The group pushing to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman on the $20 bill has revealed its final four candidates after more than 256,000 votes were placed.
The four are former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, abolitionist Harriet Tubman, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected chief of a major Native American tribe. Voting for the finalist is now open. The group behind the push, Women On 20s, has not yet set a specific end date for the final vote.
The group's original list of 100 names was winnowed down to 60 through informal discussion, then to 30 via a two-part survey and to 15 by a group of outsiders that included women's history experts. The public was then able to choose their three favorites from the list of 15 candidates, which also included feminist Betty Friedan, birth control activist Margaret Sanger, women's suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony and conservationist Rachel Carson.
Women On 20s revealed that the top three vote recipients — Roosevelt, Tubman and Parks — received more than 100,000 votes each. It also said on its Web site that Mankiller, who made the list of 30 but not the list of 15 that the public voted on, was selected for the final ballot "by popular demand" and "strong public sentiment that people should have the choice of a Native American to replace Andrew Jackson."
The group is targeting the $20 bill not only because the year 2020 will be the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted voting rights to women, but because Jackson helped pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced Native American tribes off their land in a relocation commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears.
Susan Ades Stone, the nonprofit group's executive director, said in an interview with The Post that they were not surprised by the three women whose names received the most votes.
"They are probably the most recognizable names, and the ones that have been taught, to some degree, in schools," Stone said. "But they are also all seen as heroic in some way. I think that's what people want: Someone who can be representative for women, who really is unequivocally someone who has touched everyone's lives."
Stone said the group hopes to approach the White House with their campaign within the next few weeks, and is working with some advisers to help them with that. She doesn't know yet whether they will wait to formally reach out to the White House until a winner is named. They may allow the voting to continue, in hopes White House support and attention could launch even more interest and voting.
"It's possible the president will want to hear from more people," Stone said. "We don't want to prematurely cut off people's opportunity to be heard."
The Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing Web site says that the Treasury secretary is responsible for selecting the portraits that will appear on dollar bills. According to U.S. code, only a deceased individual may appear on U.S. currency.
Stone said they decided to approach the White House first, before going directly to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, because they think that's where the conversation about gender equality "will be amplified." She said they tried to stay close to the code and not propose anything that might trigger the involvement of Congress, such as proposing a new denomination of dollar bills or suggesting a trio of suffragette portraits. "We didn't want this to become a political football."
If the White House and Treasury actually do get behind the idea, Stone said, there would then be committees to choose the candidate and choose the design and engraving. "We're not under an illusion that whoever comes out as the winner of this referendum will [necessarily] be the person that will be on the bill," Stone said.
The men featured on current U.S. bills have not changed since 1929.