The Future of Money

by Calla Slayton

Everyone loves money. While we’re moving towards plastic and electronic types, the classic bill from isn’t going anywhere. If anything, the bill should increase in popularity now that it’s getting a makeover.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury announced Harriet Tubman will be the new face of the $20 bill. As you all (hopefully) know, Tubman was a former slave and abolitionist who saved hundreds of slaves through the underground railroad.

Tubman was originally set to replace Alexander Hamilton, however, after the success of the musical Hamilton, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, opted to alter the $20 bill instead. Tubman will be replacing Andrew Jackson, a former slaveholder.

Jackson also was known for actively relocating Native Americans and was actually against a national banking system and, ironically, paper money.

In addition to the $20 bill being altered, the $5 and $10 bills will look different. Leaders from the women’s and civil rights movements will be added to the backs of the bills. The back of the $10 will soon have an image of a 1913 march from the women’s rights movement that ended on the steps of the Treasury building.

In addition, portraits of five famous suffrage leaders (Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony) will be placed on the back of the bill.

The backside of the $5 will still have the picture of the Lincoln Memorial, but in the background, an image of Marian Anderson, an African American classical singer, performing after she was banned from the segregated Constitution Hall will be added.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped organize Anderson’s performance, will also be placed on the bill. The final image incorporated will be of Martin Luther King Jr. giving his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite all this excitement for the new bills, their final designs won’t be revealed until 2020, the 100th year anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Even after the designs are released, the bills aren’t expected to go into circulation until later in the decade, starting with the new $10 bill.

The new proposals come after 10 months of public debate after Mr. Lew asked for input on which woman should be the new face of the $10 bill. All of this positive news did come with some dark spots as well.

Some women were upset when Mr. Lew revoked his promise to put Tubman on the $10, the next bill for redesign, and moved her to the $20. They didn’t want to wait even longer for a woman to finally be on our currency. More than three dozen women, coming from a range of professions, signed a letter objecting to Mr. Lew’s retraction of his promise to put a woman on the face of the $10 bill.

They reprimanded the Treasury secretary, saying “Could there be a better metaphor for second-class status that continues to limit our girls?” Signees of this letter included, most notably, Ellen DeGeneres, Geena Davis, Abby Wambach, Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, and Annie Leibovitz. So, despite the huge step forward of the bill redesign, women still found themselves disappointed by the unfulfilled promise.

So, what does this all mean and why should you care? By putting a more diverse set of Americans who have made a difference on items as frequently used as money, the U.S. is taking a big step towards equality. The Treasury is recognizing the work done by the often forgotten pioneers within American history.

Future generations will grow up seeing not just old, white men on their dollar bills. They’ll see a greater range of leaders who fought injustice and helped make the world a better place. Our kids will buy their hologram video games with bills who have true heroes on them. Now who wouldn’t be excited about that?

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