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The Back of the Bill Is Like the Back of the Bus for Women

4 minute read
Susan Ades Stone is the Executive Director of Women on 20s and Barbara Ortiz Howard is the Founder.

Dear Secretary Lew,

We have tried over many months to get your attention, most recently in an email two weeks ago, to express our concern that the opportunity to make history with real, meaningful change may be slipping away. We say this not just as Women On 20s, but as representatives of the two million people who have participated in some way in our campaign over the past year. No one is more attuned to the will of the people on this issue than we are. Tens of thousands of people still interact with our website and social media pages on a weekly basis. And barely a day goes by that we do not get a press inquiry seeking our perspective. On the day of your announcement last June we similarly had our finger on the nation’s pulse and we sensed right away that the choice of changing only the $10 would draw strong public criticism. Now we see trouble brewing again.

After your appearance on Charlie Rose, we carefully parsed your words, and we fear that you believe the public will be satisfied with giving women nothing but a cameo role on the back of a minor bill. It will take a microscope to see who those individuals are, and we’ll be left with another decade or more of woefully inadequate representation of women and their worth.

Read more: Harriet Tubman Wins Poll for Woman on $20 Bill

You’re right. Nobody looks at the back of the bill, and that’s not likely to change. A vignette without a woman’s portrait on the front of the bill (even if she must share with Hamilton) will be seen as a token gesture and an affront to Americans of all ages who are expecting you to reveal your choice of a singular woman based on their input. As a friend of ours put it, relegating women to the back of the bill is akin to sending them to the back of the bus. The Rosa Parks analogies are inevitable.

Echoing our earlier petitions, we urge you to undertake a SIMULTANEOUS redesign of the $20 bill to send Jackson packing. Not only would it elevate a woman to a highly visible place of respect, it would dovetail perfectly with the growing movement to recast the symbols that define us. While it is wonderful the public has a new appreciation for Hamilton, it is imperative to get back to the celebration of historic women that began a year ago. The decision you make will go down in history one way or another. Instead of doing the bare minimum you can for women, repeating the mistakes of men in power before you, change the course and do something bold. Place a woman prominently on the $10 AND the $20 in time for 2020. We assure you, no one will criticize you for doing more.

Read more: Exclusive: Concern Grows That Hamilton Euphoria Will Push Woman to Back of the $10 Bill

We hope you will allow us to come to Washington and give you the benefit of our experience with the public at this critical moment in your decision-making. It’s important if you really want to hear all opinions and not just those of celebrities and the powerful. We represent the real people, who want to be heard.

More than 600,000 people petitioned the Treasury in our 10-week online campaign to choose a replacement for Andrew Jackson on the $20 early last May. Another 60,000 petitioned last September to ask the Treasury to respond to our first petition, and 1,400 people wrote their Senators this spring supporting bills in Congress to change the $20.

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