Campaign for a Woman on the $20 Bill

There’s been a push in recent years to replace Andrew Jackson, 7th U.S. president and current face of the $20 bill, with someone else. The most commonly cited reason is Jackson’s responsibility for the Trail of Tears — the forced migration of the Cherokees to reservations in Oklahoma, a journey that left 4,000 dead—though it has also been noted that Jackson probably wouldn’t have wanted to be on the dollar anyway, since he opposed paper money. This isn’t the first time people have campaigned for a change of the portraits on U.S. currency. Republican lawmakers have variously proposed for Ronald Reagan to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, Andrew Jackson on the $20, and Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 since the 40th president’s death in 2004.

Now, however, there is increased support for getting a woman on a dollar bill. Last July, President Obama himself expressed support for having more women on money. Now, a website called Women on 20s is formally proposing for a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill by 2020, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Though Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea have been on dollar coins, their coins have not been minted in very large numbers. Helen Keller is currently on the Alabama quarter, but of the 53 people who have been depicted on dollar notes, only one has been a woman: First Lady Martha Washington, who was on the $1 Silver Certificate from 1886 to 1891.

The Women on 20s site features a ballot for 15 candidates to replace Jackson on the $20, chosen from an initial pool of 100 worthy women by more than a dozen women’s historians. The final list includes such celebrated women as Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks, as well as 11 other activists, trailblazers, and revolutionaries like Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American women in Congress, and Margaret Sanger, who pioneered the movement for the legalization of birth control. The ballot is open to the general public and voters can choose 3 of the 15 candidates. The top three most voted for women will go on to the final round of voting, which will also include a fourth candidate, Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. The winner of the final round of voting will be formally proposed to President Obama as the new face of the $20.

If a 2020 date for the new $20 is intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a leader of the suffrage movement like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Alice Paul seems like an appropriate choice. I’m also partial to Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth, because, well, they were kind of awesome. But as several commentators have noted, a Native American woman would be a great candidate to replace Jackson, as a form of “poetic justice” — and Wilma Mankiller, leader of the Cherokees, would be especially fitting. Heck, I would vote for her just to rile the inevitable angry antifeminists even more (if you’re wondering: Mankiller was the actual last name she inherited from her father).