A tribute to RBG and women's rights
When RBG passed away, I, like many women of my generation, felt a loss of my personal champion for women’s rights.
When I was 18, I entered into a very brief marriage. My parents gave me the down payment and we purchased a house in Conroe, Texas, where my husband had taken a job. I, too, was working and going to school. Our FHA loan carried a monthly payment of $125. After a year, we moved back to Illinois and got divorced. I decided I could afford the payment if I moved back. My employer was willing to rehire me. So, I notified FHA that I was going to take over the payments myself. They told me I was not permitted to own a house on my own because I was a single woman. They would foreclose on me even if I paid the payments. So, I was unable to own a home.
When I moved here in 2004, after RBG [was appointed to the Supreme Court], [and] divorced from my husband of 30 years, I did something that seemed remarkably important to me: I bought my first house, as a single woman, titled in MY name, with a mortgage attributable to ME. It was really not so long ago [that] this was not a possibility. So, the house I bought on Delamere was the most important house I have ever owned.
RBG’s work changed attitudes throughout the country and allowed credit laws, and many other laws that oppressed women, to change, so women could actually get credit and buy houses without a man as a co-owner.
Even after the credit laws changed, I owned homes, but never alone. As an executive, my income was the highest income in my family. Yet people would still say to me, “How nice your husband could provide such a nice home for you.” When people asked about the house, some assumed I owned it from a divorce settlement, which was not the case. So being able to say, I bought this house, brought me great satisfaction. I only finally broke my own glass ceiling of home ownership when I moved to Cleveland Heights.
Melody Joy Hart is a member of Cleveland Heights City Council.