It’s official, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that a newly redesigned $10 bill will feature a woman “who was a champion for our inclusive democracy,” marking the first time in over a century that a woman will be chosen to grace our paper currency. But… we won’t know who he selects until later this year, her design won’t be unveiled until 2020, and she’ll likely have to share the newly redesigned space as “Secretary Lew has made clear that the image of Alexander Hamilton will remain part of the $10 note.”
In late February, Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone sparked a national conversation about the lack of diversity on U.S. paper currency when they launched their Women On 20s social media campaign to commence during Women’s History Month. It was strategically designed to get a woman’s face on U.S. paper currency using the power of the people. The ambitious undertaking, which specifically targeted the $20 bill for several valid reasons, was wildly successful as it garnered incredible results: unprecedented, global press coverage, and more than 600,000 ballots cast in their public, online poll that revealed Harriet Tubman as the voters’ choice to be the woman to receive the honor.
To coincide with his “woman on the new 10” news that, despite a press embargo until 12:01AM on July 18th, has been making headlines since details were leaked yesterday afternoon on Twitter, Secretary Lew has launched his own social media campaign, which will essentially mimic the groundbreaking work that Howard and Stone have already done.
In his official statement, Lew explained, “The Treasury Department, with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, expects to unveil the new $10 note in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.” However, there is still no estimate as to when this redesigned $10 Federal Reserve note will actually make it into circulation. What’s more, the featured woman is not likely to have a standalone bill, as Hamilton’s image will remain a part of the new design, which was made very clear in Lew’s announcement. So to lessen the blow of the possibility of a combo female/male $10 bill, TheNew10 site is dangling this carrot of seemingly empty hope, “one option is producing two bills.” We’ll believe it when we see it.
Taking a page out of Women On 20s brilliant playbook, the Treasury Secretary is also seeking input from the public on the newly redesigned $10, specifically “what qualities best represent democracy to help guide the design process for the next generation of notes.” To open these lines of commincation, there’s already a hashtag – #TheNew10 – and a new website dedicated to his initiative. While his request for idea sharing is nice in theory, ultimately, “the final decision on all design features belongs to Secretary Lew.”
Faced with their campaign being rendered essentially defunct as a result of Lew’s news, this has to be bittersweet for Howard and Stone. However, both women are taking the high road in regard to what seems to be a blatant appropriation of the tireless work they have already done. “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,” Susan commented. “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.” Remaining optimistic that their impact and influence will not go unrecognized, Barbara added, “While many women are worthy of being featured, when Secretary Lew makes his choice, we hope he will take into account that the winner of our online poll, Harriet Tubman, was the top vote-getter among more than 600,000 ballots cast.”
In terms of why Lew chose the $10 and not the $20, the Treasury’s fact sheet for The New 10 explains that the $10 bill was already in the process of being redesigned, specific to issues surrounding counterfeiting. “In 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury selected the $10 note for redesign based on a number of factors and with guidance from the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) Steering Committee. While many factors are taken into consideration, the primary reason for redesigning currency is to address current and potential counterfeiting threats.”
In his statement, Secretary Lew noted, “Our paper bills—and the images of great American leaders and symbols they depict—have long been a way for us to honor our past and express our values.” He concluded, “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.”
So what kind of a statement is our nation making about the value of great American women leaders, if, after 100 plus years, the woman who finally gets this long overdue honor will have to share the space with the man who is currently on the $10 bill? Moreover, why should Alexander Hamilton, the man who served as our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and was instrumental in contributing to the stength and security of the U.S. economy, have to share the space he rightfully deserves?
If only Treasury Secretary Lew had paid attention to the sound platform already laid out by the Women On 20s campaign, a deserving woman, like Harriet Tubman, would replace an undeserving Andrew Jackson on the $20 and Hamilton would get to retain his hard earned, solo spot in the currency sun.