12 Reasons Millennial Women Should Thank Their Moms & Grandmas

12 Reasons Millennial Women Should Thank Their Moms & Grandmas
Image: Eva-Katalin/iStock

grandma with mom and granddaughter
Whether you're wearing jeans at work right now or your partner is putting the LO down to sleep, a millennial woman's day is marked by a variety of freedoms that our moms and grandmas lacked. And yet, we rarely take a step back to consider how an ordinary task, like picking up birth control pills, was a luxury for women who came before us. Or to appreciate just how much time and energy previous generations put in to make life a bit easier and more equal for all of us. 

Of course, there's still work to be done. From the way Kellyanne Conway talks about being a working mom to the prevalence of sexual assault and the push to defund Planned Parenthood, you probably can't help but think of this viral photo.

And yes, many of our freedoms are related to aspects of women's lives that are still challenging (like fighting for paid maternity leave and the threat to affordable and equal access to health care) -- but we can definitely thank former generations for many hard-won battles, even as we're rallying to protect them.

Here are 12 of those freedoms that millennial women shouldn't take for granted, according to grandmas, moms, and even older sisters who lived, worked, loved, and fought the good fights. Now, of course, we have to keep on fighting.

  • You don't have to wear hose.

    woman's legs in skirt and heels

    "I worked for a company in the late '70s/early '80s where I wore a sundress and sandals and was told that wasn't allowed -- and I had to wear hose! I had psoriasis and could not stand the feel of hose on my dry skin. I quit on the spot!" -- Tina K., 57

  • You're encouraged to go to college.

    woman and man student in college

    "Unfortunately, back in my day, as a woman, I found that unless you were born into a family who already [were] teachers, lawyers, etc., you were not encouraged to aspire to anything much higher than a sales clerk, telephone operator, or secretary. College was for boys -- after all, you were going to get married! I worked in the telephone company as a representative. As reps, we often helped train the men who would become our managers, since a woman could be a supervisor, but only men could be managers!" -- Patricia Y., 81

  • You're not limited to an administrative role.

    woman at desk on phone

    "I remember that at one point I had to pretend I couldn't type so I wouldn't be shuttled into the secretary role." -- Cary W., 57

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  • You can fight blatant sexual harassment.

    man and woman talking

    "In 1984, I was 19 and working for a lighting company during college. My boss told me that if I didn't sleep with him, I would get fired. A) He was about 20 years older than me, B) I had a boyfriend, and C) gross. I complained about the situation to his boss, who then told me that if I didn't sleep with him instead, I would get fired. I left the company even though I needed the money badly." -- Kristin S., 52

  • You have an easier time supporting yourself.

    mom on computer with child

    "When we got out of college, the economy was in the crapper. But because we didn't have access to computers in our homes, it was harder to create side hustles to augment our incomes. Instead of designing products for Etsy shops or blogging, we had to go out into the world and get temp jobs filing in office parks or waiting tables. Millennials can literally create their own jobs instead of having to do time in the mind-numbing, soul-draining jobs we had to do!" -- Vivian M., 49

  • You have access to birth control & choice -- for now.

    woman holding pack of birth control pills

    "My husband had to sign a permission slip for my doctor in order for me to get a prescription for the 'new' birth control pills. The most important change was Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose. If you were unmarried, your two choices were a 'home for unwed mothers' and all the shame that went with it, or a coat hanger in a back alley. Wealthier women were able to get an abortion by a doctor -- for the right price." -- Patricia M., 71

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  • You can report sexist behavior to HR.

    woman at computer

    "In 1984, I had a boss who told the other team members -- who were all men -- that I was pretty smart ... for a girl. When we'd go out to lunch, the guys would ogle the women we'd pass and make comments on their bodies. They didn't think anything of this behavior, and when I told them it made me uncomfortable, they didn't stop. It was not something you could report them to HR for either." -- Marie H., 59

  • You can wear pants!

    woman in jeans at computer

    "I went to a top 25 law school in the 1990s. During on-campus interviews our second year, it was freezing cold. I was the very first woman in our law school to wear pants to said interviews and was chastised for it. When I graduated, I had to wear a skirt suit to court, regardless of weather. I still won't show up in court without tights or pantyhose. Don't take being able to wear pants for granted, girls. Just don't." -- Lara S., 46

  • You can play -- and compete in -- sports.

    girls playing soccer

    "I was a bit of a tomboy and loved sports, even though I was small for my age. My grandparents gave me a red plastic bat and ball for my sixth birthday. In fifth grade (in 1967–68), I successfully petitioned the principal to have a basketball team for the girls (the boys had one; why couldn't we?!). I 'drafted' my older sister's 18-year-old boyfriend to be our coach. We weren't actually able to have a team that would play other schools' teams, because they didn't exist, but we at least got to build our skills, get some exercise, and play against each other. The boys thought it was ridiculous that we would want to play basketball. We were supposed to be cheerleaders, not athletes! But we had fun anyway." -- Beth P., 59

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  • Your relationships are partnerships.

    man, woman, and child

    "I came of age during the '60s and early '70s. What a time of rapid change. As a college freshman, I had a curfew and had to wear a skirt to dinner and the library. By the time I was a senior, there were co-ed dorms, no curfews, and women were burning their bras!

    "I started college expecting to get married and 'be taken care of' as a wife and mother. Instead, I had a wonderful job for 41 years teaching children. I still became a wife and mother, but no one had to 'take care of me.' We took care of each other! Women became individuals -- not appendages!" -- Sherry Z., 68

  • You have more say over who you marry.


    "In 1971, I became pregnant, and like most other girls at that time, I knew my only option was to marry the boy. We were only 19, and poor, and I was working full-time. When I was seven months along, I was fired by my boss -- after two years of solid good work -- because 'it didn't look right to have a pregnant girl on the store floor.'" -- Joy I., 65

  • You're not forced to do (or not do) certain tasks on the job.


    "In the '70s and '80s, men were bosses, and women were secretaries. Well, I was a director, but my boss said I couldn't have a typewriter 'because executives don't type,' so I was forced to dictate or handwrite my documents, give it to my secretary (who typed it), then proofread it, make changes, etc. Well, I finally explained to him what a waste of time this was and I got a typewriter!" -- Helen S., 64

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