Harriet Tubman was an amazing woman: she escaped slavery, freed hundreds of others, and even worked as a spy in the Civil War. Now she’s going to grace the front of the twenty dollar bill. But is move progress or pandering?
The faces of United States currency have a few things in common. They feature prominent figures in American history. Figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin have been pictured on our paper money, and some of our coins, for decades.
These individuals were prominent in the founding and/or leadership of the nation. Not surprising, money is sometimes referred to colloquially as “dead presidents,” despite the fact that some figures on the money, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, were never presidents. In some ways, that fact does not matter much to the public. Hamilton, Franklin, and the others are larger than life figures in the history of the founding of the nation. It makes sense that the currency would feature them.
However, what Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, and Franklin also have in common is that they are prominent white men. Indeed, very few women, and fewer people of color more generally, have been featured on U.S. currency. For example, prominent women’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony was featured on a United States dollar coin minted from 1979 to 1981; however, the series was halted due to poor public reception, only to be reissued again for a short period in 1999.
The following year another dollar coin, this time featuring the Native American guide and interpreter from the Shoshone nation, Sacagewa, who led Lewis and Clark on their expedition. Like the Susan B. Anthony coin, the golden dollar coin featuring Sacagewa was unpopular with the public and is of primary interest to collectors.
But it looks like things are about to change. Now several women, including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Marian Anderson, and Alice Paul will be gracing other denominations of paper money in