Women on the $10 Bill: What Happened to Women on 20s?

Treasury to put woman on ten dollar bill, women on 20

Wait! A woman was supposed to be the $20 bill. So what happened?

Woohoo! Champagne and fireworks, streamers and confetti! Let’s break out the booze and have a ball because The United States Treasury is going to put the face of a woman on new $10s in the year 2020! You can tell your children you were there when the announcement became news. Women are finally taking their place on American currency.

But wait, is that all there is? Not so fast.

Let’s go back to the spring. It was actually March 1st that was the pivotal moment in the history of empowering women in the United States. A small but very effective grassroots campaign came out of nowhere to support changing the face of the $20 bill – we’d lose Andrew Jackson’s tired old mug and gain the fresh face of a female American hero. All of this was in response to a little girl named Sofia asking President Obama last year in a handwritten note: “How come there are no women on the money?”

609,090 votes were cast over the course of ten weeks and Harriet Tubman emerged as the favorite, beating out more than a dozen other female American heroes – many of whom appeared on Sofia’s short list. At which point, in May of this year, the women behind the campaign presented their results to the President to encourage him to request that Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, replace Jackson with Tubman – in time for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage – in the year 2020.

Right. It was supposed to be the $20 bill – so what happened?

Well, a couple of things. First, it appears that way back in 2013, the Treasury had declared the pressing need for a new design on the $10 – not the $20. Ever competing with the skills of clever desktop publishers who counterfeit American greenbacks, the Feds had picked the $10 for the next, if you will excuse the lingo, facelift.

O.K. – do we need to split hairs? Isn’t the $10 just as good as the $20 to highlight the accomplishments of an American woman? We are still talking about groundbreaking stuff here. Does it really matter the denomination as long as we can teach our children that lots of American women are just as heroic and important to American history as any American man?

For my money? No.

To begin with, as long as this business is on the table, can we please talk about how ridiculous this discussion is when you consider that there are nearly equal numbers of men and women currently living in this country. And we have seven paper currencies – the one, the two, the five, the ten, the twenty, and the fifty and hundred dollar bills. Let’s be generous and say we give four faces to male heroes – because change is hard for guys – and three to female heroes – that’s kinda fair, right?

And yet, we all just campaigned to put a woman’s face on the $20. Can’t we have them both, please?

To be honest, I still don’t know why we don’t have girls on the money and I could not explain to my children – without employing some serious sarcasm – why there are no girls on the money. I don’t get $10s in change all that often either. New York is a $20-driven town to the point where ATMs in my neighborhood advertise when they offer $10s because most ATMs only give out $20s. Why, there’s even an ATM on 57th Street in Manhattan that gives out $100 bills. We’re big spenders. I only see $10s in change at my fried chicken place.

So, quick recap – in 2013, the U.S. Treasury said we needed to redesign the $10 to stay one step ahead of counterfeiting, there’s a subsequent campaign to put a woman on the $20 – and we get this announcement that the redesign will feature some unidentified woman – after the Woman on 20s‘ voting established it should be Harriet Tubman.

My question is simply this – can’t you change ’em both? Would it kill you to lose Mr. Jackson and Mr. Hamilton in one fell swoop? Would it damage something, stunt something, derail something to offer two bills to women’s faces? And do we really have to wait another five years after waiting since 1798 when Martha Washington was on U.S. paper currency?

I don’t think the U.S. Treasury got the message that it is time to change for a reason other than worries about counterfeiting. I would like Mr. Lew and his office of men to understand that change is scary sometimes, but, in the end, change is good. I understand that your Treasury website and your Treasury press releases and your Treasury printed materials say that way back in 2013 you decided the $10 was getting the very next makeover, but listen up – you can make over the $20, too. Ain’t nobody gonna stop you. You could be a hero. And maybe then Amelia Earhart and Harriet Tubman will get some well-deserved recognition.

I think you owe it to Sofia and 609,090 of her closest friends, don’t you?

Anne Born is a New York-based writer who has been writing stories and poetry since childhood.  She blogs on The Backpack Press and Tumbleweed Pilgrim and her writing focuses on family and life in a big city after growing up in a small one.  She is the author of “A Marshmallow on the Bus” and “Prayer Beads on the Train” and a photographer who specializes in photos of churches, cemeteries, and the Way of St. James in Spain.  Most of her writing is done on the bus.  www.about.me/anneborn. You can follow Anne on Wattpad, Instagram, and Twitter at @nilesite.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • anne

    Just a quick footnote: the plan is unclear, but it appears that the new woman will share the bill space with Hamilton. Unless it’s Mrs. Hamilton, sitting side by side with the Hubster, I think I will stop using $10s altogether in protest.

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