Editor’s Note: Susan Ades Stone is the director of Women on 20s, and Barbara Ortiz Howard is the organization’s founder. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.
Susan Ades Stone, Barbara Ortiz Howard: Treasury Secretary Lew expected to announce that a woman will be on $20 bill -- by 2030
They say he should fast-track the change; women should not have to wait for long overdue recognition
Here at Women On 20s, an organization we formed to advocate for putting a woman on the $20 bill, the messages of congratulations have been coming in at a fast clip. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, according to news reports, is announcing plans Wednesday to leave Alexander Hamilton on the front of the $10 bill and put a woman’s portrait on the face of the $20, booting Andrew Jackson instead.
But we aren’t celebrating yet.
In news reports, government sources also reveal that we won’t be seeing that $20 with a female portrait in circulation until 2030 or beyond. Yes, that’s more than 14 years. As usual, women are being asked to wait, and wait. It’s a wait we’re not willing to endure; we should be well beyond having to beg for something that should have happened a long time ago.
What would make this a true cause for celebration is for Lew to announce that he will fast-track the $20 note, putting it into production alongside the new $10, which is first in line, for security reasons. It took 140 years for women to secure the right to vote. It has been more than 100 years since a woman has been seen on the face of paper currency.
In this day and age, what possible reason could there be for not committing the resources necessary to make this happen? At this pace, we’ll have cancer cured before we see women honored alongside men in the pantheon of paper money.
Some might say we should be satisfied with plans to use the back side of two relatively minor bank notes – the $10 and the $5 – to depict group scenes of women’s activism, while preserving the front-of-the bill portraits of Hamilton and Lincoln respectively. In fact, we had commissioned just such a vignette for the flip side of the $20 that we hoped would feature Harriet Tubman on the portrait side, the choice of the 600,000 people who voted in our online poll last spring.