldn’t qualify for a credit card at all. If she was married, her husband had to co-sign for her to get approved, USA Today reported.

The act, however, made it illegal to discriminate “on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, receipt of public assistance, or good faith exercise of any rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.”

Butler’s claim is also correct. Women couldn’t get mortgage loans without a male cosigner until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was signed.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported one instance before the act’s passage: “A witness in a federal legislation hearing at the time had her 17-year-old son co-sign for a loan since she didn’t have a living husband, father or brother,” the Chronicle wrote.

Women also couldn’t get business loans until the 1988 passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act.

There is no hard proof to support Fachner linking the increased financial independence of women with the soaring divorce rate. However, divorces doubled between 1960 and 1980 and by the 1970s, more than half of marriages were failing, National Affairs reported.

That report places blame on then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan for signing the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill in 1969 and every other state follow suit in the next decade. The bill allowed people to get divorced without having to provide a reason.

Regan even said, “signing the bill was one of the worst mistakes of his political career,” his son, Michael Reagan wrote in his book, “The New Reagan Revolution.”

A Twitter user identified as Sarah Minnis said her Mom is living proof of Fachner and Butler’s points.

“My mom still has the BofA credit card co-signed by my grandpa that she got as a divorced woman in 1973. In my lifetime,” Minnis tweeted.

Other Twitter users also shared their mothers’ stories.

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