I have to admit that it was something I had not noticed until it was pointed out; there are no women on US paper money. There’s Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on $1 coins, but when was the last time you even saw one of those?
So it’s appropriate that during this Women’s History Month, Barbara Ortiz Howard has started a campaign to get at least one women on a 20 dollar bill by the year 2020. That year will mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The campaign, called Women on 20s, has whittled down the number of prime “candidates” to 15, and asks that people vote for their favorite three.
The unofficial start of this campaign can be traced back to July 2014, when a young girl wrote a note to President Obama, asking why there are no women on our paper money. Obama publicly proclaimed that he thought it was a good idea.
The 20 was picked, by the way, in part, because it seems that Andrew Jackson, who is one of the men who currently resides on a 20, should be easy to dump since, among other things, he is the one who helped get the Indian Removal Act passed, which he then signed. It forced the relocation of thousands and thousands of Native Americans, many of whom died during this horrific Trail of Tears.
There was a time in our history when, briefly, two women did appear on paper money. According to the website Wise Geek, “…, only two women have appeared on US paper money. Martha Washington, the wife of the first US president, George Washington, appeared on the series 1886 and 1891 $1 US Dollar (USD) silver certificates. She also was on the series 1896 $1 USD silver certificate, along with her husband. Pocahontas was featured on the series 1869-1878 $10 USD notes, with the image coming from an engraving of a painting by T.A. Liebler.”
It’s not clear why women disappeared from paper money after that time. Perhaps a good historian will be able to fill us in on that.
In any event, it does feel like a notion whose time has come.
Everyone here at the office has already gone online and voted. I admit to being a bit biased, since we have done work over the years for the Shirley Chisholm Project. Ms. Chisholm, who was from our own hometown, Brooklyn, was the first black woman elected to Congress and the first black person to officially run for President of the United States. She definitely got my vote.
Of course, for every campaign there are naysayers, and this one is no different. That right wing pundit Stephen Colbert is against putting women on our paper money and like Stephen Colbert and I think I will let him have the last word.
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