News that a woman will appear on the $10 bill in 2020 prompted an explosion of candidate suggestions and celebration, tempered by criticism of how the change will be carried out.
Some people took to social media to express elation over the decision to feature a woman on paper currency — for only the third time in U.S. history and the first in more than a century. In the late 1800s, First Lady Martha Washington graced the $1 silver certificate, and Pocahontas was featured on the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869.
Speaking at the National Archives in Washington on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said that “given the vital role women played to build this nation, it’s only right that our currency reflect their contribution.”
Lisa Moore, a professor of English, gender and women’s studies at the University of Texas at Austin, said paper notes can be seen as a kind of “national portrait gallery.”
“These are the images of American leaders that circulate most widely,” she said. “I think it’s long past the time that all of the leaders of American democracy are represented.”
Along with the praise, there has been plenty of criticism.
Alexander Hamilton will still appear on the note even after the yet-to-be-selected woman makes her debut. The Treasury either will design two bills or Hamilton and the woman will share the same bill.
This news, coupled with the fact that a grass-roots campaign called Women on 20s advocated for a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the higher denomination $20 bill, has diluted some of the excitement.
“That certainly weakens the symbolic value of the gesture,” Moore said. “It seems to be saying that women are worth less ... and that sends an unfortunate message of inequality.”
But Hamilton has plenty of supporters, including Richard Sylla, professor of economics and financial history at New York University, who says his role as the nation’s first Treasury secretary should guarantee his place.
Sylla cited the variety of Hamilton’s accomplishments, such as writing a majority of the Federalist Papers, serving as a founding father and commanding the U.S. Army in preparation for a war with France in the late 1790s.
“He’s the person that set up the financial system,” Sylla said. “He may have been the most important figure in terms of setting up this country.”
As an alternative, many have suggested that Jackson should be the one to go.
Women on 20s called for Jackson to be replaced because of his role in forcing Native American tribes on the “Trail of Tears.” Sylla said it’s ironic that the president who in 1832 abolished the second central bank of the U.S. is featured on a paper note.
“If you look under Jackson’s rock, you find a lot of things that aren’t so nice,” he said. “I perceive that Jackson’s star is falling.”
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and abolitionist and Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman are among the most popular suggestions on Twitter. In May, Tubman won the Women on 20s online contest with more than 118,000 votes.
To submit suggestions for the new bill, visit TheNew10.Treasury.gov or use the hashtag #TheNew10 on Twitter. Lew will announce his selection at the end of the year.