The debate over which woman will appear on the $10 bill has peaked with two top picks — Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony. However for supporters, that bill just isn’t enough.
“We want Aunt Harriet on the 20,” Tubman’s great-great-grand-niece Pauline Copes-Johnson, 88, told the Associated Press after a meeting in Seneca Falls, New York.
The meeting was held at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, where the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. It’s fitting place to hold an inspired debate about who should be the first woman to appear on U.S. currency.
But for some, the call to give Harriet Tubman that honor hasn’t gone far enough. U.S. Treasurer Rosa Rios, who hosted the town hall meeting to debate the issue, told the audience “If it was up to me, it would be on the $100 bill.”
Since Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Alexander Hamilton’s face on the $10 would be replaced with a woman’s by 2020, people have called instead for the removal of Andrew Jackson — a man “responsible for a large number of deaths and as a slave trader, needs to go,” said one supporter — from the $20. Lew has insisted that is not an option.
Barbara Ortiz-Howard, the woman who so dislikes Jackson, founded Womenon20s.org to push for a woman’s face on the $20. A poll she gathered to choose the winner garnered 600,000 votes, and Harriet Tubman once again emerged on top. In fact, people have been pushing to get Tubman on the $20 long before Lew’s announcement about the $10 bill.
Another attendee at the Seneca Falls meeting was Christine Doolittle, who wants Eleanor Roosevelt on the bill — but again, on the $20. “What’s wrong with two women?” she asked.
There are certainly many outstanding and influential women in American history to choose from — and that’s part of the problem, perhaps. While Harriet Tubman is obviously a stellar choice, there are so many remarkable ladies to choose from.
Among them: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who initiated the women’s movement “and had the audacity to say that women should be allowed to vote,” said Emil J. Bove Jr. Roosevelt, of course; abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth; and civil rights hero Rosa Parks. History Professor Holly Mayer added Clara Barton (she founded the American Red Cross) and suffragette Ida B. Wells, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But Harriet Tubman, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, remains, without a doubt, the most popular candidate. And Copes-Johnson, her descendent, couldn’t be happier.
“I am very proud of my Aunt Harriet and her accomplishments. They should choose her because she was the woman who helped change the outcome of the United States. Without her, we would still be in slavery. She traveled multiple times to save people.”
It’s worth noting that changing U.S. paper currency is a rare event. The last changes took place between 1914 and 1928 — that’s when Hamilton earned his spot on the ten, and Grover Cleveland lost the twenty to Jackson and ended up, instead, on the now-defunct $1,000.
The Treasury Department will decide this fall whether Harriet Tubman, or another worthy woman, will feature on the $10. The redesign will be done by 2020, in time for the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. The bill would enter circulation a couple years later.
[Photos Courtesy Chip Somodevilla, Hulton Archive]