There was an unofficial contest called the Woman on 20s campaign, which sought to replace Andrew Jackson, the President on the U.S $20 bill, with a woman. The options included famous women in United States history such as Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, Rosa Parks, the famous civil rights activist, and even Wilma Mankiller, who was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Harriet Tubman was declared the winner. She barely beat Eleanor Roosevelt. Rosa Parks was third and Wilma Mankiller came in fourth.
A woman with a strong personality
Harriet Tubman was a nurse, a scout, a cook, and a spy during the American Civil War. She is known for helping slaves escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves to escape to free states. 2013 marked the centennial of her death. Jacqueline Serwer, the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s chief curator, explained Tubman was special because “…she was very smart and had a wonderful memory and knew these byways and these secret routes like the back of her hand and so, when she rounded up a group of people whom she was going to lead to freedom, she knew exactly where to go, where to hide, when to wait, how to escape the slave hunters who were looking for her and looking for the folks that she was bringing to freedom. And she was just very clever. She was also very disciplined, so people, you know, who were tired or who wanted to do something different — she was very strong and could be very harsh at the same time that she was a very kind woman.”
A petition was sent to President Obama
Once the contest concluded, a petition was sent to President Obama. The petition seeks “to order the Secretary of the Treasury to change the current portrait portrayed on our American $20 bank note to reflect the remarkable accomplishments of an exemplary American woman who has helped shape our Nation’s great history.” It takes 100,000 votes to be able to petition executive action from the White House. With over half a million votes, the exceeded the required number of votes. Because Tubman, Roosevelt and Parks all attracted more than 100,000 votes at different stages of the voting, they all qualify for their own petitions. President Obama has expressed interest in adding more women on U.S bills, but the process has to go through multiple channels of approval. Furthermore, the Treasury Department has discretion over the images and “do not reveal the reason that portraits of these particular statesmen were chosen in preference to those of other persons of equal importance and prominence.” If the petition succeeded, it would still take years for new bills to come out. Regardless, this is a big step and shows that the American people crave some diversity and for women’s contributions to be recognized.