For the first time in more than 100 years, since Martha Washington appeared on a $1bill in the 1880 sand 1890s, a woman’s face is going to grace the front of our paper currency.
It was announced by U.S. treasury secretary Jacob Lew that abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman, best known for her work with the Underground Railroad that helped former slaves escape captivity, has been chosen. According to Politico reports, Tubman’s face will replace former U.S. president Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill.
There was some discussion about replacing the first-ever treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. However, that decision generated a backlash from many people who said that he should be kept on the front of our currency. This sentiment is likely influenced by the hit Broadway musical currently running, which is named after him.
Tubman is the perfect choice as the first American woman to go on the $20 bill, as she’s an icon who worked tirelessly to both end slavery and promote women’s suffrage. However, it is going to take another 14 years before a Harriet Tubman $20 bill becomes a reality. The new bills will begin circulating in 2030.
It is not clear why there is such a long delay.
However, Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone, the women behind Women on 20s, an organization pushing for a woman on the $20 bill, wrote an article which appeared on CNN.com (April 20, 2016) urging Lew to speed up the process:
“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.”
Politico also reported that changes are in store for the $5 bill as well. Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the bill. However, there will be changes on the currency to depict civil rights era leaders.