Changing the Face of U.S. Currency

U.S. currency

Image: Tracy O via Flickr CC.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced that a new ten-dollar bill featuring a famous American woman—in place of Alexander Hamilton—would be entered into circulation by 2020. This date marks the centenary of the 19th amendments passage in 1920, which granted women the right to vote.

The celebration dampens a bit when learn that Hamilton will be incorporated into the redesign—an apt reminder that social change is incremental—sometimes glacial. It’s even more alarming when you examine currency from other countries. Syria, the Philippines, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, Israel, Sweden, Australia, and England currently feature women on their currency.

A Woman’s Place is On Use Currency

Changing a portrait on paper money requires an order from the Secretary of the Treasury. Once the President signs the order it’s done. It sounds simple but, of course, it’s actually a complex process. To complicate it further—and engage the public interest—the Treasury is seeking suggestions on the redesign. Just post your comments on social media using the hashtag #TheNewTen.

Why stop at the ten? Some social activists have called for a change to the twenty-dollar bill arguing that granting Andrew Jackson that honor ignores his responsibility for the Trail of Tears, a forced migration that lead to the death of 4000 Cherokee people.

A decision to change the design of paper money is never purely altruistic. Currency designs are periodically changed in response to security threats posed by counterfeiters.

Women On 20s

A social media campaign called Women on 20s is competing with the Treasury’s redesign of the ten. Founder Barbara Ortiz Howard wants to introduce gender equality onto US paper money. During a 10-week poll—now close—the website provided an opportunity for the public to select one of 15 famous American to replace Jackson on the twenty dollar bill.

Woman on 20s primary round included 15 women as worthy replacements for face of the twenty-dollar bill. Winners of the primary round included Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and winner Harriet Tubman with 118,328 votes.

The campaign also led a “virtual march” inviting supporters to call on President Obama to support gender equality on US currency by using the hashtag #DearMrPresident in their social media posts.

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