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16th May 2019

10 Absolutely Ludicrous Things Irish Women Couldn’t Do In The 1970’s


Ireland has come on leaps and bounds since the 1970s, particularly when it comes to gender equality and women’s rights.

Sure, there’s still a long way to go (the wage gap springs to mind), but this list compiled a couple years ago by Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole of 10 things Irish women couldn’t do in the ’70s shows just how much we’ve changed as a society in the last 50 years.

Ready for a trip down memory lane? Here’s 10 things you couldn’t even dream of doing as an Irish women 50 years ago…

1. Keep her job in the public service or a bank when she got married

Irish women had to leave their jobs when they got married, on the basis that they were potentially taking up a slot that could be given to a man. This changed with in 1977, when the Employment Equality Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender or marital status.

2. Sit on a jury

Mairín de Burca and Mary Anderson challenged the 1927 Juries Act in the Supreme Court in 1976, and won the prolific case.

3. Buy contraceptives

The 1935 Criminal Law Amendment Act made the import, sale, and distribution of contraceptives illegal. A 1985 Act allowed contraceptives to be sold to anyone over 18 but only in chemists, and even in 1991 Virgin Megastore was prosecuted for selling condoms, until the sale of contraceptives was liberalised later that year.

4. Drink in a pub

In the 70s, women weren’t allowed drink in pubs, although some let them in if accompanied by a man. As for pints? Women would only be served beer in glasses. The Equal Status Act was only put into law in 2002, which banned gender discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

5. Collect their Children’s Allowance

In 1944, legislation was introduced that meant only fathers could collect the state child benefit money. It wasn’t until the 1974 Social Welfare Act that Irish mothers had the right to collect it.

6. Get a barring order against a violent partner

The only option for a woman who was abused by her partner was to leave the home, or return to her abusive husband. This was helped with Ireland’s first legislation on domestic violence in 1976, which enabled a spouse to seek a barring order.

7. Own their own home

Until 1976, Irish women had no right to share the family home and her husband could sell their property without her consent.

8. Refuse to have sex with her husband

Consent was not an issue for the law when it came to marital sex in the 1970s. In fact, it was not until 1990 that marital rape was defined as a crime.

9. Choose her official place of residence

Not until 1985 could Irish women legally choose their official “domicile” – before that, it was wherever a woman’s husband lived that was her official place of residence.

10. Get the same wage for a job as a man

In 1970, almost all women were paid less than half then men for the same job (the average hourly rate for a woman was five shillings while it was nine for men). A law on equal pay was introduced in 1974.

Bonkers. We for one are looking forward to seeing how we progress even further in the next 50 years!

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