I am very pleased that at long last a woman's face will appear on the $20 American bill--and more than pleased that the woman chosen for this honor is none other than Harriet Tubman, an ex-slave who helped free other slaves and who was an ardent and activist abolitionist.
However, I am a lot less than pleased that the other honorable women chosen, all seven of them, will share space at the back of our ten and the five dollar bills--but not until 2020.
Each of these women deserves featured billing and a bill of her own.
On the back of the ten dollar bill we will see small cameos of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and Sojourner Truth (who was both an abolitionist and a woman's rights activist).
On the back of the five dollar bill we will see small portraits of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt--and Martin Luther King Jr., whom I respect and adore, but who is certainly not a woman.
None of these seven women deserve to be miniaturized in this less than respectful way.
If current revisionist sentiments are in favor of removing Andrew Jackson from the front of the $20 bill because he was a slave owner, then why not remove George Washington from the front of the one dollar bill because he, too, owned slaves? Thomas Jefferson from the front of the two dollar bill because he too was a slave-owner?
Our beloved Benjamin Franklin abandoned his wife in Philadelphia, disowned one of his sons, and may have fathered an estimated fifteen children out of wedlock--and, as a young man, he owned slaves and carried advertisements for slaves in his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. Why keep him on the front of the one hundred dollar bill?
Andrew Hamilton, who remains on the front of the ten dollar bill, was a married man who became entangled in a major sex scandal and allegedly used government funds to silence his blackmailer.
On President Ulysses S. Grant's watch, millions of dollars were funnelled from the "whiskey tax" into private pockets--why should he remain on the fifty dollar bill?
But can any of us cast the first stone?
Here's my suggestion. Let's take turns. Why not choose seven men whose faces currently grace the front of our paper currency and place them on the back of the bills for the next 154 years, (paper currency began in 1862), and put these most honorable women, each on her own bill? They've waited long enough.
If not now, when?