In our modern world, when a young woman is in a romantic relationship with an older, more financially secure man, she is almost always automatically labelled a gold digger. We’ve seen tons of examples of this in the news: Anna Nicole Smith and her ancient husband J. Howard Marshall, or the relationship between Hugh Hefner and the spinning carousel of women that inhabit the Playboy Mansion as his “girlfriends”.
This attitude of condemnation towards a woman for attaching herself to a man solely for his wealth has been in place for centuries. It was especially prevalent before 1960, when a married woman was expected to stay home, keep the house clean, and care for any number of children that she happened to produce. If a woman desired a luxurious lifestyle, the only choice she could have in the matter is who she married.
With the arrival of the first birth control pills in 1960, women started being able to control how many children they had. This tiny pill, first marketed as a medication to treat “severe menstrual disorders,” was the biggest game changer in women’s lives since the end of World War II. The birth control pill allowed women to take control of their own reproductive health — for the first time ever, they could choose how many children they had, and who they wanted to have them with. A person you found attractive and interesting didn’t necessarily have to be the father of your children, or your permanent partner.
This freedom led to women having increasingly fewer children, and waiting later in life to have them. The cycle of a woman traditionally relying on a man to pay the mortgage and buy groceries was slowly being broken. Before 1960, if a women wanted to move away from her parent’s home, the easiest way to do it was to get married and settle down with her new husband. In 2015, it’s hard to believe this was the prevalent attitude only 50 years ago. A 2008 Forbes study shows that for the first time ever, women outnumber men in post-secondary institutions. More women than ever before are going to college or university, which has led to more women entering the workforce, and remaining unmarried and without children until much later in life.