New York City Council Women's Caucus Wants a Woman on the Twenty-Dollar Bill

A grassroots push is under way to put Harriet Tubman's face on the twenty-dollar bill.
A grassroots push is under way to put Harriet Tubman's face on the twenty-dollar bill.
Courtesy Women on 20s

Today, the New York City Council's Women's Caucus will take to the steps of City Hall to announce a resolution calling for a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill, part of a nationwide initiative organized by a nonprofit called Women on 20s.

Earlier this week, the group announced that Harriet Tubman was the winner of a ten-week online vote to choose which woman it will nominate to grace the twenty-dollar bill by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The runners-up were Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. More than 600,000 votes were cast.

"[Tubman] is a great choice, but I think the other nominees that were put forward were also great choices," said Margaret Chin, a member of the council's Women's Caucus. "The former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks — we just have so many choices, and it's about time we recognize the contribution of women in building this country."

The Women's Caucus will introduce the resolution at tomorrow's council meeting. If passed, it will join similar initiatives put forth by cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore. In April, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) of New Hampshire introduced a bill proposing that the Department of the Treasury, which is responsible for currency design, "convene a panel of citizens" to hash out the idea. Also in April, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) introduced a bill in support of putting a woman on the twenty-dollar note.

The issue is of particular significance in New York, which has a rich history of women's movements. The 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York is generally thought of as the official beginning of the women's-rights movement, and New York was among the first states to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

On top of that, the founders of Women on 20s both have strong ties to New York. Barbara Ortiz Howard, who first had the idea to campaign to put a woman's face on American currency, is the longtime owner of an exterior restoration business in Mount Vernon, just north of the Bronx, and Susan Ades Stone is a New York–based journalist. Both will join the Women's Caucus members for the announcement at City Hall today, along with Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women–New York (NOW New York).

Ades Stone said in a statement, "A resolution like this, coming from the financial capital of the world, carries special weight, and for that, Women on 20s is especially grateful to the New York City Council." Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley stated, "As co-chair of the council's Women's Caucus, I fight every day for the recognition and rights that women deserve, and this resolution furthers that mission."

President Barack Obama is on record as supporting the push to have a woman's face on the twenty-dollar bill, although the Treasury Department would make the final decision. For now, this grassroots campaign is focused on getting as many voices as possible to call on the White House to make what many consider a long-overdue change. "We forward it on to the president, and Congress, and hopefully the president will hear a strong message from New York City," Councilmember Chin said of the proposed resolution. She added, "New York has a great history in terms of the women's movement and helping to get the Nineteenth Amendment passed. I think we're all very excited about getting involved, and hopefully by 2020, we'll see this become a reality."

Lara Zarum reports for the



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