I was given a considerable jolt when reading this afternoon online that in the UK women were not allowed to open bank accounts until 1975. Since I had been encouraged in the habit of thrift from an early age to save my pennies in a Trustee Savings Bank account, and had transferred the sum thus accumulated to a chequing account with what was then the National Provincial when I went to university in the mid-1960s (I am really not sure how it is supposed women received grants, salaries, etc without a bank account by the 1960s!) I was quite astonished to be informed that I had not been permitted this, which I clearly remembered having.
In fact readers of Mrs Gaskell's charming novel Cranford (1853) will recall that the failure of the bank into which Miss Jenkyns had put the sisters' money forms an important element in such plot as the work has. Indeed the problem of joint-stock banks, and a caution against them, appears in a work published very shortly afterwards by 'A Banker's Daughter' (Emma Sophia Galton), Guide to the Unprotected in Every-day Matters Relating to Property and Income (1864):
A lady should not on any account take any Shares whatever in a Joint-Stock Bank, Mine, Partnership, or any other joint trading concern, unless it be established under the new “Limited Liability” Act, as otherwise she is liable to lose her last penny if the Bank or speculation should fail. Even if “limited,” they should not be invested in without the greatest possible caution, nor until after very careful inquiries have been satisfactorily answered.
The NatWest summary of 'Women in Banking' suggests that there were female customers of banks from their early days in the late seventeenth century while some women, members of banking families, actually became partners in the business.
That might be taken as, oh well, single women and widows, but it was different if women were married femmes couvertes who had no rights to their own money. That was certainly so up to the late nineteenth century, but the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 Clause 6 specifically states:
All deposits in any post office or other savings bank, or in any other bank, all annuities granted by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt or by any other person, and all sums forming part of the public stocks or funds, or of any other stocks or funds transferable in the books of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, or of any other bank, which at the commencement of this Act are standing in the sole name of a married woman, and all shares, stock, debentures, debenture stock, or other interests of or in any corporation, company, or public body, municipal, commercial, or otherwise, or of or in any industrial, provident, friendly, benefit, building, or loan society, which at the commencement of this Act are standing in her name, shall be deemed, unless and until the contrary be shown, to be the separate property of such married woman; and the fact that any such deposit, annuity, sum forming part of the public stocks or funds, or of any other stocks or funds transferable in the books of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England or of any other bank, share, stock, debenture, debenture stock, or other interest as aforesaid, is standing in the sole name of a married woman, shall be sufficient prima facie evidence that she is beneficially entitled thereto for her separate use, so as to authorise and empower her to receive or transfer the same, and to receive the dividends, interest, and profits thereof, without the concurrence of her husband, and to indemnify the Postmaster General, the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, the Governor and Company of the Bank of Ireland, and all directors, managers, and trustees of every such bank, corporation, company, public body, or society as aforesaid, in respect thereof.
It is not beyond possibility (alas) that banks - or individual bank managers - may have instituted policies requiring women to get husbands to countersign when they opened accounts or tried to raise loans: but nonetheless women, single or married, in the UK - unlike, it would appear, their sisters in the USA or certain European nations up to the mid-twentieth century - were legally able to open bank accounts and have sole access to them.