By: Matt Walker - In a Nutshell: Barbara Ortiz Howard was not a political activist when she came up with the idea for Women On 20s. The nonprofit was born of the realization that women are not well-represented in the American cultural landscape. In a nationwide campaign, voters selected abolitionist Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. The bill is significant because the original target year for implementation — 2020 — marks the centennial of women’s right to vote in the U.S. And, removing Jackson from the $20 bill would remove what many see as a symbol of oppression, as a slave owner and president who signed the Indian Removal Act into law. Although the Harriet Tubman campaign was a success, the organization is awaiting clarification from the Treasury on when the change will occur.
Like so many great ideas, the inspiration for the Women On 20s campaign struck out of the blue, when a number of observations culminated for the organization’s founder, Barbara Ortiz Howard.
“It started in 2012 when I was waiting in line at a coffee shop one day, and I had this realization that one of the problems that we have is that women are invisible in our society in everyday life,” said Howard.
Howard said she had been watching movies, like “Iron Jawed Angels,” and making some general observations about society, and she was stunned as she began to understand how little Americans know about women’s history.
“And it just dawned on me, I said ‘Oh, my goodness, there aren’t even any women on any of our paper currency,’” she said. “It seemed odd, given that I know other countries have women on their currency. It was sort of a testament to how little women are recognized in our everyday cultural landscape.”
The idea resonated with Howard.