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Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew recently announced that in 2020—the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote—the $10 bill will be redesigned, and will feature a woman on the front. In most respects, this is thought of as a huge, historic win for women in their fight for equality when it comes to paper currency. There had been a big push, led by an organization called Women on 20s (WO2), to get a woman placed on the $20 bill. They targeted the $20 bill not because it coincides with the year 2020 (it’s a nice coincidence though), but because it is a more widely circulated bill (in an ATM-rich environment) and also because of the perceived shortcomings of former President Andrew Jackson.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with U.S. Presidential history, but President Jackson played a large role in the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to “The Trail of Tears.” This mass relocation of Native American Tribes resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a pretty good reason to replace him.

Here’s the kicker … the $20 bill is not the next in line to be updated — the $10 bill, featuring former President Andrew Hamilton, is. The Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) program has been monitoring and communicating counterfeit deterrence issues to the secretary of the treasury for over 33 years. The ACD’s focus is to stay ahead of counterfeiting, which is the primary driver for currency redesign. In June 2013, the ACD recommended to Treasury Secretary Lew that the $10 bill should be the next to be redesigned. To determine which bill should be redesigned next, the ACD looks into counterfeit threat, security features to deter counterfeit threats, production capabilities and complexities, use of bills in transactional commerce, and impact on consumers and currency printing equipment manufacturers. After considering all of the elements above, it was decided that the $10 bill should be the next updated.

Based on this recommendation from the ACD, and the ever-growing push to get a woman on paper currency, Treasury Secretary Lew announced that the $10 bill would be updated, not only to improve counterfeiting measures, but also so that a woman would be on paper currency for the first time in more than a century—“as soon as possible.”

While this is exciting news, it’s important to note the woman who came before. The first woman featured on U.S. currency was Pocahontas, who made a brief appearance (in a group photo) on a $20 note from 1865 to 1869. Then, from 1891 to 1896, Martha Washington appeared on the $1 silver certificate, and was also on the back of the 1896 version with George by her side.  But since then women, including Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea, have been relegated to coins.

WO2’s executive director, Susan Ades Stone, is quoted on the initiative’s site as saying, “It has been our goal from the beginning to see the face of a woman on our paper currency, so naturally, we were excited to learn that our mission will be achieved …  Even though our campaign targeted the $20 bill, we are pleased Secretary Lew will make this change on the first bank note to receive a makeover. It’s a great first step.”

So like I mentioned before, a huge win, right? Not entirely … or maybe not as much as they desired. According to the Treasury website, thenew10, created to inform the public about the process of the redesign, Alexander Hamilton’s image will still remain a part of the bill. This part of the announcement has been met with mostly criticism, from both the public, to past government officials. Some are outraged that with such a huge historic step forward, the woman featured on the bill will still have to “share the spotlight” with Hamilton, in whatever fashion. Others oppose the redesign altogether, such as former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, who recently wrote that “he was ‘appalled’ that (Secretary) Lew would ‘demote’ Hamilton, who as the first Treasury Secretary, and ‘was without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history.’” I suspect Mr. Bernanke is just a little passionate about the topic.

Personally, all facts aside, I think it’s about damn time. I’m not going to get political, but I think it’s long overdue for women to be viewed as equals to men in all areas of our society.

So, while the primary driver of the change is to reduce the threat of counterfeits, the buzz will still remain around which woman should be featured. There are only two requirements for the woman who appears on the bill: that she reflects the theme of democracy and that she no longer is living. Names such as Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and the like are being tossed around.

So, what say you? Who do you think should be featured on the new $10 bill?

Mike Brown
Senior Art Director