Lois Rabinowitz: Now You Can Wear Slacks

by Guest on March 17th, 2011
in Know Your History and tagged , , , , , , ,

Today’s guest post is from women’s success coach Bonnie Marcus. Bonnie takes a candid look at how attitudes towards women’s attire have often had serious consequences. Shining the light on lesser known women is what Women’s History Month is all about in my opinion. Enjoy!

It’s hard to imagine the days when women were frowned upon for wearing slacks in public. In the 1960’s, however, this was the case. Women were expected to wear a hat, gloves, high heels, nylons and a girdle. It was commonly accepted behavior for women to dress up every day before they left the house.

In the summer of 1960, Lois Rabinowitz went to traffic court in New York City to pay a speeding ticket for her boss. Lois was a 28-year-old secretary for an oil company executive. She was a newlywed and her husband of just two weeks drove her to the courthouse that morning. Lois was neatly dressed in slacks and a blouse.

Upon seeing Lois in slacks, the Magistrate of the court was outraged and sent her home.

Author Gail Collins in her book, When Everything Changed, comments that since the Magistrate had no known record of tossing men out of court for their attire, it was pretty clear that this incident was really about women’s place in the world.

“It was a convoluted expression of the classic view of sexual differences: women did not wear the pants in the family—or anywhere else, for that matter. In return, they were allowed to stand on a pedestal.”

Lois did not refute the Magistrate. She complied and left her husband to pay the ticket. She apologized to the court and said she would go home and burn all her slacks.

So why am I writing about Lois for Women’s History Month? because Lois represents a time in our recent history when women had very little freedom of expression.

As we celebrate the history of women and acknowledge our history as our strength, let us appreciate the progress we have made as women. Certainly, we still have a way to go to reaching gender equality, but just a few decades ago, women were chastised for wearing pants and now we represent more than half of the workforce and more than half of all college graduates.

Today it is also likely that the Magistrate of the court would be a woman. Now that’s progress!


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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt