Progress for American women came on Wednesday as it so often does: very late, and by half.
Though activists led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have been fighting for a woman to appear on the $20 bill, the Treasury Department announced last night that a woman will instead grace the $10 bill, and she will have to share this financial real estate with Alexander Hamilton, who has been staring out from the currency since 1928.
Those behind this movement — their now-inaccurate title is Women On 20s — had hoped for a new bill to be in circulation by 2020, on the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. But the Treasury can only promise that the design will be revealed by that date. It could be five years after the design is finalized before the bill finds its way into wallets the nation over, as the hip redesign is slated to include tactile features to aid blind and visually impaired people, plus the usual anti-counterfeit measures that are updated about every ten years.
Of course by 2025, we might all just be buying stuff with Apple pay, or by pushing branded buttons brought to us by Amazon. Paper currency could go the way of pay phones and Blockbuster: something we won’t believe we used to use all the time.
Shaheen introduced her legislation on this matter in April and, this month, wrote a letter to President Obama to insist he flex some executive muscle to make it happen. Last night, after the Treasury announcement, she released a statement that read, in part: “While it might not be the twenty dollar bill, make no mistake, this is a historic announcement and a big step forward. Young girls across this country will soon be able to see an inspiring woman on the ten dollar bill who helped shape our country into what it is today and know that they too can grow up and do something great for their country.”
Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary with a famous loop-de-loop of a signature, will have the final say over which woman lands the ten; the only job requirement, by law, is that she be dead, but Lew would like to select someone “who was a champion for our inclusive democracy.” (Again, this is the progress we are getting: a man will still have the last word over what woman deserves to be on money.) Women On 20s already held a vote and deemed Harriet Tubman the most fitting recipient of the honor.
Lew reportedly wants the feedback of the American people as he makes this decision, and citizens are encouraged to share their favorite contenders with #TheNew10 on Twitter.
A person could suggest that instead of pitting women against each other for the glory of occupying half a ten dollar bill — which is basically like a five dollar bill; which for American women is worth $3.85 at most — citizens could continue to lobby to have Andrew Jackson, noted genocide enthusiast, removed from the twenty and replaced with a worthy American woman.