A campaign to get a woman honoured by featuring on an American banknote had even more success than the campaigners hoped. Both women and ethnic minority figures will feature on dollar bills by 2020, the centenary of women’s suffrage in the U.S.!
National symbols are a wonderful way into discussing a country’s culture – and encouraging pupils to think about their own country’s symbols, which we all tend to take for granted. The current debate in the U.S.A. about honouring a woman on a banknote is and excellent and realistic example.
A women’s group, Women on 20s, has been campaigning for several years to have a woman featured on the $20 bill. U.S. notes have changed little since the 1930s, and all feature men. But the treasury is gradually redesigning them to combat counterfeiting and Women on 20s suggested that it would be a strong symbol to honour a woman on the $20 bill in time for 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution which granted women the vote. The organisation invited citizens to vote for candidates for the honour. Among many popular suggestions were:
- Susan B. Anthony, suffrage campaigner
- Rosa Parks, civil rights campaigner
- Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Wilma Mankiller, the first female elected chief of a Native American nation, the Cherokee, in modern times.
But the winner of the popular vote was Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery in Maryland in 1848, and then helped hundreds of others to do the same on the “Underground Railway”.
Women on 10s?
In June 2015, the campaign seemed to receive an enormous boost when the Treasury launched a popular debate to choose a woman to feature on the $10 bill, the next to be redesigned. They received several million responses, but not simply votes for possible candidates. Many of the public objected to the choice of the $10 bill, which is much less commonly used than the 20. A further issue is the current faces on the bills, who would be replaced by the chosen woman. The $10 features Andrew Hamilton, a Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury. He was already consensual and popular, and a smash hit Broadway musical is adding to his popularity. The $20, on the other hand, shows Andrew Jackson, the controversial seventh President, who historians accuse of committing genocide on the Native American population.
In the end, the Treasury has decided to not only put Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill, but to include more women and people from ethnic minorities on the different notes. Tubman will be on the front of the new $20 bill, while President Jackson moves to the back. Hamilton will remain on the front of the $10 bill, but the back will feature five women who fought for women’s suffrage: Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Sojourner Truth, who also escaped slavery. And the $5 bill will keep President Abraham Lincoln on the front but the back will feature human and civil rights campaigners Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr, all associated with momentous events at the Lincoln Memorial.
The designs for the new notes will be published in 2020.
And as if the whole debate has moved the Treasury’s thinking, it has just released a commemorative gold $100 coin for the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint. The collectible coin features Lady Liberty, the mythical figure who represents freedom, and is depicted on the Statue of Liberty. For the first time ever Lady Liberty is pictured as an African-American woman.
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