No Passport, No Bank Account, No Bathroom?! Things Women Couldn’t Do In The 1920s

The 1920s granted several rights to women throughout the decade, such as the freedom to vote and own land. But many laws and regulations that seem commonplace nowadays were not offered to this generation. For instance, women could not work while pregnant until 1970s, or serve on juries until the 1960s. Accessible public restrooms, co-ed schools, and specific retail jobs were rarely a part of a woman’s world in the ’20s. When you explore all the rights held back from women post-WWI, you’ll newly appreciate how far society has come.

They Couldn’t Carry Their Own Passport Or Travel Alone

William Butler Yeats' passport women could not obtain passport in 1920
Niall Carson / PA Images via Getty Images
Niall Carson / PA Images via Getty Images

While unmarried women could apply for a passport using their own name, married women could only receive a joint visa with their husbands. For example, the passport would only state “Mr. John Doe and his wife,” keeping the woman anonymous. This prevented women from traveling abroad on their own.

It was possible for married women to obtain their passports, but the process was usually cut short by headaches and rejections. Some women did speak up against this idea–Ruth Hale, for instance, lead a lifelong crusade to fight for women to use their maiden name on passports.