Women's rights and their money: a timeline from Cleopatra to Lilly Ledbetter

Suzanne McGee and Heidi Moore – Guardian – Wednesday, 13 August 2014 (originally published 11 Aug)

Egypt Antiquities
Women had plenty of financial rights in ancient Egypt, but it’s been a little woozy ever since. Image: Uncredited/AP

When did women get the right to inherit property and open bank accounts? How long did it take until women won the legal right to be served in UK pubs? Our timeline traces women’s financial rights from ancient societies to the present day.

Many modern women in the US and Europe never question their right to open a bank account, own property, or even buy wine or beer in a pub. These rights, however, were hard won: for much of history, and even up to 40 years ago, middle-class women were not allowed to handle money; even having a job was seen as a sign of financial desperation. In the lastest addition to our Money and Feminism series, we trace the modern history of women and money.

Ancient Egypt, 3100 BCE and after: Women hold equal financial rights with men. As scholar Janet Johnson writes, “Egyptian women were able to acquire, to own, and to dispose of property (both real and personal) in their own name. They could enter into contracts in their own name; they could initiate civil court cases and could, likewise, be sued; they could serve as witnesses in court cases; they could serve on juries; and they could witness legal documents.” Women don’t always exercise these rights, Johnson says, because of social factors . . .

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