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Friday, June 26

I Am Woman (Helen Reddy)

 The Women on 20s Campaign has declared that America needs the face of a woman on its currency, and that the first woman should be the abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. The campaign petitioned the federal government after Tubman won an online poll that featured fifteen historic women — including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony — as candidates to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, the majority of banknote redesigns occur in an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiting threats. While the last redesign of the $1 note was in 1963, excluding the $2 bill, all other currency denominations have been reissued in the last 12 years. The $20 note was redesigned in 2003.
The average circulation life of a $20 bill is 7.9 years. In 2014, more than 1.7 billion bills featuring the nation's seventh president were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Approximately 30 percent of all notes printed in 2014 were $20 bills.

While the Treasury cannot say for sure why certain presidents and statesmen were chosen for specific denominations, they do note on their website that "currency notes are of deceased persons whose places in history the American people know well."  The only requirement is that whoever appears on a note must be deceased.

Women are rarely acknowledged as important contributors to the creation and development of the United States, and I understand the motive of the campaign.  I just don’t agree with it.

Even today, economic injustice continues in the form of unequal pay, limiting women’s ability to reach their full economic potential. For every dollar a while man earns at his job in the United States, white women earn 78 cents, black women earn 64 cents, and Hispanic women earn just 54 cents.  (source : AAUW)  It’s not from a lack of effort; those discrepancies are still present when all other factors (eg, college degree and experience) are the same.

If having Harriet Tubman’s face on the $20 bill was going to improve women’s access to said bill, I’d be all for it. But instead, it only promises to distort Tubman’s legacy and distract from the economic issues that American women continue to face. While adding representation of women to an area historically dominated by men can be encouraging and boost women’s morale, the symbolism risks masking inequalities that are far more important.
So what do you think?  Better yet, what is your reasoning?  I would love to start a discussion…a healthy, respectful discussion…in the comments section below!
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