Gain­ing cur­rency: A woman will be the face of the $10 bill

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Michelle Singletary

By 2020, a woman will fi­nally be right on the money — lit­er­ally.

A re­make of the $10 bill will in­clude a por­trait of a woman and although a man, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew, has the fi­nal say on who that woman will be, he’s open to sug­ges­tions. So let’s take him up on the of­fer.

“We have only made changes to the faces on our cur­rency a few times since bills were first put into cir­cu­la­tion, and I’m proud that the new 10 will be the first bill in more than a cen­tury to fea­ture the por­trait of a woman,” Lew said. (Martha Washington ap­peared on the $1 sil­ver cer­tifi­cate in the 1890s.)

You can post your choice on Twit­ter, Face­book or In­sta­gram us­ing the hash­tag #TheNew10 or register your opin­ion by go­ing to

www.thenew10.trea­sury.gov.

Ivy Baker Priest, who served as U.S. trea­surer from 1953 to 1961 un­der Pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower, has been quoted as hav­ing once said, “We women don’t care too much about get­ting our pic­tures on money as long as we can get our hands on it.”

I care. This is a mo­ment that women, many of whom are the main in­come providers for their fam­ily, should welcome.

“Amer­ica’s cur­rency is a way for our na­tion to make a state­ment about who we are and what we stand for,” Lew said. “Our pa­per bills . . . have long been a way for us to honor our past and ex­press our val­ues.”

The theme for the se­lec­tion is fo­cused around democ­racy. The Trea­sury Depart­ment says: “The per­son should be iconic and have made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to — or im­pact on — pro­tect­ing the free­doms on which our na­tion was founded.” The per­son also has to be de­ceased.

Over the sum­mer, Trea­sury of­fi­cials will be hold­ing meet­ings to col­lect in­put. You can find out where the meet­ings will be held and register to at­tend by go­ing to the Web site for the Bureau of En­grav­ing and Print­ing ( www.mon­ey­fac­tory.gov).

There are some great con­tenders for the cov­eted spot on the $10 bill — Clara Bar­ton, Eleanor Roo­sevelt, Sally Ride, Har­riet Tub­man, Rosa Parks, Su­san B. An­thony. In a non­sci­en­tific poll by The Washington Post, Roo­sevelt was in the lead out of a pool of 10 women, last time I checked.

There are so many who are wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion. There’s civil rights ac­tivist Fan­nie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to Congress. One ofmy top picks is Parks. By re­fus­ing to give up her bus seat in 1955, she sat and stood up against in­equal­ity not from some great plat­form but just as a citizen tired of in­jus­tice.

How can you read So­journer Truth’s 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” and not con­sider her for the cur­rency? “I could have ploughed and planted, and gath­ered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?”

I’ve long ad­mired Eleanor Roo­sevelt. In a speech be­fore the United Na­tions in 1958, she spoke about hu­man rights. “Where, af­ter all, do uni­ver­sal hu­man rights be­gin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they can­not be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the in­di­vid­ual per­son: the neigh­bor­hood he lives in; the school or col­lege he at­tends; the fac­tory, farm or of­fice where he works. Such are the places where ev­ery man, woman and child seeks equal jus­tice, equal op­por­tu­nity, equal dig­nity with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

The clever, snide, vul­gar and ab­surd com­ments have al­ready be­gun. Although I did like this com­ment from @mid­west­spit­fire on Twit­ter: “Guys, Hamil­ton has to stay on the $10 be­cause if it was JUST a woman on there it would only be worth $7.70.”

My hope is the de­bate about the choice will largely be civil and thought­ful. I am fine with any of the lead­ing choices. It’s just time for the all-male money club to pro­vide a per­ma­nent place for a woman.

Although the re­designed bill will be un­veiled in 2020 to celebrate the 100th an­niver­sary of the right of women to vote, Lew will de­cide on the new por­trait this year.

But here’s one thing about the re­design ef­fort I’mnot feel­ing. The woman on the $10 bill will have to share the space with Alexan­der Hamil­ton. In a re­lease, the Trea­sury Depart­ment said Lew has “made clear” that the im­age of Hamil­ton will re­main in some way as part of the new ban­knote.

We fi­nally get a woman, but she has to stand by a man? Write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or

sin­gle­tarym@wash­post.com. Ques­tions may be used in a fu­ture col­umn, with the writer’s name, un­less oth­er­wise re­quested. To read more, go to wapo.st/michellesin­gle­tary.

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