A Woman’s Place is On the Money

WomenOn20Have you ever thought about the missing faces of women on our dollar bills? The portraits that decorate U.S. currency are exclusively of men. Why are there no women?

Throughout American history, it’s been taken for granted that U.S. currency portrays only men’s faces. (Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Apart from Lady Liberty, Martha Washington was the only woman so honored. She was depicted on the silver certificate of 1886. Some of her husband’s glory rubbed off on her. She was celebrated not because she was an excellent First Lady, but because she was George Washington’s wife.

Women On 20s is working to remedy this glaring example of women’s invisibility in past centuries. They encourage everyone to vote for a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the 20-dollar bill by 2020. (More details below.) That year will mark the 100th anniversary of the the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

The $20 bill was chosen because it features Andrew Jackson. Despite his achievements, the seventh president has been called a genocidal racist because of his support and enforcement of the Indian Removal ActIt forcibly ejected the Cherokee Nation and other Native American nations from their ancestral homelands, sending them on the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, will be among the finalists proposed to oust Jackson from his perch on the $20. Personally, I think the $20 is a great idea because that’s the denomination favored by the ATMs, so it is extremely visible.

From a list of 100 women, women’s history “experts” culled 15, judged by their impact on society and the difficulties they faced in pursuing their goals. Now Women on 20s is urging everyone to vote on their website for three finalists from the 15. In the final round of voting, one of the three plus Mankiller will be selected. Her name will be presented to President Obama, who is on record as an advocate of portraying women on our money. Once presented with 100,000 votes, he can direct the Secretary of the Treasury to make the change.

The candidates are listed at Women on 20s along with their bios and the bios of the 15 runners-up. Choose three and place your vote. You’ve heard of Sojourner Truth, the escaped slave who campaigned for abolition, but what about Elizabeth Jennings? Sybil Ludington? Margaret Brent? You haven’t? Go to Women on 20s for a mini-course on women’s history. You’ll learn about the woman who preceded Rosa Parks by 100 years, the 16-year-old girl who rode twice as far as Paul Revere to warn New Yorkers that the British were coming and other unsung as well as fabled heroines.

A tip of the hat to Gail Collins, and her A Woman’s Place Is on the $20.

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