Insist on individual files
By Marjory Barnhart
"You have a charge account
at Neiman-Marcus? In your own
name?" The employee at the
Credit Bureau of Greater
Houston was incredulous.
After the Equal Credit
Opportunity Act went into effect October 28, 1975, many
women went ahead and established a separate credit file, one
apart from their husbands, women wrote and called the credit
bureau (652-3434) and reported
their employment background,
bank account numbers and oil
company and department store
charge card numbers.
While the provision splitting
credit files from family units is
included in the ECOA, the section regarding individual credit
files will not become effective
until October, 1976.
During the present year of
transition, the credit bureau is
still maintaining family unit
files. Under this system all
account information is filed under the husband's name. If a
woman had credit before her
marriage, those records are
marked with an asterisk. The
credit for those accounts goes to
the husband unless she specifi
cally calls the credit bureau and
requests her own file.
It is to her advantage to do
so. In the event of separation,
divorce, or the husband's death,
a woman can suddenly find that
she has no credit. Some stores
automatically ask a recently widowed woman to return her
charge card. Separated or divorced women have also had a
rude awakening to discover that
after years of hard work, there
is no record of their financial
Before the ECOA went into
effect, creditors limited accounts
to one member of a family.
Now both spouses can obtain
credit if they prove financial
responsibility. This could be a
great advantage to the businesses . A working couple with
two charge accounts at the same
store has increased purchasing
Laura Oren, president of the
Houston Area Feminist Federal
Credit Union, favors separate
files because they give businesses a more realistic picture of
contribution of the wife to the
family's economy. "In effect,"
she says, "you are making
business rational. Why throw
away an account that would be
a good risk?"
The proposed changes
would be a disadvantage mainly
to the credit bureaus, who
would face a new filing system
and additional paperwork without monetary profit. The plan
was to require creditors to mail
out a form in November, 1976,
asking joint account holders if
they wish to have separate files.
The law would also apply to
mortgage bond holders. Both
spouses could request individual
Creditors see these new requirements as an unnecessary
expense. Resistance to the plan
has caused hesitation on the part
of the Federal Reserve Board.
More letters are needed regarding the amendment to the
ECOA The Houston Area
Feminist Federal Credit Union
(HAFFCU) urges public comment on this matter. When
writing, cite Docket R-0038 and
of the Board of Governors
Federal Reserve Board
Washington, D.C. 20551
Send copies of your letters
Houston, Tx. 77006
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Ms. Terry Higgs
A man on our side
Support Our Advertisers
By Mary Lu Abbott
Reporter, Life Style
Editor's note: We never met
Chronicle reporter Gary K. Hill,
but we wished we had. His bylines would surprisingly appear
in the Life Style section on
stories that ranged from house-
husbands to feminist law firms.
He earned a "pat" in the last
issue of Breakthrough for an article he wrote on gains girls and
women were making in athletics.
At the time of his death in
early June, Hill was writing a
story on the opening of Women's Hospital, a facility offering family-centered maternity
care. His Life Style colleague,
Mary Lu Abbott, completed his
To us, Hill was a man on
our side, someone sensitive to
our issues. We will miss his bylines.
We asked Mary Lu Abbott
to share her feelings with us
Chronicle reporter Gary K.
Hill was a rare man, one who
dared to show that he cared
He died struggling with an
intruder in his home.
Ironically, Hill was the type
who would have sat and listened
to the burglar's tale of woe.
Hill came to the Chronicle
copy desk from Fort Worth in
1972 and transferred into the
Life Style section as a feature
writer two years later. Fellow
male reporters ribbed him about
working on "the women's
pages." He volleyed the joshing
well because he thought the Life
Style stories showed sensitivity.
He liked to write about people
more than events.
He was the first man ever
assigned to Life Style and we
women loved to refer to him as
"our token male." He enjoyed
our teasing--he was big enough
to take it in fun.
Hill was a West Texas cowboy at heart and disliked the
city, its frantic pace, its closed
doors, its fight-for-yourself atti
tude. He liked to take time living. And so he saw a story in
nearly everything, even the
common-day lives and activities:
the ice cream man in Montrose,
kids and sno-cones, marbles that
once fascinated children.
Hill wrote a lament over the
disappearance of lightning bugs
in the city and the carefree
childhood days of chasing the
little "flashing lanterns."
Hill was into consciousness-
raising beyond the point of sexism-he was trying to tune into
all thoughts. He was on the trail
to a better self, constantly seeking reasons for his actions, trying
to establish meaningful relationships with his family and friends.
He was a women's rights advocate, outspoken and incensed
at discriminatory practices. He
was irate when he heard some
women could not get library
cards in their own names. To
some, the problem was minor,
but to Hill it was worth spending
time to help change.
Those whom Hill wrote
about often became his good
friends, like the truck driver he
hopped a ride with to New Mexico for a story on the asphalt
cowboy. He always listened the
extra minute, even the added
hour, to gain a closer glimpse at
a person's inner self.
Hill couldn't take just one
quick glance at a story, his editor says. "He examined all
angles, like holding dice in his
hand and seeing all their sides.
It was painful to him to extract
what was the best angle to tell.
He had to un-entangle himself."
To him, every tidbit of a person's life was important.
One day a couple with a
young child wandered into the
Chronicle office. They were
stranded in Houston, without
money and were having trouble
with Travelers Aid in getting
transportation home. Hill listened to all their troubles, asked
questions and wrote a story. He
intervened personally with
Travelers Aid to assure their help
and, thanks to him, they soon
were on their way home.
They survived their encounter with the city. Gary K. Hill