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The practice of “marriage bars” restricting the employment of married women began in the United States in the late 1800s, particularly in the teaching and clerical professions. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, marriage bars became commonplace in industries outside of these professions as well, with the rationale that men needed jobs in order to support their families.
Marriage bars were not banned by law until 1964 when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, or ethnic origin. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act ensured a woman could keep her job if she became pregnant.