Charge It: Women, Credit, and the Making of Modern America


ACLS Fellowship Program




The United States economy runs on consumer credit. Historians have traced the rise of this method of purchasing to the post-World War I era, when a “credit revolution” dramatically increased personal indebtedness and sustained the nation’s commercial growth. Women fueled this transformation. By the late 1920s, they accounted for the vast majority of consumer purchases made with credit—a primacy they maintain even today. Traditionally, however, credit was a preserve of men. Despite much work on the growth and importance of consumer credit, historians have not considered how women gained credit dominance, or the consequences of this dramatic shift. “Charge It” is the first project to examine these subjects. It asks how women were courted, educated, and integrated into credit relations; how they used and understood credit; and how their new credit practices shaped US commerce and culture in the twentieth century.