Sometimes progress is boring, even for a progressive like me. The prospect of replacing a single man with a single woman on a single unit of our currency, whoever each person happened to be, just didn’t excite me when news broke yesterday that that would happen. But then I watched The View, and they made me see the possibilities. Specifically, Nicolle Wallace made me see that it doesn’t have to be just one replacement on one bill; everyone could be replaced.
This is what should be advocated for: more women on more bills means more happy people who actually care about this sort of thing. So, using the current inhabitants of our most common bills as a guide, I have, below, outlined which women I think should be on which bills. If you have a better idea for any of them, let me know, and be sure to show your work.
We should replace the father of our country with the mothers who brought voting rights for women into this world. Initially, I was torn between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as to who should get which bill, but as long as we’re going beyond one replacement for one bill, why not put two women on a single bill. They go together, after all: Stanton would not be Stanton without Anthony, and vice versa.
We should take one of the iconic pictures of them sitting together (I favour the one with them on Anthony’s porch in Rochester, NY), and put them on the front of the most common bill in circulation. And yes, though I refer to her as a mother, I know Anthony never had children of her own, but Washington was not the biological father of the children he raised, so even that fits. They were figurative parents of government by the people, for the people.
Maybe, while we’re revamping money, we can get the two dollar bill out there more. Thomas Jefferson, current inhabitant of the two, bought what was known as the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, doubling the size of the United States, and a few years later he sent Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark to lead an expedition to explore it. Sacagawea, a young woman from the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, assisted their expedition as a guide and interpreter.
Sacagawea, like Susan B. Anthony, has experience on American money, but, like Anthony, she was on a little known/appreciated dollar coin. Since she is usually depicted with her son Jean Baptiste on her back, the two dollar bill would probably, like the one, end up with two faces on the front, if she were one of them. And, of course, there are plenty of other reasons, many symbolic in nature, for having a Native American on American currency.
One anti-slavery hero should be replaced with another, probably more sincere one. Harriet Tubman’s name has often been mentioned in discussions of which woman should appear on whichever bill ended up with a vacancy, and I think she should replace Abraham Lincoln on the five. She is arguably the most famous historical woman associated with the Civil War and the freeing of slaves, given her many rescue journeys along the Underground Railroad. She also fought for women’s rights at a time when, for many people, it was either the rights of African Americans or the rights of women, but for some reason not both. The five would be a good place for her.
The man on the ten, being celebrated on Broadway starting this summer for his mastery of the written word, should be replaced by another master of the written word, a former slave who became a poet that got the attention of George Washington. Phillis Wheatley, as described on Slate.com, was the “first African American, first slave, and third American woman to publish a book of poetry,” which makes her the perfect replacement for Alexander Hamilton who, in the words of Hamilton composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, “embodies the word’s ability to make a difference.” Hamilton may never have been a slave, but starting life as an illegitimate orphan in the Caribbean far from guaranteed him a place among our Founding Fathers.
Andrew Jackson was the popular choice for replacement when the idea of replacing a man on a bill with a woman first took hold, because of, you know, all the deaths he was responsible for. He, like Hamilton, has a Broadway musical, called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, to give you an idea. I think he should be replaced by a woman associated with healing, and in this case, a president should be replaced by a first lady: Betty Ford. Ford was many things, among them a Republican, but you wouldn’t have known that from how outspoken she was on many issues.
Being open about her mastectomy, which she had less than two months after becoming First Lady of the United States, raised awareness about breast cancer, a disease not widely talked about up to that point, and, after leaving the White House, she founded the Betty Ford Center, a major lifeline for people suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Replace a man who caused so much death and suffering with a woman who worked and fought to alleviate death and suffering.
The fifty is harder, because I feel Ulysses S. Grant, a military man in addition to a president, should be replaced by a prominent military woman. I’m drawing blanks, but fortunately Slate.com has some suggestions that fit the bill: Deborah Sampson, who, disguised as a man, enlisted in the Continental Army, managing to maintain her adopted identity for a year, would be a good one, representing the women of the Revolutionary period who had to go the extra mile to fight for their country before it was technically theirs.
Also, she’s dead, which makes her the most likely of the two I will name here, but Slate also mentions Ann Dunwoody, who is still alive, and therefore ineligible, unless the law is changed (and, again, while we’re changing things…), who was “the first woman in the U. S. uniformed service to receive a four star officer rank.”
The hundred-dollar bill is the only one to feature a scientist. From electricity to light to the weather, Ben Franklin spent a lot of time studying the sky, a place to which we have since been, and then some. I would say that Sally Ride, the physicist and first American woman, and still the youngest American, to go into space, is the best person to take his place. There are more and more prominent women in science these days, and plenty of yesteryear whose accomplishments have been overshadowed unfairly, but as a representation of how far science has come and how far women have gone, I can think of no one better to replace Franklin on the hundred.
So there it is. I hear there are bills that go higher than a hundred, but I’ll believe it when I see it. These are the bills I’ve seen, and I’d love to see these women on them. As for coins? Well, we keep hearing the penny is on its way out, and the Treasury Department really needs to stop trying to make the dollar coin a thing. I think we should put more animals on coins. The Canadians and Australians have some beautiful animal based coins, though I’m not suggesting we also put Queen Elizabeth on the flipside. Maybe animals on one side, landmarks on the other. They’ll remain the same size and shape, and they will say what their value is. But the point is, put the women on the bills. All of the bills. Why not? Are we just going to keep the same faces on the same bills for all eternity? Why just one at a time? Make it happen, Jack Lew. Make it happen, Obama. Then maybe one day one of you will end up on a bill, in honor of your shaking-up of American currency in the early years of the 21st Century.