U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced last week what many had waited a long time to hear: Starting in 2020, which will mark the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, a woman will finally be featured on a paper bill. But women are still being shortchanged in more ways than one.
The nonprofit Women on 20s began campaigning earlier this year for a woman's image to replace Andrew Jackson's on the $20 bill. But Lew announced that the yet-to-be-determined female figure would instead appear on the $10.
Many have joked that given the wage gap between men and women, the new $10 might be worth as little as $7.70. Even Treasury doesn't seem to think a woman is worth a full bill: She is expected to share her spot with Alexander Hamilton, whose face has adorned the $10 since 1929. "Alexander Hamilton has left an enduring mark on our nation's history," Lew said during his announcement at the National Archives. "That is why we will make sure that his image will remain a part of the $10 note."
The nation's first secretary of the treasury, an author of the Federalist Papers, and the founder of the U.S. Mint, Hamilton certainly deserves his place on our currency. Andrew Jackson - not so much.
Jackson pulled the country out of debt, but his subsequent fiscal policies sparked the Panic of 1837 and a depression. His campaign against Philadelphia's own Second Bank of the United States, combined with his disdain for paper money, makes him at best an ironic pick for the $20. And while Jackson famously expanded popular democracy and championed the union amid secessionist agitation, his avid participation in the slave trade and support for the removal of Native Americans deeply tarnish his legacy.
As for who should replace Old Hickory, Women on 20s tallied more than 600,000 votes last month, and Harriet Tubman deservedly emerged as the top choice. After escaping from slavery to Philadelphia, Tubman guided many others to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Another excellent prospect is the Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott, a founder of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society who also campaigned for women's rights at the Seneca Falls Convention and facilitated employment for poor women in Philadelphia. Mount Laurel native Alice Paul, who led the National Woman's Party and held a jailhouse hunger strike for women's suffrage, is another worthy contender.
To help decide who the chosen woman will be, the Treasury Department is seeking input from the masses (as Hamilton would have called them). Anyone with an opinion can use the hashtag #thenew10 on Twitter or visit thenew10.treasury.gov to share ideas. Although the theme of the redesign is democracy, Lew will have the final say.
Choosing just one of the many deserving women will be difficult. But replacing Jackson shouldn't be.