America was built on the separation of church and state, but what about the separation of state and stage?
In a country where a former bodybuilder and actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a former late night comedian (Al Franken) and a former professional wrestler (Jesse Ventura) all hold or have held high office, Hollywood and Washington might be more linked than most like to believe.
Now there is growing concern that the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” might keep a woman’s face from replacing Alexander Hamilton’s on the front of the $10 bill. To many, that would seem like a sharp change of plans, as the Obama administration announced last June that a woman would be featured on a redesigned $10 bill that would be unveiled in 2020.
“America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said last year.
Where, exactly, the woman would be featured wasn’t explicitly stated, which caused some confusion. Would Hamilton be moved entirely or simply de-emphasized? USA Today reported Hamilton’s likeness would be moved to a different part of the bill, and The Post’s Ylan Q. Mui and Abby Ohlheiser reported, “Officials said some bills could still portray Hamilton, perhaps in combination with a woman.”
Not everyone was thrilled with the idea of demoting Hamilton’s image.
Why take Alexander Hamilton off the 10 dollar bill for a woman? Without him there wouldn't be a treasury, just bring back the 2 dollar bill
— John Vanden Brul (@john_vandenbrul) June 18, 2015
“There is a question of why you would take Hamilton off, but that’s up to Jack,” Robert E. Rubin, the 70th Treasury secretary, told The New York Times.
“Keep Hamilton where he is,” Hillary Clinton said, according to the New York Daily News.
Lew also holds the Founding Father in deep admiration.
“I work under a life-size portrait of Alexander Hamilton,” Lew told Politico. “I’ve probably read more about Alexander Hamilton than a lot of the people who are now jumping up and being his defenders. He’s one of my heroes. He will be fully honored.”
Lew has the power to decide who goes where on the new bill, and Time reported he said that the center portrait on the front of the bill is “not where we intended the focus to be” with regard to placing a woman on the currency. But an anonymous Treasury official told the magazine that Lew’s thoughts on the issue have changed since last year. The source didn’t explain why.
“Hamilton,” which takes an admiring look at the founder of the United States’ financial system, debuted on Broadway 9 months ago. It’s gripped the country so deeply with the story of Alexander Hamilton that some tickets are going for $1,365 per seat on the resale market, the L.A. Times reports.
Lew’s a noted fan. He gushed in New York magazine about both the show and meeting Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Hamilton and wrote the hit musical, after the performance.
“When I met him, I said, ‘Well, I’ve made my case,’” Miranda told the New York Times, concerning that backstage meeting.
Lew again met with Miranda the day before the cast played selections of the musical for the president last month.
“On Monday, Secretary Lew welcomed Lin-Manuel Miranda to the U.S. Department of the Treasury,” said a Treasury department spokesperson in a statement, Variety reported. “The Secretary and Miranda talked about the enduring mark Alexander Hamilton left on our nation’s history and the Secretary provided a brief tour of Hamilton’s possessions and portraits on display at the Treasury Department. The Secretary thanked Miranda for the ingenious way in which he has been able to tell Hamilton’s story and ignite a renewed interest in one of our nation’s founding fathers. Secretary Lew also reiterated his commitment to continue to honor Alexander Hamilton on the 10 dollar bill.”
After the meeting, Miranda said he received “multiple assurances” that “Hamilton” fans would be pleased with the bill’s redesign, according to Quartz. He even took to Twitter to hammer this point home.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 16, 2016
Not everyone would be happy, though. “You’re not going to fix gender inequality by putting a woman on the face of the 10, but boy will you emphasize gender inequality by putting women on the back,” Jane Kamensky, director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University, told Time.
My new least favorite thing is jack lew's attempt to put a woman on the back of the 10 dollar bill.
— liz preza (@lizacisms) April 13, 2016
Of course, nothing has been decided yet. No official statements have been released.
But the unease for some behind the idea that Hamilton might remain the focal point of the front of the bill has some speaking out.
“Our first representation in over 100 years and this is going to be our representation?” Barbara Ortiz Howard, the founder of Women on 20s, an organization aimed at replacing President Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill instead, told Time. “It’s akin to being on the back of the bus.”