Last year, President Obama announced that he wanted to put a woman on the $10 bill (Thanks Obama!). The new design was set to be unveiled in 2020, which would mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. All was good and well.
Enter Lin Manuel and his ridiculously popular, mind-blowing, wallet-emptying, Broadway musical Hamilton, based on the life of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Now everyone has gone full groupie for Hamilton and don’t want him removed.
Two alternatives arose: place a woman on the back of the $10 bill or replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.
I’m all for the replacement of Andrew Jackson, if only because I am so aghast at the idea of putting a woman on the back. “You’re not going to fix gender inequality by putting a woman on the face of the $10 [bill], but boy will you emphasize gender inequality by putting women on the back,” said Jane Kamensky, a historian and history professor at Harvard University. I couldn’t agree more. Think of the message that would send to the women of this nation: “Hey, I know you’ve been treated as second-class citizens since the dawn of time, and we have the power to elevate your status, but have you seen that new musical! At least you’re on it. Be happy with that.”
A grassroots nonprofit organization called “Women on 20’s” conducted a national poll asking which woman the nation would most like to see on future currency. On May 12th of last year, the results were presented to Obama, with Harriet Tubman emerging as the victor.
On April 20th of this year, current Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announced his final decision. The $10 bill, next in line to be updated for security reasons, will indeed feature a new design. While Lew did cave to popular demand and perhaps a bit of in-house bias (Secretaries Unite!) and will let Hamilton’s handsome face continue to grace the front of the bill, the back will feature the historic suffragette march in 1913 that ended on the steps of the Treasury Department. The back will also honor leaders of the suffragette movement such as Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, and Alice Paul.
As for the $20 bill, it will feature Harriet Tubman on the front, with Andrew Jackson and the White House on the back.
The $5 bill is also getting a makeover. The back will feature Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson, and Martin Luther King Jr.
I am proud of Jack Lew. Compromise gets a bad rap these days. But Lew found a way to keep the white men we have grown so fond of seeing while still managing to increase diversity, both in gender and race. There will be some men on the back and some women on the front. There will be some white folks on the front and some black folks on the front, as well as both races on the back. As far as fair and balanced goes… I’d say he hit the mark.
What famous female would you put on our currency? My vote goes for Ayn Rand. Seems appropriate.