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Have you ever wondered – do I own my knickers? Well, married women did not legally own theirs until 1870. One suffragist wrote:

‘I discovered that the purse in my pocket and the watch at my side were not my own but [my husband’s], I felt it was time women should have the power to amend these preposterous laws’.

Others graphically described the financial injustices and inequalities suffered by wives, stating that legally they were the same as children.

Elizabeth and her colleague, Josephine Butler, worked to change the law so that women could keep any money they earned and have the rights to property they owned. A bill was drafted, articles written and many thousands of signatures collected.

In 1870 the Married Women’s Property Act (MWPA) was passed and then a subsequent act in 1882 made it fairer to women. BUT … it was 1975 before  women could open a bank account without the permission of a male relative.

In the 1960s The New York Times reported that in Edinburgh the National Commercial Bank of Scotland was opening a ‘ladies-only’ branch, to be staffed by ladies. The article stated that:

‘British women, having invaded practically every other field of male activity, are now to have their own bank, complete with powder room.’

Next time you buy something for yourself, remember that if you are a married woman, people had to fight for the right you now have.

For a full article about the MWPA: