Gaining currency: A woman will be the face of the $10 bill
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
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
email@example.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.