It’s kind of ironic, in light of the gender pay gap, that the original movement to get a woman on the twenty dollar bill (http://www.womenon20s.org) has resulted in the government’s offer to put a woman on the ten. According to the treasury, the ten dollar bill is up for redesign, thus is the logical choice for, excuse the pun, a makeover. Martha Washington was the first and last to appear on US paper currency, a silver one dollar note (described as the loveliest dollar ever made) issued in 1886 and out of circulation by the turn of the century. Both Pocahontas and Sacagawea appeared on coins. It’s also a little ironic that our chosen woman won’t get the $10 all to herself, no, she’ll be chaperoned by Alexander Hamilton, first treasury secretary, and current holder of the bill. According to the treasury, Hamilton, who debuted on the $10 in 1928, will appear on the reverse side of the bill.
The original movement to put a woman on the $20 sought not only to honor a woman of distinction, but to replace Andrew Jackson who was a primary force behind Native American genocide. Many have observed how strange, almost surreal, the fact that an important American woman has not appeared on our most circulated currency to date. Almost as strange as the fact that we haven’t elected a woman to the presidency as of 2015. And our chosen woman will have to wait until 2020 when the new $10 will enter circulation, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Believe it or not, there is lively debate on social media over Alexander Hamilton’s replacement by some “literary” woman; I think someone got Harriet Tubman confused with Harriet Beecher Stowe. Even in my own Facebook feed a few older white men have questioned the replacement of important political men from history, men who shaped this country (Goddammit), with, well….. a woman. One went so far as to claim that American currency has traditionally featured presidents (Hamilton the exception) an honor which should not be revoked in favor of a woman no matter what her importance in other spheres: science, literature, all those humanities. I had to point out that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Susan B Anthony and Rosa Parks were fighting for the right to be considered people by the white men (their fathers, brothers, men who held the sales receipts to their lives) who wrote the laws and ran the country. These women were fighting for freedom, for the right to govern themselves, to own property, to vote, in some respects a similar fight to the one our forefathers fought when settling America a century before. They weren’t ‘political figures’ in the congressional and presidential sense because they couldn’t even vote for their president, couldn’t help get a candidate into office, never mind run for president. In my house when someone is acting clueless and careless of others’ needs we jokingly quote George Bush (the second). In 2001, when government officials, as well as newspaper and television offices were being mailed envelopes containing Anthrax, Bush, in an effort perhaps to ensure the public that its president was in fine form, replied to a reporter: “well, I don’t have Anthrax”. In other words: “it doesn’t affect me”. To which I say: not the right answer. But if it’s any consolation to the dominant sex, by law, George Washington can never be replaced on the one dollar bill and no living person may appear on US currency. So if, let’s say, Hillary Clinton were to be elected the first woman president in 2016, she may (thanks to Susan B Anthony) have stolen the election from Jeb Bush, but Andrew Jackson will still be safe on the twenty.