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Equal Credit Opportunity Act

In 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Both the act and the process of passing it are representative of feminist strategies on issues of economic status during the first ten years of the contemporary feminist movement. The issue of credit as a problem of sex discrimination arose during the 1972 hearings of the National Commission on Consumer Credit (Gelb and Palley 1987). Testimony during those hearings documented the fact that, despite the increased number of women in paid employment and their access to the professions, banks and other lenders clung to traditional assumptions of the economic dependency of married women. Women, regardless of income, earning power, or marital status, were considered extra-risky borrowers. Evidence mounted of absurd and unfair practices: middle-aged single women required to get their fathers to cosign loans; divorced women automatically stripped of their credit cards; married men denied mortgages because the income of their wives was discounted; married women with no credit history despite decades of continuous employment and contribution to family assets.