Editorials

Effort to put women on currency is on the money

Andrew Jackson is featured on the $20 bill.
Andrew Jackson is featured on the $20 bill. Courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Take this to the bank: Someday, a woman’s face will be on our paper currency.

That day could be arriving sooner than we think; there’s a campaign underway to convince the federal government that it’s time to put a woman on a bill. An organization, Women on 20s, is lobbying to have a woman’s face on the $20 bill by 2020, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

The group is proposing to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait with one of 15 woman candidates; an online poll is in progress to narrow that down.

It takes an act of Congress or an order from the secretary of the treasury to make such a change, though Women on 20s is trying a more direct route by going straight to the top: “With the stroke of a pen, the President can direct the Treasury Secretary to make the change,” its website says.

Because the entire process — which includes designing the new bill — can take years, Women on 20s is starting now.

Good for them.

Consider: Of the seven bills in current circulation, all feature portraits of either a former president or a founding father. All seven subjects are white, all seven are men and all seven have been dead for more than a century or two.

It’s about time our paper currency — like our postage stamps and coins — better reflected our diverse history and acknowledged the role women played.

And we love the idea of polling the public. That’s a great way to inspire public discussion of history; to shed light on some notable women who have been overlooked or ignored in traditional history books; and to get Americans involved in the business of making money — literally.

We agree that it would be blasphemy to banish George Washington or Abraham Lincoln from our paper bills. And we’re willing to listen to arguments about why it might make more sense to, say, drop Ulysses S. Grant and keep Andrew Jackson.

But we believe it’s time to change the status quo by making room in this small circle for at least one woman who contributed greatly — and in many cases, at enormous personal sacrifice — to our shared American history and heritage. Women on 20s is trying to get at least 100,000 votes in its online poll. We’d love to see a strong turnout from San Luis Obispo County. In fact, we’re banking on it.

For more information on the nominees and to vote on your top choices, go to http://www.womenon20s.org.

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