Save. Spend. Splurge.

Women weren’t frivolous magpies in the past: Jewellery was their only source of wealth

Women get a bad rap for being frivolous magpies. Honestly, when they talk about getting gifts, jewellery and so on, people always disparage how frivolous and dumb such a practice is for women to do so, when in fact, it is partly rooted in the history of it being a necessity for women in the past.

Sure, humans liked to adorn themselves. Who doesn’t see the beauty in jewellery? The rank it denotes? The status of who you were if you were allowed to wear gemstones or not? A good early history of ancient jewellery shows how important jewellery has been in different cultures and countries.

But above all of that, women had to have a way to have their wealth readily accessible. It also had to be portable in case they had to pack everything up, sew it in the lining of coats, skirts and clothing so in case they had to flee with whatever they could carry – they could.

They also had to be able to have something small but valuable enough to bring to a pawnbroker to resell for easy or quick cash because…

1964 was the year that women were allowed to open their own bank account without their husband’s permission.

Do you know for instance, how and why Juliette Gordon had founded the Girl Scouts of America?

Because her husband was unhappy with her, and started having an affair with another widow in 1901. He demanded she divorce him, but he died in 1905 before they finalized anything. She ended up getting some of that money after going to court, but the most salacious part of it all is she had started The Girl Scouts Guides in 1911 as a way to have girls become more self-sufficient, and in 1915, sold her wedding present – a pearl necklace worth $8000 at the time or $204,195.64 in today’s 2020 dollars to keep the organization going.

Book: Juliette Gordon Law: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts

She’s one story out of many, and in such a situation, it sure makes leaving an abusive husband difficult, if you’re trying to set aside money of your own to be able to take the children, run and find help.

1964 is not that far off. It was only 56 years ago. And even then, with women allowed to have their own bank accounts, it doesn’t mean that bank managers changed their attitudes over night. It means that though it was in your name, if you wanted to clean out your entire account, they could at the bank assume on their own that you would want to take all that money and blow it on some gaudy trinket.

And how of course, could they let you take your own money to do that? They would insist on calling your father or your husband to ‘check with them’ to see if they were okay with you taking your own money out.

In fact, it sort of happens today as well.

My mother gets questioned by her bank why she is withdrawing her money on a regular basis. I can understand it being due to partly that they think she might be money laundering or a drug dealer (?) who deals in cash all the time, but on the other hand, she’s well into her 70s and is actually afraid of debit and credit cards, and likes to deal with cash because she can touch it.

These days? Kind of similar.

We don’t need to really have jewellery any more in light of having bank accounts, investing accounts and so on. But there are still cultures and women out there who need to squirrel away money or hide it because they could very well be financially abused. It’s making sure that they have some money set aside just in case something happens, or rather, is happening in this case.

I can only hope no one reading this is in that situation, but it is understandable.


  • Brandi

    My grandmother helped women have their own secret accounts when she worked at the local bank. If they were ever caught by their husbands, they said it’s just a “Christmas account” for buying everyone’s presents at the end of the year.

  • Dadagain47

    Elderly men are also scammed regularly. At the post office we are trained to question and warn any elderly person sending cash, jewelry, money orders or gift cards. Also my wife definitely had to sign off on my vasectomy. The issues in this article are definitely terrible but the issues in the comments are not as one sided as suggested.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you – that’s a great point that it isn’t just about women as well… but you must agree that women are definitely the second-class citizens in this. I mean, not having any real rights until fairly recently? Even now, I have friends who are getting questioned as a single woman buying a home about where the husband is and why they’re doing it as a single woman.

      I am not saying that men don’t have issues, but I am highlighting that women have far more to overcome, starting with a handicap from just being born women.

  • Bex

    Not only banks and money, as another mentioned, but medical practices. You realize MOST surgeons won’t do a tubal ligation, tube tie, or hysterectomy without male approval, and not at all on unmarried women without children? After all, your hypothetical future mate might want you to breed. 🤦 Still fighting for control of our own money and our own bodies.

  • Janet Floyd

    Another reason her elderly mother may have been questioned about the withdrawals, is that in these times, the elderly are being routinely scammed, and some banks are becoming more proactive in trying to aid their customers. That being said, not too many years ago, I had a doctor’s office that would not put my medical account in my name, and kept sending the bills to my husband. Not his insurance, I was covered by my employer. When I asked them to change it to my name, they refused. I found a new doctor, since this was just one more problem there anyway. This was in the 90s. Crazy.

  • Ann

    While there is definitely sexism still there, I think that the mother being questioned is more about senior fraud than anything else. It happens all the time, seniors are conned out of their cash. They’re told to withdraw money and purchase gift cards/ money orders, etc to send to so called grandkids. They tried to do that to my mother inlaw luckily she doesn’t drive.

  • Deedra Barber

    This has happened to me. Was pulling out 7,000 for a trip to Asia out of MY business account but had the gall to ask if my husband was aware of the withdrawal. Found a new bank within the week.

  • Belle FrugalFord

    This is so interesting! I had never thought of it like this before. Thanks for this!

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *