The U.S. dollar might be at all-time highs versus other
developed-markets currencies, but one small and vocal
organization isnt accepting the tender at face value.
Women on 20s, a New Yorkbased advocacy group founded by
entrepreneur Barbara Ortiz Howard, has launched a nationwide
campaign to get a woman featured on the $20 billthe first
on any denomination of U.S. paper currencyby 2020, the
100th anniversary of womens suffrage in the U.S.
One reason put forward by Women on 20s to banish Andrew
Jackson, seventh president of the U.S. and the bills
present tenant: He vehemently opposed the idea of central
banks, partially on the grounds that it would have given the
business-heavy North power over the largely agricultural South.
Jackson also signed into law the Indian Removal Act, which led
to the forced migration of Native Americans known as the Trail
of Tears. Why replace him with a woman? There are
monuments of allegorical women such as the Statue of Liberty,
but its hard to come by ones of actual women, notes
Susan Ades Stone, a former journalist who is the groups
executive director and strategist.
Women already have been featured on U.S. currency but
only on coins that havent retained any staying power.
Nineteenth-century suffragist Susan B. Anthony was on a U.S.
dollar coin that minted from 1979 to 1981 but, because of its
similar size, was often confused with the quarter. The U.S.
Mint briefly reintroduced the Susan B. Anthony dollar in 1999.
Another dollar coin, approved in 1997 and minted every year
since 2000 although with sporadic general circulation, features
Sacagawea, the guide from the Native American Shoshone group
who led explorers Lewis and Clark in their early-1800s
expedition across the American West. Neither coin has proven
largely popular beyond vending and public transit fare
machines. Anthony is in the running in the initial round of
Women on 20s voting; Sacagawea is not.
Women on 20s developed a short list of 100 candidates after
outreach with womens studies professors and advisers,
including Molly MacGregor, the executive director and
chairwoman of the National Womens History Project, and
Jill Tietjen, the CEO of the National Womens Hall of Fame
, located in Seneca Falls, New York, considered the birthplace
of the womens rights movement. Together they narrowed the
pool of candidates down to 60. From there, the group took what
Stone calls a more methodical system, ranking
candidates on a rubric of their impact, any adversity faced and
how many lives were changed by the work of the woman in
question. The group then halved the pool and narrowed it down
to a final 15 for voting. Among them: environmentalist Rachel
Carson, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, and former first lady
and United Nations delegate Eleanor Roosevelt. The 15
runners-up are featured on the groups website, WomenOn20s.org; they include Amelia
Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic;
Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Toms
Cabin; and Helen Keller, the first blind-deaf person to
earn a bachelors degree.
Beyond being a historical figure of notable stature, another
requirement is that anyone featured on paper money has to be
deceased. In 1929, the last time a new person was chosen to be
pictured on a denomination of U.S. paper currency, that
was a tall order for women, Stone notes. The being-dead
requirement rules out living people the public has suggested,
including talk show host Oprah Winfrey, feminist Gloria Steinem
and pop star Beyoncé, as well as
Janet Yellen, first female head of the Federal Reserve, who
according to Stone has not come up often as a name.
The public can vote for three choices at WomenOn20s.org; the winners from the first
round will go to a second vote, the victor of which will be
presented to President Barack Obama for consideration. There is
no firm deadline to end the first round of voting, although the
group wants to have 100,000 voters by the end of March,
Womens History Month. More than 60,000 have voted so far
and, according to Stone, five clear leaders have emerged.
So far, Stone says, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has
made no comment, though last summer President Obama voiced
support for putting a woman on U.S. paper currency. The Obama
administration has committed that any petition with at least
100,000 signers will get executive attention. The move does not
require congressional approval. The group could also approach
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew directly, although Stone admits
that going to Obama will pay back PR dividends.
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Follow Anne Szustek on Twitter at @the59thStBridge.