The year 2020 will mark the centennial of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. A new online campaign, Women On 20s, is seeking to commemorate the occasion by putting a woman’s face on paper currency.
Women On 20s is modeled after a political campaign; the primary round had voters choose three women from a list of 15 contenders that included Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, among others. The campaign’s founder, entrepreneur Barbara Ortiz Howard, assembled the list with help from female historians and educators. According to the website, candidates were judged on two criteria: their impact on society, and the level of difficulty they faced to achieve their goals. They also adhered to one of the Treasury’s rules, which states that an individual must be deceased for at least two years before they are eligible to appear on government currency.
The campaign is targeting the $20 bill not just for its numerical significance but also because it deems the current face of the bill, Andrew Jackson, a distasteful and ironic choice. As the seventh president of the United States, Jackson signed legislation that culminated in the mass relocation of Native American tribes, commonly known as the Trail of Tears. According to historians, Jackson was also an opponent of the central banking system and favored coins over paper currency.
Many say the likelihood of having a female face on the $20 bill by 2020 is rather high considering that all it takes is approval from the president and the Treasury. Supporters of the campaign cite an encouraging speech made by President Obama last year in which he stated that having women on our currency would be a “pretty good idea.”
Technically, women have already appeared on our currency but the dollar coins featuring Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea never received heavy use. Today fewer than 80 million are in circulation, compared to $125 billion $20 bills.
“Putting a woman’s face on paper currency is a good start to recognizing women’s contributions to America,” second-year and NCSA Co-President Paige Pellaton said. “Additionally, $20s are one of the more frequently circulated small bills, which would help with the visibility and saliency of women’s issues and activism to the public … A woman on the $20 would say that we as a nation are working towards gender equality.”
Voting is now open on womenon20s.org