Isn't It About Time?
2020: The Centennial
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. So it seems fitting to commemorate that milestone by voting to elevate women to a place that is today reserved exclusively for the men who shaped American history. That place is on our paper money. And that new portrait can become a symbol of greater changes to come.
Let's make the names of female "disrupters" -- the ones who led the way and dared to think differently -- as well-known as their male counterparts. In the process, maybe it will get a little easier to see the way to full political, social and economic equality for women. And hopefully it won't take another century to realize the motto inscribed on our money: E pluribus unum, or "Out of many, one."
But Isn't Susan B. Anthony already on our money?
The answer is…..kind of.
The nation's most famous suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, became the first woman to have her portrait on American coinage, not counting Lady Liberty, when President Jimmy Carter signed the law ordering a change in size, weight and design of the large Eisenhower one-dollar coin in 1978. But fewer than 800 million were minted before the public got sick of mistaking them for quarters. Congress then replaced the beleaguered silver SBA with a gold-colored dollar depicting another legendary woman, Shoshone Indian guide Sacagawea, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition. That coin appeared January 27, 2000. But when the change was ordered, Congress had decreed that the SBA dollars remain in circulation. Still, neither coin saw popular use, other than in vending machines and transit fare boxes. By 2012, the Mint produced a mere 3 million Sacagaweas. So, here's a better question: when did YOU last use a lady dollar? How about a $20? There is one other woman on a coin today: Helen Keller on the reverse side of the Alabama quarter. The only other women coins are commemorative issues.
(Full disclosure: Martha Washington's portrait appeared on the face of an oversized $1 Silver Certificate in 1886 and 1891. She and husband George appeared on the reverse of the 1896 note.)
Why boot Andrew Jackson from the $20?
Two reasons that are gaining traction:
1. Andrew Jackson was celebrated for his military prowess, for founding the Democratic party and for his simpatico with the common man. But as the seventh president of the United States, he also helped gain Congressional passage of the "Indian Removal Act of 1830" that drove Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States off their resource-rich land and into Oklahoma to make room for white European settlers. Commonly known as the Trail of Tears, the mass relocation of Indians resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay.
2. Some argue that because Jackson was a fierce opponent of the central banking system and favored gold and silver coin or "hard money" over paper currency, he is an ironic choice for immortalization on our money.