Paper Money

Yellen-Malerba Series 2021 notes in production at BEP

Nearly two years after the Biden administration took office, the first United States paper currency issued under his administration and the first U.S. notes with the signatures of two women, including the first female Treasury secretary and the first Native American of either sex to serve as treasurer, were revealed on December 8 at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Janet L. Yellen, the first woman to be both the U.S. Treasury secretary and chair of the Federal Reserve, was joined by the treasurer, Lynn Roberge Malerba, as they unveiled $1 and $5 notes with their signatures. The new notes bear the Series 2021 designation, will be delivered to the Federal Reserve early next year, and will enter circulation as the demand for bank notes requires. All notes except the $2 denomination are included in the Federal Reserve System’s current print order, so the other denominations should follow as demand develops. The work load will be apportioned between the facility at Fort Worth, Texas, and the BEP’s Washington, D.C., plant.

Secretary Yellen offered extensive remarks at the event, including a thank you to BEP Director Len Olijar, who will retire next month after nearly 35 years at the BEP. She told him, “Your dedication to BEP, Treasury, and our country epitomizes the spirit of public service. We’re grateful for your commitment to this organization — from when you were coming up the ranks of the Bureau to your many years at the helm.”

While the significance of the signer’s gender was not lost on her, Secretary Yellen reminded her audience that the Treasury Department has been a leader in promoting the role of women in the federal government since the Civil War, when men were in short supply and women were cheaper to hire. The first woman to be hired was Jennie Douglas in 1862. The first Black woman was Sophia Holmes. Some of their responsibilities included inspecting paper money for counterfeits and cutting up sheets of Treasury notes.

President Franklin Roosevelt nominated Josephine Roche as the first woman to be assistant secretary of the Treasury. Today, the secretary said, women comprise around 62% percent of the Treasury workforce, many in positions of power — from public affairs to domestic finance to the chief of staff’s office.

But while progress has been made, she stressed that “Today is a reminder of the road we’ve traveled on equity and inclusion. And I hope it motivates us to continue to move forward.”

Her remarks also reflected on the history of women appearing on coins and notes. Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to appear on a circulating U.S. coin. This year, coins were issued with the faces of five American women including poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, and Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Chinese-American film star. Yellen reminded her BEP audience that these coins were just the beginning of the work to ensure United States coins and paper currency reflect the full fabric of the nation. “With your hard work,” she confirmed, “we will be introducing new currency designs in the coming years — including placing Harriet Tubman’s portrait on the $20 bill.”

She jested about the signature process itself. “The founding fathers did not account for what seems to be a common attribute for Treasury Secretaries: terrible handwriting. My friend Tim Geithner famously had to change his signature in order to make it legible ... President Obama joked during Jack Lew’s nomination as Secretary that he should try to make ‘at least one letter legible’ in his signature. The good news is that President Biden did not make a similar request when he nominated me. But I’ll admit: I spent some quality time practicing my signature before submitting it to Director Olijar.”

The Paper Money of the United States catalog numbers for the new notes are Friedberg 3007 for the $1 note and F-1999 for the $5 Federal Reserve note.

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