Following a petition lead by the organization Women on 20s, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew made an announcement in June of 2015 that Alexander Hamilton, the current portrait on the ten-dollar bill, will be replaced by a woman “who was a champion for our inclusive democracy” and asked the public to vote for candidates. The new bill will appear in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the vote.
The last time that the face on the ten changed was when Hamilton replaced Jackson in 1929. Although the original petition called for the removal of Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill, the ten had already been pegged as the next bill to be updated as a security measure against counterfeiters. Despite this, the decision to leave Jackson has been met with resistance by many.
“(Jackson) doesn’t deserve it,” junior Emily Graves said. “He was just a generally bad person and he was a bad president. Even Jackson’s descendants have been writing to the Treasury and saying, don’t take Hamilton off the ten take Jackson off the 20.”
Added US History teacher John Clevenger: “It’s very ironic that (Jackson) is on the money since he was against the Bank of the United States and considering his questionable past.”
Hamilton’s legacy has also contributed to some of the public’s hesitancy to approve of Lew’s announcement. As the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury and the creator of the federal banking system, many argue that he has as much right to his own bill as anyone. This Founding Father even has his own musical, which opened August 6 of 2015.
“(The musical) has become very famous and there are so many fans, worldwide even. Right as they announced the decision to take Hamilton off the ten this musical became a big thing,” Graves said. “It’s on Broadway, people love it and people are big supporters of Hamilton, and now they don’t want him off the ten.”
Ley has said that Hamilton will still be honored on the ten, but he has not specified how.
There have been several proposals to remedy this situation, including that a portrait of Hamilton and a portrait of whichever woman is chosen appear on the ten or that multiple versions of the ten be printed.
“That is absurd,” Clevenger said. “Why are we making things so complicated? Let’s just pick one and go with it. Two people on a bill? I mean what is this, why don’t we just put all the Avengers on the money? Come on, just one person.”
People are generally more excited to place a woman on our currency, regardless of which bill. The last woman to appear on American paper currency was Martha Washington, who was on the one-dollar silver certificate from 1891 to 1896.
“I think some bills should be changed, maybe not necessarily the ten, but it would be great to add one or more women to the bills,” Clevenger said.
The Treasury has received upwards of 1.5 million responses on which woman should be chosen. Harriet Tubman, a famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, is currently in the lead, followed by Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Clara Barton. The announcement of which woman would appear on the ten was originally to be made in December of 2015, has been delayed to an undisclosed time in 2016 due to the unexpected amount of feedback from the public. Whatever the decision made by the Treasury, many agree that this is a change that should have been made long ago.
“I think that history has been white-washed; it’s the history of rich white men and I think anything we can do to heighten the awareness and point out the contributions of other people is a step in the right direction,” Clevenger said.