A recent poll revealed that Harriet Tubman is the favourite to feature on the new $10 bill, but wait a second before you break out party hats and cake. The celebration for this decision should be put on ice.
New face of $10 bill
It was announced last week by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew that the $10 bill is being redesigned. This will mark the first time in over a century that a women will feature on paper money, in the US. The last time this happened was in 1891 when Martha Washington was on the $1 silver certificate. The new bill will be released in 2020, in time to honour 100 years of female suffrage in the state.
Following the revelation of the news, CNNMoney asked readers to nominate a woman to appear on the bill. Using the hashtag #CNN10s, people made many suggestions. Worthwhile ones abided by the criteria of it being no living person and highlighting democracy in America.
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) won the three-round ballot put out by the Women on 20s campaign, which attracted more than 600,000 votes.
Tubman was an abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad, and also an opinionated and active activist for giving women the right to vote. She was the most mentioned on twitter, but other favourites include Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The $10 bill currently features the image of America’s first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Therefore, redesign of this should have equal rights activists jumping up and down with ecstatic joy. In reality though, this move is a very small and used as a “get out clause” under the pretence of gender equality. The lucky lady will still have to share the banknote with Hamilton. Depending on design features, they will either appear together or separately on two different bills layouts.
Men, however, are featured solo on all 7 of the paper bills and have done for over 100 years. So why, in 2015 when equality is within reach, should it be so inconceivable for the Treasury to allow a woman her own bill?
Secondly, among other advocates, the Woman on 20s organizations fought hard to get a woman appearing on the $20 bill, but had to settle for less. They campaigned for this because, some argue, that Andrew Jackson, the current face of the $20 bill, should be replaced by a more worthy candidate. According to Salon, many Americans are critical of Jackson, calling him a “genocidal maniac”, “mass Murderer” or “Indian Killer” due to his enforcement of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. An act which drove Native Americans from their traditional homelands. This lead to thousands of people starving or freezing on a route which became known as the “trail of tears”.
In a society where a man who causes controversial hatred is favoured to appear on a money bill over a well-respected women, equality is far from reach. Jack Lew himself said in statement: ““With such a wide reach, America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation”. Apparently it says more about the prevailing patriarchy.
Finally, this new plan showcases how backwards American currency is in comparison to the rest of the world, as Sweden, Argentina, Britain, Turkey, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines and even Syria have at least one important woman featuring on a bill. Even Australia has a woman on every paper note.
This plan is positive and shouldn’t be viewed as anything but, as any tangible form of recognition for females is something we should hold on to. However, when it is as small and shrouded in male supremacy as this then we should probably replace the champagne popping with a small and quiet round of reserved applause.