Where is a Woman’s Place? On U.S. Paper Currency, of Course

Nora Turriago '16

Opinions Editor

The paper currency of the United States is essential to the economic well-being of the country. However, this currency also has an easily overlooked significance: showcasing the important men who once presided over the U.S. government.  The faces staring back at us from our bills represent the prestige, leadership and courage that, supposedly, is associated with the men who occupied the high-ranking elite of American government. One important question remains unanswered, however: where are the women?

Except for the rare Susan B. Anthony dollar coin and Sacajawea on the gold dollar coin, women remain absent from the currency that honors esteemed leaders of our society. That, however, is about to change.

There is currently a campaign to replace Democratic President Andrew Jackson’s face on the $20 bill. Jackson’s role in the forced removal and genocide of the Native American tribes is an essential reason for the desire to change the face of the currency.

The perfect replacement? One of the many women in American history who inspired others and fearlessly worked to change the world. The nonprofit campaign Women on $20s has the goal of putting a woman on the $20 dollar bill by 2020, or the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. The campaign has landed on 15 potential candidates:  Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Rachel Carson, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, Barbara Jordan, Patsy Mink, Rosa Parks, Alice Paul, Frances Perkins, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman.

Obama has even endorsed the idea of a woman on U.S. currency. He said, “Last week, a young girl wrote to ask me why aren’t there any women on our currency, and then she gave me a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff, which I thought was a pretty good idea.”

If the petition receives at least 100,000 signatures, Women on $20s will send their campaign to the White House for consideration after two rounds of voting.

The images we are surrounded by on a daily basis—from magazine covers to the faces plastered on currency—act as symbols of our culture, transmitting messages that we often unconsciously pick up and begin to believe. Replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with the face of a powerful woman is an important act that will help rebuff disbelief regarding the leadership ability of women, as well as draw attention to the important role women leaders have played throughout the history of the United States.