What would the United States be like if we had Harriet Tubman on our $20 bills?
Depicted on current and former US dollar banknotes are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, William McKinley, and Grover Cleveland. Yes, they are all men. And yes, all white men.
The organization Women on 20s is looking to change that, though, and just in time for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020. The nonprofit collected more than 600,000 votes over a period of ten weeks to decide which woman they would petition the White House to put on the new $20 bill. Harriet Tubman won, and Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks were close contenders as well.
I personally would LOVE to see a woman on an American bill. Heck, why choose just one woman? Why not take the top three or five and make our currency more representative of our country’s diversity? Our currency has immortalized these men, and there are important women in our history who deserve high recognition as well. A woman on any bill would bring greater visibility and representation of the female heroes that get left out of so many history lessons.
Harriet Tubman was known for her bravery in fighting against slavery and working on the Underground Railroad. President Andrew Jackson was known for his hand in passing an act that led to the Trail of Tears, where thousands of Indians died during relocation. The two could not be more different, and it makes this change seem like a very easy choice.
According to NPR, the $20 bill would have a special historical resonance for Tubman’s legacy: She eventually received $20 from the U.S. government as her monthly pension for her service as a nurse, scout, cook, and spy during the Civil War, as well as for her status as the widow of a veteran.
Women on 20s is making real progress; on May 12, they sent a petition to President Obama asking him “to order the Secretary of the Treasury to change the current portrait portrayed on our American $20 banknote to reflect the remarkable accomplishments of an exemplary American woman who has helped shape our Nation’s great history.” It’s good to see the petition getting some great press and support.
There are many women who deserve the honor of being immortalized through US currency. Whether you agree with the choice of Harriet Tubman or not, it’s hard to deny that she was an amazing woman and is an underrated historical figure who fought against all odds and changed the US for the better.
What do you think? Should we remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 and add a woman? Which woman?
Katie Boyer lives in sunny Oakland, CA and works at Goodreads. She spends her days reading, exploring, and playing with her pet rabbit.
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