If you identified one hobby-related story that received more
attention nationwide in 2015 than any other, it has to be the movement
to place a woman’s portrait on a Federal Reserve note and the
Treasury’s eventual support of the cause.
However, Treasury officials backed away from a promise to identify
which woman would be so honored by the end of 2015, instead saying on
Dec. 11 that more time was needed to consider the public’s recommendations.
A woman has not appeared on a piece of U.S. paper money since the
early 20th century and in the second decade of the 21st century, that
is just wrong in the view of many Americans.
That is going to change sometime after 2020, though not precisely in
the way a prominent movement, Women on $20s, had proposed in early 2015.
Just two actual women have been depicted on U.S. paper money —
Martha Washington, on the Series 1886 and 1896 $1 silver certificates;
and Pocahontas, on Original Series and Series 1875 $20 national bank
notes, the latter of which were produced until 1902.
Today, the seven denominations of Federal Reserve notes all depict
men, and at least half of them have “image problems,” including slave
ownership and abuse of the nation’s native inhabitants.
A call for a woman
Since 1929, all denominations have shown the same men on the faces
and, with just a few exceptions, the same themes on the backs. Even
when major redesigns were introduced starting in the mid-1990s,
officials stayed with the same men and themes, showing a distinct
conservatism. Over the years, various groups and individuals have
promoted the idea of replacing one or more of the men now depicted
with someone new, including a woman, but the prime candidate has been
Ronald Reagan. None of those efforts, however, resulted in change.
Early in the year, a private initiative, Women on 20s, began a
massive effort to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 note with a woman.
Jackson was identified as the target for replacement because of his
history of slave ownership and his treatment of Native Americans, most
notoriously through the Trail of Tears — the forced relocation of
Indians from their eastern lands to points west.
Social media made the difference this time, and thousands took to
Facebook and Twitter to support the cause. President Obama in late
July said the proposal “was a pretty good idea.” Not long after, his
Treasury secretary, Jacob Lew, announced that the woman would be
depicted on an upcoming note, but the $10 bill and not the $20 note.
The $10 note, which depicts Alexander Hamilton, is the next note to be
redesigned, with the new look scheduled to be unveiled in 2020 and
released into circulation sometime after. (Some of the elements to
appear on the new $10 note were first ordered in 2008.) Lew’s decision
created something of a backlash, in that Hamilton, as the founder of
the U.S. banking and currency systems, is a popular choice free of
most of the baggage of his peers depicted on the notes.
Treasury officials caused more controversy when they announced that
Hamilton wouldn’t be replaced on the note, but that he would continue
to be depicted on the note along with a woman to be determined later.
To many supporters of the cause, the decision that a woman would have
to share placement on a note was upsetting.
Treasury officials, however, said that the change to the $20 note
will the first of many, prompting some to wonder whether the nation’s
notes will finally show a more diverse population than they have in
the past. Andrew Jackson’s days still may be numbered when the $20
note is redesigned, probably in the 2020s.
So who will be depicted on the $10 note? We don’t know, as Treasury
officials are still going over public input (apparently a lot of
comments were received). Popular contenders include Harriet Tubman,
Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, and Amelia Earhart. Long
shots that were part of Women on 20s’ original list include Margaret
Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, a choice that almost certainly
would not be attempted, viewed as being too controversial.
Little doubt exists that at least one woman and likely more will
appear on U.S. paper money during the next decade. The question is,
who and when.
More Top 10 Stories
Coin and Chronicles sets
Special dimes in March of Dimes set
Major auctions: Partrick, Gardner, Pogue
American Eagle silver bullion sales record
2016 gold centennial coins
Canada gold coin melt
New Queen Elizabeth II portrait
American Liberty, High Relief gold coin
1933 gold double eagle case continues