In the Treasury Department's 225-year history, only a single woman has ever appeared on American paper currency — but that streak is finally about to be broken. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on Wednesday a plan to add an unnamed female to the $10 bill, which has featured the face of Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, since 1929.
"I'm proud to announce today that the new $10 bill will be the first bill in more than a century to feature a woman," Lew announced in a video released Wednesday evening. "Democracy is the theme for the next redesigned series of U.S. notes. Images that capture this theme will be featured on the new $10 bill."
The decision, which Lew announced "reflects our aspirations for the future as much as our aspirations of the past," comes one month after a feminist non-profit, Women On 20s, published the result of a national poll that named Harriet Tubman as the woman Americans most want to see on paper currency. The group — whose slogan is "A woman's place is on the money" — has been advocating for a redesign to include the portrait of a woman by 2020, the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
But the decision to swap out Hamilton wasn't the non-profit's intention — the organization had instead been pushing to get rid of the scowling face of Andrew Jackson, America's seventh president. Jackson's opposition to the central banking system that now prints his jowely face on the $20 bill, as well as his signage of the infamous Indian Removal Act of 1830, made him an easy target for retirement.
According to Lew, the decision to get rid of Hamilton — arguably the dreamiest face currently printed on American money — had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with timing. The $10 was already scheduled for a redesign in 2020 to beat counterfeiters, a perfect match for the 19th Amendment's hundredth anniversary. "This historic endeavor has been years in the making," Lew announced in the video, which encouraged the public to use the hashtag #TheNew10 to encourage public comment on potential portrait candidates.
Still, Lew hopes to somehow keep the musical-inspiring, duel-losing Federalist on the $10 bill. He told reporters that keeping Hamilton's face on the bill was "personally very important" to him, which might mean the printing of multiple versions of the bill, or a bill with two portrait — one of Hamilton and one of the to-be-determined woman. That might not make supporters of the original campaign to oust Jackson too happy — offering shared space on the $10 bill with the subject of America's first sex scandal might be considered a gesture that's two steps forward, one step back.
Lew and the rest of the Treasury Department are seeking public comment on possible candidates to grace the ten-spot at TheNew10.Treasury.Gov. The only rule? The candidates have to be dead.
Better luck next time, Bey.