The U.S. plans to put a woman on the $10 bill, announcing Wednesday that the next $10 bill will feature the likeness of a woman who has played a major role in American history and has been a champion for democracy.
The new note, anticipated to be released in 2020, would be unveiled just in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which secured women’s suffrage. “America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on a call Wednesday.
Just who the woman will be, however, has not been determined yet. The Department of Treasury launched a campaign to garner public input on what the next bill should look like. Over the summer, the Treasury Department will host town-hall meetings and engage with the public digitally about the bill’s design.
“The public outreach is going to give us a chance to hear from the American people about their ideas for what kind of symbols, ideas, and representation should be on the $10 bill,” Lew said.
While the outreach to the public is novel and in line with the bill’s theme of “democracy,” the final selection of look will be traditional. After public comments close, the Department will make the ultimate decision of what the bill looks like and Lew later announce whose face will be featured. The new bill will also include enhanced security components and a new feature that will make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to handle.
For months, there’s been a large movement to get a woman on the bill, including a charge led by a 9-year-old girl, who wrote a letter to President Obama asking why American currency was so male-dominated. The advocacy group Women on 20s, however, has been calling for a woman’s face to appear on the $20, in part due to Andrew Jackson’s role in the slave trade and the killing of many Native Americans.
Lew said while there is a “happy coincidence” in the timing of their announcement and the calls for action, the $10 bill had been set to undergo a redesign for some time. “The Women on 20 campaign reflects the best tradition of American democracy,” he said. “The planning of this has gone back several years.”
And the change has been a long time coming.
Alexander Hamilton has been the face of the $10 bill since 1929 and, according to the Federal Reserve, there were 1.9 billion bills in circulation at the end of 2014. The last woman to appear on a bill, however, dates all the way back to the 19th century, when Martha Washington appeared on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896. Before that, Pocahontas appeared in a group photo on the $20 national bank note.
“Our Democracy is a work in progress. We’ve always been committed to becoming a more perfect union,” Lew said. “This decision of putting a woman on the $10 bill reflects our aspirations for the future as much as a reflection of the past.”
U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, however, says for many in the U.S. it will mean a bit more.
“For many of us who have daughters, who have sisters, aunts and mothers, I think for all of all us — we go with what we know. Having something on the note that touches the American public every day is very symbolic not just for today, but for our future,” she said.
The public is being invited to engage in the discussion on who is on the next bill online through the website thenew10.treasury.gov and using the hashtag #TheNew10. The main criteria for the next portrait is the subject must be deceased.