Rethinking Money

– By Betsy Kim and Susy Liu- Money. People use it every day for everything, from paying bus fare to purchasing pumpkin spice lattes. Hopefully, everyone knows the famous faces on those green pieces of paper: George Washington on the $1 bill, Abraham Lincoln on the $5 bill, Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, and Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. But upon a little more observation, you will realize that every leading figure on our currency is a man.

Women On 20’s is an organization that has petitioned President Obama for almost a year to feature an influential woman on the $20 bill. As stated on the organization’s website, “Our money does say something about us, about what we value.” Year 2020 marks 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Having a woman, on the $20 dollar bill by the year 2020 would reflect America’s efforts towards gender equality and set the stage for greater change.

Women On 20’s specifically targeted the $20 bill not only to get a woman to appear on an important and commonly used paper currency but also to replace Andrew Jackson. Though Jackson’s military expertise won him the spot on the bill, his Indian Removal Act of 1830 was responsible for the suffering and death of thousands of American Indians, and he was, ironically, a strong opponent of paper money. Since March 1, 2015, over 256,000 people voted for one woman out of 100 candidates to appear on the $20 bill. The pool has been narrowed down to four women: Eleanor Roosevelt, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. Having a woman of color on the bill is especially exciting, for it would also show America’s progress towards racial equality. With enough support, the organization could persuade Obama to direct the Treasury to feature a woman on the bill.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), the venerable “First Lady of the World”, was an influential activist for not only women’s rights but also for civil rights for people everywhere. She held press conferences and wrote a newspaper column, all the while supporting her husband President Franklin Roosevelt in his fight against polio. Even after President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor remained active and outspoken, becoming a US delegate to the United Nations General Assembly and serving as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Her incredible life’s work has been widely acknowledged, and at her funeral, Adlai Stevenson, a United States representative to the United Nations, asked if there had ever been another human being that had “touched and transformed the existence of so many.”

The second candidate for the bill, Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010), was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation and a strong advocate for social justice, women’s rights, and Native American self-determination. She increased the population of the Cherokee Nation and improved opportunities for native peoples, even while struggling through health problems of her own. Mankiller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her role as a successful, committed leader. She remains a role model for, in her own words, “young Cherokee girls who never would have thought that they might grow up and become chief” and women throughout the United States. Many people believe it would be fitting to replace Jackson, who took the lives and homes of many native peoples, with an inspiring and influential Native American leader such as Mankiller.

Candidate Rosa Parks (1913-2005), known as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement,” challenged racial divisions by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. Her fight for freedom and equal rights fueled the Civil Rights Movement, and she became a major force in and an international icon for the fight to end racial segregation and inequality. In 2013, Obama described Parks as one who, with the “simplest of gestures, helped change America and the world.” She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and is commemorated with a statue built in Washington D.C.

The final candidate is Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), an African-American abolitionist considered by many as the “Moses” of her time. A “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, she led a remarkable number of slaves to freedom in the North. After escaping her own slave master, Tubman reportedly returned to the South 19 times to free those still enslaved. She also served in the Union army during the Civil War, acting as both a healer and a guide, and in her later years she was a strong advocate for former slaves’ right to education and property and also for women’s equality and suffrage. Tubman’s statue was unveiled in 2013, holding a prestigious placement on Washington’s Capitol Hill. Harriet Tubman is remembered and honored today as an extremely courageous, selfless leader and is still an inspiration to people throughout the world.

The Women On 20’s campaign has undoubtedly picked some dollar-worthy candidates: all four deserve to take their place alongside Washington, Lincoln, and Hamilton, for what they have contributed to this world. Only one woman’s portrait can appear on the $20 bill, even though there are many incredible women deserving of this recognition; however, the Women On 20’s campaign is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. In the future, there may be more women acknowledged and honored for their accomplishments. Considering all the notable alumnae of Winsor, perhaps a Winsor graduate will one day be appear on United States currency!

To support the cause, go to and vote for a candidate of your choice!