Enacted in 1974 to prohibit lenders from discriminating against women, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was amended in 1976 to further prohibit discrimination, including based on 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 the Equal Credit Opportunity Act
When: Oct. 9-10, 1974
Where: Washington, D.C. 

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

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

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

“Knowing the members composing this committee as well as I do, I’m sure it was just an oversight that we didn’t have ‘sex’ or ‘marital status’ included. I’ve taken care of that, and I trust it meets with the committee’s approval.”
—U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs, a Democrat from Louisiana, after discovering that the text of the ECOA bill did not mention discrimination due to sex or marital status, as reported in her 2013 obituary by ABC News. 

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Banker & Tradesman is highlighting significant moments in the history of Massachusetts’ real estate and banking industries. To suggest a topic, email editorial@thewarrengroup.com.

This Month in History: Women Finally Get Credit

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 1 min