Women On 20s (W20) is a grassroots nonprofit with an awesome agenda. The goal of W20 is to replace Andrew Jackson, currently the face of the $20 bill, with a woman! The woman W20 hopes to get on the $20 was chosen via two rounds of voting to allow the people to choose which of 15 women should represent American women on our currency. According to their website, over 600,000 people cast votes. The final four candidates were Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Wilma Mankiller.
This movement comes just short of the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote. Women remain underrepresented in a variety of ways in American society. For example, despite making up 50.8 percent of the estimated 316,000,000 people in the United States in 2013, women currently only occupy only 20 of the 100 seats in the US Senate. Women also only occupy 84 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s a dismal 19.4 percent. A woman has never been elected to the office of Vice President or President. Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007.
And women aren’t just underrepresented in politics. Women currently hold only 23 of the CEO positions of the S&P 500, a paltry 4.6 percent. Consider this too: women fill about half of all jobs in the U.S., yet they fill only 24 percent of the STEM jobs available. Women also still make less money than men. Women working full-time make 78 cents for every dollar men make.
When you consider the weight of statistics piled against equal representation, the fact that women have appeared prominently on only one piece of U.S. coinage since the U.S. started printing money should not surprise anyone. And, let’s be real, Sacagawea replaced Susan B. Anthony on the dollar coin, which was never popularly used. In fact, the “golden dollar,” bearing Sacagawea’s image, was first minted in 2000, but due to the coin’s lack of popularity it hasn’t been released for circulation since 2012. The Susan B. Anthony coin suffered from the same lack of popularity because people kept mistaking it for the quarter. Nice try fellas, but this just isn’t cutting it. While we are considering women on currency, it might be important to note that Syria, Philippines, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, Israel, Sweden, Australia, and England all put women on various currencies before the United States.
But what about Andrew Jackson? As the seventh president, Jackson helped push the Indian Removal Act of 1830 through Congress. The act resulted in the removal of Native American tribes from resource-rich lands in Southeastern U.S. to Oklahoma in order to make room for European settlers who were white. This mass relocation, known as the Trail of Tears, caused the deaths of thousands of Native Americans during the arduous journey west. Jackson also owned a plantation in Tennessee where he grew cotton farmed by slaves. Not cool, Jackson. Instead, wouldn’t it be incredible if a woman who helped shape our country found a place on America’s paper currency?
Which brings me back to the finalists. The winner of the vote, announced on W20’s website on Tuesday, 12 May 2015, is Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and humanitarian who escaped slavery in the South via the Underground Railroad then returned to help free others. Tubman helped Union soldiers during the Civil War as a guide and a nurse. She remained an advocate for African American rights and even joined early suffragettes in the campaign for the vote and equality.
W20 has presented a petition to the White House in the hope that President Obama will direct the Treasury Secretary to make the change. And, maybe if W20 accomplishes their goal of getting a new $20 bill in circulation before the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage, women’s earnings might actually begin to match those of their male counterparts. Women might actually begin to be equally represented in all facets of society. But who am I kidding. This is America, right?