#ThrowbackThursday: “Windows by Rhoda”

By: Elissa Blattman, NWHM Intern

We are starting a couple of new themed days on our NWHM blog!  Today’s theme: Throwback Thursday.  Each Thursday, we will be posting a multimedia clip from the past that was relevant to and reflective of women’s lives in the time period it was made.  Check back every Thursday for exciting videos, audio clips, photos, and more!

For the past two weeks, the news that TV legend, Valerie Harper, has incurable (“so far”) brain cancer has been all over the media.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s and Rhoda Morgenstern, the character she played for nine years on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, is my favorite television character of all time.  While Harper has been making the rounds encouraging people to live for the now, I would like to celebrate one of my favorite moments from her past.  So, to kick off Throwback Thursday, here is a scene from a 1975 episode of Rhoda, “Windows by Rhoda.”

I love it when pop culture and social history come together, and I think this clip is definitely indicative of a meshing between the two, as it highlights many of the issues women were protesting during the Women’s Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.  Rhoda had been a department store window dresser for at least five years by this time, since The Mary Tyler Moore Show started in 1970, but in this episode, she decides to start her own window dressing business, Windows by Rhoda.  In this clip, Rhoda and her husband, Joe, are in the process of setting up Rhoda’s new office.  The building manager comes in and asks Joe to sign Rhoda’s lease because “they prefer that the man of the house sign it.”  Rhoda stands up for herself, telling the building manager it is her office and that she paid for it with her own money, and then signs the lease anyway.  She then goes on to tell Joe she faces discrimination like that “all the time” as a working woman, gives him one such example right before someone else comes into the office and proves her example right, and explains to him why she needs a separate identity other than that of his wife.

One of the main goals of the Women’s Movement was to get women out of the home and into the workforce (this applied mostly to white women, as women of color often did not have the luxury to choose between staying at home and working).  Women were coming together to push for equal job opportunities, equal pay, and equal treatment at work.  They were also asserting their right to go into business for themselves.  In order to do this, women often needed the ability to obtain their own bank accounts, loans, credit, and leases without discrimination or necessary approval from their husbands or other male relatives.  Within the short span of this clip, Rhoda touches on all these issues and more.

Check out this video of Bella Abzug talking about how she helped pass the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which prohibits creditors from discriminating against applicants, including on the basis of sex.

Join in on the conversation!  Post comments below or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday.

2 Responses to “#ThrowbackThursday: “Windows by Rhoda””

  1. Donna Barkman says:

    In the 1971, I was separated from the husband and fighting for a divorce, so desperately needed a credit card in my name. The Bank of New York, after refusing numerous times, said that if I took a loan for $500.00 and paid it back in a timely fashion, I would be granted a card. I did so, paying the loan back weekly in $100.00 increments and approached the bank officials for my card. They still refused, said I’d misunderstood. My three young children were with me. I sat down in one of the bank’s comfy chairs for loan seekers, told the bank officials that I wouldn’t leave until I got my card, and informed my normally well-behaved kids that this bank was a playground. I was worried the bank people would call police, but in about a half hour, they caved (obviously didn’t want the publicity of having a woman with three young kids removed forcibly or arrested) and awarded my card. Yeah, the good old days.

  2. NWHM says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Donna! Way to stand your ground!

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