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Should Credit Application Require Husband's Signature?

Should Credit Application Require Husband's Signature? image Should Credit Application Require Husband's Signature? image
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When a woman mames, she loses her right at several Arm Arbor stores (and many stores and institutions throughout the state) to open i a charge account in her own name and on her own - without her husband's signature. I And in at least one local I store, it apparently does not I matter whether the married I woman happens to be an lattorney, professor or busi[ness executive earning I $20,000 a year. Nor does it I seem to matter if she is the I sole support of the f amily. Her husband's signature Istill is required, apparently Ibecause of a law saying the Ihusband is responsible for his I wife's necessary debts. 1 There is no such policy I requiring a co-signer for sinI gle women over 21 years of f age, or for married or single men. A group of local woman, headed by 22-year-old Kay McCargar, is up in arms about the situation, and has retained a female attorney to see what can be done about it. A n o t h e r local woman, Antoinette Seratella, a secretary at the University's Institute for Social Research who says she was denied credit by the J. L. Hudson Company, Marti Walker's, and by Master Charge unless she obtained her husband's signature, has filed a complaint alleging sex discrimination with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. She is currently the sole support of her famiiy. The women have the support of the executive board of the Ann Arbor-Washtenaw County American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and have brought the matter to the attention of the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber plans to bring the matter up with the Downtown Business and Development Association. Attorney Carol Stadier says if a lawsuit is brought it might be on the basis of Michigan's sex discrimination laws, or possibly on the basis of the "equal protection" laws of the state Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. The state's s e x discrimination laws have been interpreted to apply to employment, however, and it is not clear that the credit cases would come under the law. Mrs. Stadier says a credit policy requiring the husband's signature "implies that a married woman is not capable of responsibility for her debts, whereas single women and married and single men are capable. "This is an insult to married women, especially to those who are employed and are the sole means of support for their families, as many women in Ann Arbor are. "These women who have means of p a y i n g bilis independent of their husbands' income are discriminated against in a most unjust way." The women also are backing a bilí (House Bill No. 4424) introduced in March in the Michigan House of Representatives b y Rep. Nelis J. Saunders (D-Detroit), which would allow married women to make tracts and obtain credit with-l out their husbands' 1 tures. That bilí, however, is currently in the House Labor Committee, and observers see little chance of it getting out of committee until at least autumn, if then. Mrs. McCargar, a University of Michigan gradúate student and an unsuccessful candidate in June for the Ann Arbor Board of Education, says the policy of some local stores requiring the husband's signature to open charge accounts is "insulting and part of the pattern of discrimination against women." She says many women are "annoyed by the practice and find it humiliating, especially if they happen to be the sole support of their families." Kay admits that some women, especially older ones who do not work, look upon] the situation as a "tempest in a teapot," and don't seem to mind getting their husband's signatures. But many younger women don't agree. "It's a small thing but symbolic of other things," 1 I I M I II S I I I I I I I I I I I '■■' ■ ■■■■■■ Kay says. She adds that many of her younger friends refuse to do business at stores with those policies. Kay and Mrs. Stadler argüe that the criterion for granting credit to married women should be - solely - whether or not she is employed and can pay her bilis. They also believe that the law saying the husband is responsible for the wife's necessary debts is "not really fair" and should be repealed. It should depend, rather, on who is employed, Mrs. Stadler feels. Some credit departments told The News that a w o m a n ' s employment is sometimes taken into considI eration, and if she has had a I "responsible" job over a I period of time, she may be granted credit on her own. (A woman of child-bearing age who is working might still be refused credit, however, according to Robert Barden, manager of the Ann Arbor Credit Bureau, since it is assumed she will probably eventually get pregnant and quit her job.) Barden also said that the obtaining of credit by a wife is a "family affair," and that I most stores which require the husband's signature do it because of the law which states that the husband is responsible for bis wife's I necessary debts. "It's just good sense," I Barden said. The manager of Marti Walker's clothing store on S. State St. -who said the husband almost always must cosign the wife's credit application, even if she has a responsible job - said the store didn't start the policy to disI crimínate against women. I "But the husband is lllllllllllllll'lli'l'l111"' IIIly responsible for the wife's debts," he said. "If a husband doesn't want the wife to have a charge account, he might refuse to pay." A telephone check by The News indicated that two other Ann Arbor stores, Penney's and Wagner's, plus the J. L. Hudson Company, usually require the husband's signature, although The News was told exceptions sometimes are made if the wife has her own income and credit references and proves she can pay her bilis on her own. Kay Baum, a local woman's apparel store, said the husband's signature is not required. M r s . McCargar, however, contradicts this, and says the Birmingham store, which handles the credit accounts, told her the husband's signature is, indeed, required. Other local stores contacted by The News said the husb a n d ' s signature i s not required, though many issue cards in the husband's name. At most stores which don't require the husband's signature, his name and occupation usually are asked, since credit checks are run in the husband's name. The general manager for i Bank - Americard, Frank Shumway, told The News from his Lansing office that the husband's signature is generally required before a Michigan Bank-Americard is issued to a wife. But he conceded that if the wife raises a "loud hue and cry," is working, and has her own income and credit references, the card might be issued in her name and without the husband's signature. "We're not enthused about doing it and we don't really like to do it, but if the woman ■ - has good reasons, we'll do it," Shumway said. L. F. Rybarsyk, vice president of the National Bank and Trust Company in Ann Arbor, which handles the city's Master Charge applications, says his bank prefers that a married woman "obtain a credit card in concert with her husband." But Rybarsyk says it is "possible to get a card without the husband's signature if the wife is and has been substantially employed on a perament basis and if the bank feels reasonably confident that her ability to continue her work would not b e impaired by either her present or future family responsibilities." Sybil L. Stokes, chairman of the Ann Arbor-Washtenaw County ACLU, says the credit policy of those stores which require the husband's signature is "antiquated in a period when 53 per cent of married women are employed." Mrs. Stokes believes that "requiring a married woman who is employed to have her husband act as co-signer to her charge account, when no such requirement e x i s t s either for employed males or employed single women, disc r i m i n at e s unjustifiably against these women. "To deny credit to a married woman who would otherwise be eligible for credit subjects a married woman to burdens in acquiring credit that are not imposed on other women who are single or on all males. Obviously in such a case, the woman is being I denied equal treatment on the I basis of her sex and marital I status alone," according to I Mrs. Stokes. Mrs. Stokes said one means I of protest would be sending I back credit cards to those I stores which have such I cies, telling the stores the I reason for the return. Whether or not interest in I the question o f married 1 women and charge accounts i is high enough to forcé I changes remains to be seen. A poll taken on June 24 by I a Detroit newspaper, 1 ever, indicated 55.7 per cent of I its readers were in favor of I the proposed bilí giving I ried women the right to make I contracts without the consent I of their husbands. Some 44.3 per cent opposed I the bill. Some of the comments of I those in favor of the bill I included: "I've worked all I my life and paid my bilis and I I can't even charge without I my husband's signature." . . . I "Since when is a woman's I money worth less than a I man's? . . . "My husband I thinks he has me in the palm I of his hand because I can't I buy a thing without his I ture" . . . "My husband got a loan using my furniture as collateral, so why can't I do the same?" These against a change protested thusly: "What are they trying to do to us men?" . . . "The way my wife spends money?' '. . . "Women d o n ' t know what they're doing" . . . "Only if those laughing hyenas in Lansing will pay my bilis." J Illllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll A credit policy requiring the husband's signature 'implies that a married woman is not capable of responsibility for her debts, whereas single women and married and single men are. This is an insult to married women, especially to those who are employed and are the sole means of support for their families.' .....■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ i i i i ■ i I I I 1 I 1 1 I II I I I I MUI I IIIIIIIIIIIIIII11 11


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