By Meteor Blades / Daily Kos
An unnamed senior federal official told CNN Saturday that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will announce this week sometime that Alexander Hamilton will remain on a newly designed $10 bill but a woman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20. Just don’t expect to see bills with whomever that replacement is pouring out of the nation’s ATMs anytime soon. Newly designed $5 and $10 bills will show up first. Because of the lengthy design and anti-counterfeiting measures, if Hillary Clinton becomes president and serves two terms, she’ll be long out of office by the time a woman appears on the $20—in 2030 at the earliest, according to Treasury officials:
Lew announced last summer that he was considering redesigning the $10 bill to include the portrait of a woman. The decision to make the historic change at the expense of Hamilton drew angry rebukes from fans of the former Treasury Secretary. The pro-Hamilton movement gained steam after the smash success of the hip-hop Broadway musical about his life this year.
Those pressures led Lew to determine that Hamilton should remain on the front of the bill. Instead, a mural-style depiction of the women’s suffrage movement — including images of leaders such as Susan B. Anthony — will be featured on the back of the bill.
Back in March 2014, Jillian Keenan at Slate proposed getting the genocidal Jackson off the $20 and replaced with a woman. Matt Iglesias at Vox picked up the theme in July that year. And in May, the non-profit group Women on $20s appeared, asking supporters to sign a petition to dump Jackson and to say who they thought the replacement should be. Over time, the candidates were winnowed down to 15: Alice Paul, Clara Barton, Frances Perkins, Susan B. Anthony, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan, Margaret Sanger, Patsy Mink, Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Eventually, the group got 600,000 signatures on a petition, a plurality of whom picked Harriet Tubman as the best of those many good choices. This made me particularly happy because Tubman was my first choice, too. The United States should make a big deal out of the leaders of resistance in its history—its disrupters—who are too often vilified in their own time and ignored afterward despite their essential contributions to a better America.
Herself a fugitive slave, armed with a pistol, [Tubman] risked capture and worse at least 13 times by returning to Maryland to pull some 70 slaves out of bondage, guiding them along the Underground Railroad to safety in Canada. She endorsed John Brown’s efforts, raising money and recruiting ex-slaves in Ontario to join the attack on the Harpers Ferry armory in what was meant to be the spark setting off a rebellion to end slavery. During the Civil War, she served as a nurse and in the summer of 1863 a leader of scouts and the first woman of that war to lead an armed assault, part of the Combahee River Raid that freed 750 slaves. She then recruited most of the liberated men into the Union Army. She spent her later years fighting for women’s suffrage.
You don’t get more disruptive of the established order than that.
So hurrah for a change that has been too long in coming. But why should we have to wait another decade and-a-half? The people behind Women on $20s are asking the same question. They’re glad the change is coming, but there’s unhappiness with the timing:
We’d like to take credit for what seems like a great victory for our cause to get a woman on the $20 bill. But we’re not there quite yet. Two minor bills — the $10 and the $5 — with barely discernible images of women on their back sides, and the promise of replacing the slave trading, Indian killing Jackson with a woman on the $20 fifteen years down the road is not the suffrage centennial celebration we were looking for. This affront to Native and African Americans on our most visible and used bill simply cannot continue. What we do in the next 48 hours could make all the difference in the world. But we need your help to turn this into a momentous celebration.
We still have a chance to influence President Obama and Treasury Secretary Lew to fast-track the change to the $20 so women can at last have a bill all their own. And we will continue to apply pressure to get women better billing on the two bills that will come out first, the $10 and the $5.
Why are we insisting the Administration get this right and commit to it now? Because the nation – and young people most importantly – were promised that women would very soon get the real respect they are due. Fifteen years is not soon in anybody’s book. And the backs of two bills in the meantime will amount to an insult. Time to take the reins away from the men who are calling the shots in this influence game and give women a shot of their own.
Very much agreed. Please help spread the word about moving up this deadline via social media.