As the news poured in last week, people rejoiced over Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
But as welcome as the switch is, replacing Jackson, a former slave holding president, with Tubman, a 19th century abolitionist, really does nothing for the cause around which proponents are gathering.
The push for a female on currency began last year when supporters suggested replacing founding father Alexander Hamilton with a woman in 2020, likely Tubman or another female figure of equal importance. This change would mark a century of women’s suffrage and how far women have gained in society since the days before suffrage and other freedoms.
But does putting a woman, or anyone, on money make a difference? No.
It’s a symbolic gesture at best for a social cause that can be championed in more productive ways.
Put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill? How about studying her story and those of other trailblazing women and then advancing their ideals?
We would all be better served in learning the history of our society’s pioneering women. Putting a face on money does little in the way of inspiration or enlightenment.
We’ve also done it before. Several times.
Anthony and Sacagawea have both graced the dollar coin; Anthony was minted from 1979-81 and again in 1999. Sacagawea has been minted since 2000 for both circulatory and collector purposes.
Both coins were unpopular, as most dollar coins have been with the American populace. The Presidential $1 Coin Program was halted after 2011 for collector purposes only from then on.
In general, Americans don’t like dollars as coins.
Females are not unknown on American currency, from the Walking Liberty half dollar to the Peace dollar to the Indian Head cent, all depictions of Lady Liberty.
An argument could say Lady Liberty is not a historical figure like Tubman or Anthony. True, however, a female figure is still present.
And furthermore, how much inspiration can anyone glean or hope to glean from who is on a nation’s currency?
I’d take reading a historical figure’s story and learning about their life and contribution over who is on my $20 bill, such as my admiration for Dolly Parton.
Without Sacagawea’s interpretive help, the Corps of Discovery would likely have never acquired the horses they needed to cross the Bitterroot Mountains.
Titanic survivor Margaret Brown distributed supplies and blankets to women on board the rescue ship, consoled foreign passengers with her lingual abilities and raised $10,000 in a survivor fund before the Carpathia reached port.
Women are a crucial part of our history and society. Look to history’s women themselves and their stories for betterment and advance their lessons.
The money doesn’t matter.