Women make up 50 percent of the U.S. population and 85 percent of all consumer purchases, so isn’t it about time we got a face on some legal tender? Women on 20s is a nonprofit on a mission to make a woman on the $20 bill a reality.
“This is designed to be a grassroots campaign. We want this to come from the people,” says Susan Ades Stone, executive director and strategist of Women on 20s.
“This is a doable mission.”
By collecting votes via an online ballot, Women on 20s hopes to elevate visibility of the incredible women of American history. The ballot, which launched March 1, features 15 candidates selected by women’s historians and academicians.
“The last time our paper money [portraits] were changed was in 1929,” says Ades Stone. “I think we’re a very different country than we were back then, and our money should reflect that. The women that we’ve put forward [on the ballot] have sparked the changes that have improved the lives of so many people, women, laborers, minorities, and people all over this country. Acknowledging them this way is really appropriate.”
The ballot, which includes women leaders and pioneers, has such an all-star lineup that it’s difficult to choose a top three. Alice Paul, a woman who led the campaign for the right to vote along with the National Women’s Party for 50 years, makes the list. Joining her is Sojourner Truth, who escaped slavery and spoke for abolition and women’s rights. Rosa Parks deserves her portrait on the $20 bill for her courage to challenge segregation, as well as Frances Perkins for being the first female cabinet member (she introduced the minimum wage, laws against child labor, and the Social Security Act, among many other accomplishments).
The other nominees are Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Rachel Carson, Barbara Jordan, Margaret Sanger, Patsy Mink, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
In order to have a portrait on currency, someone must have been dead for at least two years and be recognizable to the general public. Because Women on 20s is not planning to create a new denomination, an act of Congress will not be needed to change the face of currency. After voters elect a finalist, the organization will present their candidate to the White House, asking President Obama and the treasury secretary to make the change.
Last summer President Obama remarked during an appearance in Kansas City that putting a woman on American currency would be “a pretty good idea.”
“We felt that the public would probably like to know that they were going to be heard at the White House,” Ades Stone says.
The $20 bill now presents the face of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.
“Sometimes we’re asked ‘Why Andrew Jackson? Why the $20 bill?’” Ades Stone says. “Right now, [the $20 bill] portrays a president that had a very mixed legacy, and he’s become more well known for the negative aspects of his legacy…[like] forced removal of Native American tribes from the Southeast to the West, [a] migration [that] caused thousands of deaths. It seems to us, it’s time put someone on that bill who’s not a reminder of a painful time in our history.”