The U.S. Treasury confirmed on Wednesday that the new $10 bill will feature a woman. This is a historic landmark, the first time that a woman has ever been featured on printed U.S. currency in over a century. In the past, the only women who’ve appeared on U.S. bills, and that, too, for a very short time, are Martha Washington ($1 bill in 1886) and Pocahontas ($10 banknote in 1869 and $20 demand note in 1865).
It’s important to note that Alexander Hamilton won’t be ousted from the bill, however: the woman will be featured with him. That puts a damper on an otherwise triumphant moment. Also, some people have pointed out that the $20 bill would have been a bigger win, as per the campaign of nonprofit Women on $20s. After all, Andrew Jackson did engineer a genocide. Do we really want him on our currency?
Anti-slavery Hamilton gets pushed off the $10 bill, while genocidal slaver Jackson stays on the $20 http://t.co/b3iyLwflwc— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) June 18, 2015
But for now, we have this nonetheless significant step. The Treasury Department stated their wish to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women’s suffrage, by having the new note “feature a woman who was a champion for our inclusive democracy.”
The question of which great woman will be given said honor (although who are we kidding. The honor’s ours) still remains. Here are our top picks, in no particular order:
Escaped slavery and then willingly put herself back in the trenches just so she could help other slaves escape? You can’t say “Abolitionist Movement” without saying Tubman’s name, with quiet reverence. When we remember the worst atrocities in American history, this is how we should recall them. The triumphs, the heroes, the sacrifices. Not the Confederate flags.
Susan B. Anthony
Her name is synonymous with women’s suffrage, the trials and the triumph. She was actually the first woman to be printed on a US coin, but the circulation was halted due to “poor public reception.”
Well, the public’s different now, and clamoring for change.
The original, formidable FLOTUS, Roosevelt was a tremendous advocate for the rights of women, people of color, and World War II refugees. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was partially paralyzed from polio, the “First Lady of the World” (as Harry Truman called her) convinced him to stay in politics, campaigned and gave appearances in his place. She was controversial for her outspokenness and her perspectives…but her attitude was akin to what people today call “haters gonna hate.”
Why not commemorate a more recent hero? Mankiller faced tremendous obstacles as the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, characterized then by its male-dominated leadership. But traditional Cherokee culture includes both men and women in leadership roles, and Mankiller carried that strength into her work, tackling issues of national healthcare, education, and government. An advocate for Native American and women’s rights through her illness, and gone far too soon.
The original radical feminist. Where would we be without her ferocious determination? Imprisoned for her suffragist activism, she went on a hunger strike and would not quit until she was force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. The National Woman’s Party that she led staged the most confrontational demonstrations—chaining themselves to fences, burning “watch fires,” climbing statues. They refused to quiet, to go peacefully, knowing that true peace would be impossible in a discriminatory regime.
Her birth name, Isabella Baumfree, didn’t do justice to her strength, and the strength of her advocacy for abolition and women’s rights. Sojourner Truth is a model to live by, not just for the modern activist, but for the religious today:
"Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff."— Sojourner Truth
Photo credit: womenon20s.org