Women Represented on U.S. Currency: Ironic or True Progress?

Today has been declared by many a day of celebration for women. Finally women are being recognized on U.S. paper currency, breaking the previously male monopolized representation. This is a notable change for our country, and one not to be discredited. Former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace slave owner and previous president Andrew Jackson on the $20 dollar bill. This marks the first time in America’s history that a woman’s face will be honored on paper currency since Martha Washington was represented on the $1 silver certificate in the late 19th century. Along with Tubman, portraits of women’s suffrage leaders Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony will grace the back of the $10 bill, and African American Opera Singer Marian Anderson will be shown performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial along with former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the back of the $5 bill.

While it is exciting to honor and have these great women represented on our currency, it is negligible progress compared to what women really need regarding currency.

In celebrating the triumph of the presence of these strong world-changing women on paper currency, are we turning a blind eye to the injustice that currency still holds against women?

On average women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. This isn’t something new; in fact that same gap has existed and ceased to improve since 2000. So why are we so excited about women being on the currency that continues to oppress them? What would these first generation feminists who made it their life goals to end slavery and gain women the right to vote and equal education have to say about this gap? Would they celebrate a change in our currency without questioning why there has been no progress in 16 years regarding women’s unequal pay? The rightly added representation of women to our currency should stir up a momentum in pursuit of equal wages for women.

Women should not only be equally represented on our currency, but equally served by it.

After all it is Alice Paul, soon to grace the back of the $10 bill, who said, “I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” The fight for the kind of equality Alice Paul sought is not over, and is still something for women and men alike to actively pursue.

Sources: NYTimesHUFFPOSTTHINKPROGRESS, Quote: Alice Paul Institute, Image: Library of Congress

Blake Blackmon