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When you could bank on sexism


Sonia Kelly

Looking back to the 1960s, when women were regarded as non-people, most of these banking experiences seem quite funny — although at the time they were fairly grim.
The most memorable of these occurred when I was running a weaving business based on the famous Aran Crios and employed several girls. One Friday I was cashing whatever cheques I could muster to pay the wages and do the shopping. As the cashier was counting the money, he was verbally abusing me for my inefficiency in accounting, which was pretty humiliating. When he had finished I gathered up the money and retreated hastily.
Over that weekend, after I had paid the wages and had done the shopping, I noticed I still had the same amount of money left as before. Something odd had happened!
The following Monday I found out what it was when the rude cashier appeared at my front door asking humbly if he had overpaid me when cashing my cheques.
It was a pleasing moment! I made him wait while I counted the money and asked a few questions about his own efficiency before handing it back.
From that day on, when requiring bank transactions, I always went to the same cashier. I was invariably met with stringent politeness.
My next experience as a non-person was with the manager of another bank, who sarcastically remarked that giving money to me was like pouring it down the drain. However, he must have given me the overdraft I was looking for as I don’t remember being in jail for debt.
By the time my next invention – The Cloona Health Centre – was up and running I had a different bank. One day the manager was talking to me and he said, ‘What can you do for me besides massage?’. I did not offer any alternative.
The next experience turned out to be more rewarding. It was when I was involved with weaving and I was trying to raise money to convert an old mill building into the health centre. The Irish banks had gone on strike, and I had to lodge whatever cheques I had received in an English one. When the strike was over I got the money back — and it consisted of a few hundred more than I was expecting. This was never explained, and so the waiting builders got it to do up the mill!