The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left the nation remembering her incredible legacy of service. Justice Ginsburg tirelessly fought for equality, especially for women. To honor her legacy, we wanted to examine how Ginsburg helped transform the housing market into a more equitable sphere for women, allowing them to engage in the market independent of male control.
A Brief History*
Until the mid-1800s, women were generally restricted from owning property or engaging in transactions like the purchase or selling of real estate. Under “common law,” a woman’s property became her husband’s upon marriage, and only the husband had legal authority over most, if not all, decisions regarding the property. In 1848, New York passed the Married Women’s Property Act, which, among other allowances, gave women the legal autonomy to maintain control over whatever property they brought into the marriage, and inspired many states to adopt similar laws.
In 1920, women were granted the right to vote in the U.S., but they still weren’t economically independent, especially if they were married. Even into the 1970s, women could not apply for credit cards, maintain employment upon pregnancy, and often could not manage their own bank accounts without a male co-signer.
From Progress to Freedom, Ginsburg Style
Motivated by her own experiences with sexism, Ginsburg worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the 1970s. During this time, she founded the Women’s Rights Project, one of the major arms working towards national women’s equality under law. It was through this initiative she fought for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which passed in 1974. This law finally gave women the legal authority to apply for bank accounts, credit cards, and mortgages without a male cosigner.
But, that was only the beginning of Ginsburg’s work. Here are some of the major cases she argued before over the course of her storied career to further women’s legal independence:
- 1971 – Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution; Section 214 of IRS Code: Men and women are equally entitled to the same caregiving and Social Security benefits.
- 1978 – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Employers cannot fire or consider a woman for a job because they are pregnant or have plans to become pregnant.
- 1979 – Jury Duty for Women: Overturned the thought that women’s civic duty to serving on a jury should not be lessened and deemed only optional.
- 1996 – United States vs. Virginia: During her time on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg led the ruling decision that state-funded schools must admit women.
The Modern-Day Woman
Thanks in part to Ginsburg’s efforts, more single women than ever before are obtaining homeownership without a partner. In fact, a 2019 survey indicated that single females accounted for 1 out of every 5 home sales. Single women have also outpaced their male counterparts in real estate purchases for almost three decades.
Thanks to the work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others who tirelessly fought for female equality, the opportunity to obtain a home is more accessible than any other time in history. Feeling inspired to start your own homebuying journey? The Homes.com How-To can help you navigate the process, start to finish.
Women still face stigma when buying a home alone, especially at a young age, according to recent homebuyer Alyssa Hanzl which Homes.com interviewed. Nevertheless, they persist and turn their dream into reality. Hanzl recently recounted her homebuying journey as a single, 23-year-old, recent college graduate. Add in the global COVID-19 pandemic and you have a recipe for disaster, yet, she still made it work.
The next time you see a post on social media thanking Justice Ginsburg for helping women, now you truly know the history behind her support as it pertains to homeownership.
*Sourced from the Guardian, Encyclopedia of Women’s History, UPenn Law, Britannica, Bureau of Labor Statistics, History.com, Yale School of Management, and Bank of America.