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Women On 20s: Continuing to Lead the Charge for the Twenty

Op Ed - August 26, 2015

A Woman’s Place Is On the $20: How Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Betrayed a Movement

By Susan Ades Stone & Barbara Ortiz Howard

Despite generations of inclusion in our democracy, women have a lot of catching up to do as of today, the 95th anniversary of the date we were at long last given the right to vote. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had a golden opportunity to move things in the right direction for the 51% — by deciding finally to put an unsung female hero on our male-only paper currency. Unfortunately, he’s on the road to blowing it.

This is a national movement we’re proud to have inspired — holding an online poll that attracted more than 600,000 votes to replace Andrew Jackson on the widely used $20 bill. In a stroke of poetic justice, freed slave, freedom fighter and suffragist Harriet Tubman was the people’s choice to replace the slave-trading, Indian-killing seventh President. Schoolchildren pumped about being a part of historic change and minting some new role models were among the most enthusiastic participants in that campaign.

From the beginning, we were under the impression that it was the $20 bill that was next up for redesign; it said so on the Treasury Department’s own website. Overhauling that bill would have made perfect sense. For too long, with Jackson’s image spewing from every ATM, we’ve been sending the world the wrong message about what we value.

What’s more, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage arrives in 2020, and issuing a new $20 bill in time to celebrate and value women’s contributions to our democracy would be natural.

Imagine our surprise and disappointment when in June, Lew revealed his plans — with barely a mention of our half-million-strong grass-roots campaign that had taken social and mainstream media by storm. He said the woman he chooses will go not on the $20 bill, but on the far less circulated $10 — and will somehow share that bill with its current occupant, the revered architect of our democracy and financial system, Alexander Hamilton.

By not evicting Jackson (who, ironically, despised paper money and Hamilton’s central banking system), diminishing Hamilton and giving women shared billing, Lew managed to please almost no one and offend many. By any calculus, half a ten hardly equals a twenty. Read the Full OpEd in the NY Daily News


#TheNew10 Spawns Controversy...and Levity


EDITORIAL - July 4, 2015: 

Take Jackson Off the $20 Bill, Put a Woman in His Place

There is no question that the United States should put a woman on its paper currency. But the Treasury Department’s plan to put one on the $10 bill, which currently has the image of Alexander Hamilton, is the wrong way to do it.....

.....A better idea is to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill and replace him with a distinguished woman from American history. Jackson was a slave owner whose decisions annihilated American Indian tribes of the Southeast. He also hated paper currency and vetoed the reauthorization of the Second Bank of the United States, a predecessor of the Federal Reserve. Jackson is in the history books, but there’s no reason to keep him in our wallets. Read the full editorial in The New York Times

Where Women On 20s Stands Today

The last few months have been an incredible journey for Women On 20s and we are grateful for the tremendous public support our mission has gathered for ending the male monopoly on the national monument we know as our paper currency.

Together we have made an historic impact, bringing important dialogue about valuing the abilities and accomplishments of women to schools, dinner tables, legislative halls, social media forums and editorial outlets. It has been an unprecedented 4-month coast-to-coast conversation. More than a half million people cast votes, not for pop stars, but for historic women who deserve to be celebrated and held up as examples of what young girls can aspire to become – agents of great change who will be recognized and respected alongside influential men who move our country forward.

What began with one person’s dream to celebrate the 2020 centennial of women’s suffrage with a fitting tribute grew into a call for action that couldn’t be ignored. And on June 18th, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced a plan in the works to put a woman on the next bill up for redesign – the $10 note.

Frankly, the choice of the $10 and not the $20 was a surprise to us. We targeted the $20 because it is a ubiquitous bill bearing the image Andrew Jackson, known more today for his mistreatment of Native Americans, involvement in the slave trade and hatred of paper currency than any other aspect of his legacy. We had no desire to unseat the exemplary Alexander Hamilton, a visionary founding father who designed our monetary system. But we were just as surprised to learn along with the public that Hamilton would not be going away, he would just be sharing the bill with the first woman on paper money in well over a century. And while the new design would be unveiled in 2020, the actual bills would not be circulated for several more years after that. It seems as a nation we can do better job of celebrating women and their worth and do it in a timely way.

Since the announcement, we have been paying close attention to the public reaction and debate. We also have partaken in private briefings with the White House and U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios to learn more about the rationale for choosing the $10 and the seemingly overstretched timeline for its redesign. The answers, so far, have not convinced us that more cannot be done. While we are pleased that a woman will take her rightful place on the new $10 bill, the intentions for the more visible, more numerous and more internationally circulated $20 bill should be announced as well. And perhaps an interim portrait change can be fast tracked, even if a more comprehensive security redesign cannot happen for another decade.

Secretary Lew told a recent gathering at The Brookings Institution that his mind is made up about the $10, but it is his intention to stimulate national debate on the redesign. With all due respect, what is the point of debate if there's no room for a change of mind and direction? Nonetheless, we're taking up the challenge with some points and counterpoints you can find here on the $10 vs. the $20. 

The Women On 20s Campaign History


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