“The new ten will be the first bill in more than a century to feature a portrait of a woman,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced Wednesday.
Yes, that’s right. The United States will soon have a woman on its currency. It’s been a long time coming.
The last woman featured on paper U.S. currency was Martha Washington back in 1891. She remained on the $1 bill until 1896. Before that, Pocahontas graced the $20 bill for a mere four years from 1865 to 1869.
So which great American woman is next to grace U.S. currency? While the final decision rests with Secretary Lew, the Treasury is looking for your input.
“We’re asking the American people to ask what democracy means to them,” said Secretary Lew. The Treasury has ground rules for candidates: this notable woman must represent democracy and she must not be living today. That last rule applies to faces featured on all U.S. bank notes.
Will it be Eleanor Roosevelt? Harriet Tubman? Rosa Parks? Susan B. Anthony? Another notable American woman? The Treasury asks that you share your ideas, symbols, and designs at thenew10.treasury.gov and by using the hashtag #TheNew10.
Secretary Lew, Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, and Treasurer Rosie Rios will also be conducting town halls and roundtables to hear from Americans, noting that they “want to hear from people who are not comfortable using hashtags” as well.
The public outreach will continue over the summer, and the final decision will be made by Secretary Lew later in the year. Historically, such redesign decisions have been made in a small and private circle within the Treasury department.
When asked whether the Women On 20s campaign had influenced the Department’s decision, Secretary Lew noted that the “campaign reflects best tradition of American democracy,” but that the decision to put a woman on the 10 was “a happy coincidence.”
Instead, the decision to redesign the $10 bill was driven by security. The 10 was next in line for an upgrade because it lacks security features now common on other U.S. bills. Secretary Lew noted that as always, the final design decision would be based on security.
If you’re concerned about the fate of Alexander Hamilton, don’t worry. Current $10 bills will continue to stay in circulation. There are about 1.9 billion Hamiltons out there in wallets, cash registers and piggy banks right now, and $10 bills have a life span of about 10 years. The Treasury plans to include an image of Hamilton on the new notes—although there has been no decision yet as to how that will be done.
While the $10 bill is not the most popular—that title belongs to the $1 and $5 bills—the Bureau of Printing and Engraving produces roughly one billion $10 notes a year.
The new $10 bill is slated to be unveiled in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“This decision reflects our aspirations for the future as much as it does from the past,” noted Secretary Lew.
Who do you want to see on the new $10 bill? Tell us in the comments.
Kristen Doerer is the digital reporter-producer for PBS NewsHour’s Making Sen$e.
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