Pull all the bills out of your wallet. Notice anything in particular about them? Compared to other world currency our bills are rather boring. Not much for color. The designs haven’t changed much since the 1920s. Nor have the pictures on our paper bills changed since 1929.
Whose pictures are on those one to one hundred dollar bills? (Bills over $100 are no longer in print or circulation) From $1 to $100 the faces on the bills are: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, and Ben Franklin.
There are no women on any of our paper currency. The Queen is on Canadian bills. Australian bills have the picture of a historically important man on one side and woman on the other. Some of the men depicted on our money were Founding Fathers. That seems appropriate. Others were presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and Ulysses Grant. Portraits of Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea were put on the one dollar coin, but the coins have never been commonly used and Lady Liberty used to be on silver dollars.
There is a movement afoot to change this omission. A group called “Women on 20s” is organizing a movement to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with the image of a woman important in US history. The idea is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of passage in1920 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. “Women on 20s” proposes printing new $20 bills. Supporters of the movement chose the $20 because of the numerical coincidence with the year 1920 and the fact that Andrew Jackson’s place in history is a little less than stellar. He supported the suppression of abolitionist movements and he pushed for the removal of Native Americans from southern states. The most notorious act of his Indian Removal Policy was the “Trail of Tears” which forced 15,000 members of the Cherokee tribe to walk from their homes in the southern states to designated Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma in 1838.
I’m sure we can find many women in US history who have contributed more to our country. Of course, one could argue that Andrew Jackson was a two term president and there are no women with that distinction. Perhaps that underlines the need to remember the women who worked so tirelessly to see that we have the right to vote. If we don’t know the names of important women in our history, we should ask why that is. On the list being proposed by “Women on 20s” are suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Paul, and Susan B. Anthony. Also included are women who put their lives at risk to fight for abolition of slavery and for equal rights: Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Sojouner Truth.
Besides putting a woman’s face on the $20, it is time to put women’s names on paychecks that are equal for equal work. Let’s elect women to public office on their qualifications as leaders. Let’s stop discussing what women candidates wear, whether they use an appropriate amount of makeup, if they have thick ankles or wear sensible shoes. Let’s break the glass ceilings that keep women from achieving their full potential. Let’s stop talking about family values and act on those values. Let’s pass laws that support parents who stay home to raise their children and those who work to support their children. Women cannot attain their full potential or contribute all they can to our economy or our society if they are penalized both in and out of the workplace for being the primary caregiver for their children. Truly supporting families by making paid parental leave available benefits mothers and fathers and most of all, it benefits children.
A woman’s face on the $20 bill is long overdue. Check out the list of names on “Womenon20s.org.” Cast your vote. Share the site on your social media accounts. Spread the word.
In the words of feminist, Gloria Steinem, “Women have always been an equal part of the past. They just haven’t been part of history.”
Copyright © 2015 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains