Move over, Hamilton: Treasury Announces Woman To Appear On $10 Bill
A woman will soon feature on US bank notes for the first time in 150 years after a successful campaign to celebrate the centenary of female suffrage. But the surprise decision comes with a catch: whoever is chosen will have to share the honour with a man.
Treasury secretary Jack Lew announced the process of redesigning the $10 bill late on Wednesday – less than a week after a high-profile petition was handed to Barack Obama calling on him to pick African-American slavery abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
The public campaign, which nominated the civil war heroine from a shortlist of 15 women, had suggested she replace president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
But officials have opted to redesign the $10 bill instead, currently occupied by the first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, and plan a public consultation exercise of their own before making a final decision on who should be the new woman on the note later this year.
Lew also revealed that when the first new bills are printed in 2020 – coinciding with the 100th anniversary of American women receiving the right to vote – they are likely to continue to feature Hamilton: either by also incorporating him in the new design, or by producing several versions.
“It was personally very important to me to make sure that as we make this decision we continue to honour Alexander Hamilton who played such a formative role in the creation our country, the establishment of democracy as we know it and the principle of the soundness of our currency,” Lew told reporters.
Nonetheless, the administration insists its surprise announcement is a “historic decision” in the normally conservative world of US currency production.
There are notes with a face value of $1.3tn in circulation around the world and more than a billion $10 notes alone are printed each year.
“With such a wide reach America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation,” said the treasury secretary.
He also paid tribute to the campaign, which he said was as a “happy coincidence” with a separate decision to redesign the $10 bill to introduce new security features.
“The Women on 20s campaign reflects the best tradition of American democracy where people care about something, band together and express their views,” said Lew.
The theme of the next series of notes will “focus on celebrating a champion for our inclusive democracy”, said Lew – a criteria that may favour Tubman, who famously organised the “underground railroad” to smuggle slaves out of the south during the American civil war.
But if the three rounds of informal voting carried out by Womenon20s.org are indicative, the choice is likely to be a complex one with strong historical claims made for Eleanor Roosevelt and suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony.
Anthony was also the first woman to feature on American coins after Jimmy Carter introduced a shortlived $1 coin in 1978.
Martha Washington, wife of the first US president, was on a dollar silver certificate in circulation from 1891 to 1896 and the legendary native American, Pocahontas, featured in a picture on the $20 note from 1865 to 1869.
Women On 20s founder Barbara Ortiz Howard said: “While many women are worthy of being featured, when secretary Lew makes his choice we hope he will take into account that the winner of our online poll, Harriet Tubman, was the top vote-getter among more than 600,000 ballots cast.