The Ten Dollar Question

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By Ben Rudgley, Spring Intern Class of 2015

On June 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that beginning in 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote – a woman will replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. The news comes after months of public pressure from groups like Women on 20s to put a female face on the currency. The Department of Treasury has launched a website, The New 10, to invite suggestions from the public to determine whose portrait will grace the new note.

While the move to include a female figure on paper currency has been widely lauded, many including former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, took issue with the decision to knock Hamilton – and not Andrew Jackson, who adorns the $20 note – from his perch. Highlighting his efforts to consolidate state debts and to establish a coordinated federal fiscal system, Bernanke said he was “appalled” at this slight on Hamilton, who was the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Critics of Jackson not only cite his treatment of Native Americans and justifications of slavery, but also his opposition to the very existence of a central bank (in 1836, he discontinued the Second Bank of the United States). By contrast, Hamilton proposed the creation of a central bank in the 1790s to strengthen credit in the fledgling democracy.

In any case, it is Hamilton who will be replaced by the to-be-determined formative female figure from American history. Secretary Jack Lew has determined that the bill will depict a woman who personifies our inclusive American democracy and “honors our past.” The perceived frontrunners are abolitionist Harriet Tubman, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.

Because the theme of American democracy is relatively nebulous, it would seem that every female icon of American history — from Ida Wells to Susan B. Anthony — will be under consideration. If the Treasury Department decides to emphasize the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020, it would be particularly apt to choose Alice Paul, who perhaps more than anyone, made the 19th amendment happen when it did. However, the opportunity to reanimate a decidedly homogenous currency with racial, as well as gender, diversity increases the chances of the Treasury selecting an African American woman. Given the enduring poignancy and power of her life story, work on the Underground Railroad and advocacy for women’s suffrage in the post-war era, Harriet Tubman seems to be the most fitting and likely choice.

In honor of our “inclusive democracy,” the Treasury Department has conducted roundtables and town halls, and has encouraged social media input and comments on their website to give Americans a voice in the decision. More than 1.5 million people have weighed in this summer. Secretary Jack Lew will make the final decision later this year. As the Americans featured on our currency have not changed since 1929, let’s hope the decision does not get weighed down by controversy and remains true to the intent: revitalizing the currency and promoting the Treasury Department.

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The Ten Dollar Question

ten-dollar-bill-tmagArticle

By Ben Rudgley, Spring Intern Class of 2015
On June 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that beginning in 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote – a woman will replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. The news comes after months of public pressure from groups like Women on 20s to put a female face on the currency. The Department of Treasury has launched a website, The New 10, to invite suggestions from the public to determine whose portrait will grace the new note.
While the move to include a female figure on paper currency has been widely lauded, many including former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, took issue with the decision to …

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