Our New York Times Op-Ed
By Susan Ades Stone & Barbara Ortiz Howard
When we started “Women on 20s” a year ago to engage the nation in replacing Andrew Jackson with an iconic American woman on the $20 bill, we never imagined that Alexander Hamilton would be pleading for his life in a redesign of the $10 note. But now Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star who plays Hamilton in his own eponymous hit Broadway musical, is celebrating an assurance from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that Hamilton is safe. As Mr. Miranda tweeted to his followers, Lew told him, “You’re going to be very happy.” But will the redesign make women happy?
Anything short of a simultaneous redesign of the $20 bill giving women a place of their own in the all-male pantheon of our paper money is an affront. Sparked by our movement, hundreds of thousands of women and men have sent that message to the Treasury in the form of petitions, tweets and emails. Despite Secretary Lew’s hints in recent months that the back of the $10 bill offers ample real estate for honoring women, there is little evidence the public would support this compromise. We certainly don’t.
Talk about, to paraphrase one of Mr. Miranda’s brilliant lyrics, “throwing away our shot.” With the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage just four years away, giving women a spot on the back — or even in some shared position with Hamilton — on a bill that represents just 5 percent of the paper money in circulation is inadequate.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada announced his intention to give women a bill of their own by 2018. He follows more than a dozen nations, including our other neighbor, Mexico, that already have women on bills in circulation. If, as Mr. Lew states, the images on our currency reflect what we value as a nation, then Jackson, a slave trader and Native American oppressor, should be removed from the ubiquitous $20 bill and replaced by the freed slave and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, the choice in our online survey that polled more than half a million people. And we should continue to preserve and celebrate the legacy of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who did so much to shape our democracy, not to mention the monetary system that Andrew Jackson worked so hard to discredit.
The only thing that stands in the way of redesigning the $20 bill, at the same time as the 10, is political will. This administration, in its remaining time, can and should redesign the 20 and have it in our hands in time to celebrate the centennial of the inclusion of women in our democracy in 2020.