Andrew Jackson's portrait has held its place on the $20 bill since Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland in 1928. For the organizers of Women on $20s, that's quite long enough. "A woman's place is on the money," the Women on $20s campaign says. The new group has come up with a list of 15 women it would like to see on the $20 bill instead, including Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman.
Campaign organizers are targeting the 20 because 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
But there's another reason: Jackson's authorization and enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 -- which forced several Native American tribes to give up their land to white farmers and move to Oklahoma -- makes his continued presence on American currency controversial. Slate pitched the idea of doing away with the seventh U.S. president's face on the $20 bill last year, writing: "Andrew Jackson engineered a genocide. He shouldn’t be on our currency."
Jackson, Women on $20s executive director Susan Ades Stone said in a phone interview, also hated paper currency anyway - much favoring gold and silver. "The guy would be rolling in his grave to know that every day the ATM spits out bills with his face on it," he added.
The Women on $20s campaign aims to "literally raise the profile of a woman in a male-dominated field," the nonprofit's founder Barbara Ortiz Howard wrote on the site. Right now, the only woman on a currently circulating piece of U.S. currency is Sacagawea, on the dollar coin.
The U.S. Mint lists two other coins depicting women: Helen Keller is on the reverse side of the 2003 Alabama quarter, and Susan B. Anthony was on the dollar coin until 1981.
Organizers are asking visitors to vote for one of 15 women they've selected as possible candidates to replace Jackson in a survey that is also doubling as a petition. The group hopes to collect enough signatures - about 100,000 - to justify sending a petition to the White House on the issue, asking the president to recommend the change to the Treasury. Stone said that the group collected about 8,000 votes in the past 60 hours.
"The goal is to get it done, but it's not only about that. It's about raising awareness and making sure people get to know these women," Stone added. The group envisions the campaign lasting through March, which is Women's History Month.
But, Stone added, "If President Obama says tomorrow that he wants to do this, we're not gonna say no."
Although the new campaign still seems a longshot, a similar petition also prompted Britain to announce in 2013 that it would put Jane Austen on the 10-pound note.
— Women On 20s (@WomenOn20s) February 18, 2015
As Buzzfeed's write-up notes, Obama has generally supported the idea of putting a woman on currency. "Last week, a young girl wrote to ask me why aren’t there any women on our currency," the president said in a July speech in Kansas City. "And then she gave me like a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff -- which I thought was a pretty good idea."
The organization whittled down a list of finalists based on two main criteria - the individual's impact on society, and the difficulty they faced in doing so, Stone said.
Here are the 15 choices of Women on $20s, which Stone hopes will, as a group, "tell a great American story of women not only helping other women but helping to improve the lives of all Americans despite facing enormous obstacles along the way:"
- Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross
- Margaret Sanger, who opened the first birth control clinic in the US.
- Rachel Carson, a marine biologist who wrote the hugely influential environmental book Silent Spring
- Rosa Parks, the iconic civil rights activist
- Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist activist famed for her journeys on the underground railroad
- Barbara Jordan, a politician who was the first black woman in the south to be elected to the House of Representatives
- Betty Friedan, feminist author of the Feminine Mystique
- Frances Perkins, the Secretary of Labor under FDR, who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet
- Susan B. Anthony, women's suffrage movement leader
- Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, early women's rights activist and abolitionist
- Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights activist and former first Lady
- Sojourner Truth, African American women's rights activist and abolitionist
- Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to the House, and the first Asian American elected to Congress
- Alice Paul, women's suffrage movement leader
At least one of those choices is already rather controversial, as noted by Breitbart, whose headline about the campaign reads: "NEW GROUP WANTS TO PUT PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOUNDER MARGARET SANGER ON THE $20 BILL."
— Women On 20s (@WomenOn20s) February 20, 2015
So far, Stone said that the group has been "sort of surprised at the lack of opposition" to the campaign, and that at the very least she hopes it will "get this conversation going." She added, "we wanna be the hashtag that says #sorryAndrew."
[This post has been updated]