Matt Yglesias’ proposal on Wednesday that “It’s time to put a woman on the $20” was met in our newsroom with immediate enthusiasm—followed by furious debate. The problem (a problem we don’t mind having) is that there are simply too many important, accomplished, courageous American women to whittle the list down to just one who could replace Andrew Jackson. Instead, we tried our hand at putting women on all American paper currency—and still arguments broke out. The literary folks argued for Edith Wharton, the first female winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Others battled for Frances Perkins, Jane Addams, Sojurner Truth, Emily Dickinson, Anne Bradstreet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller...the list went on and on. Finally, we agreed on the six women below (and must note that we’re not the only ones playing this parlor game), but recognize that this list is anything but comprehensive.
Not only did Tubman take great personal risk escaping from slaveholders in Maryland, she then journeyed back into the South (repeatedly) to rescue around 70 slaves and bring them north. What’s more, she worked as a Civil War nurse, was an early advocate for women’s rights, and worked tirelessly to care for others through her adult life—despite the headaches and seizures that were a result of a beating she received in childhood. Tubman was already so famous and well-respected before she died that the home for the elderly in which she was placed bore a very conspicuous name: The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged.
It's hard to know now if Amelia Earhart would have received as much fame and attention had she returned from her final, fateful flight. But it's important to remember that despite not completing her flight around the world, Earhart had already set several records and was, in fact, she was the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Hawaii to California. Bet beyond her accomplishments, it's her bravery that most inspires. Earhart took off on her final flight with only a couple hundred miles worth of extra fuel—and the knowledge that she might not make it.
Parks's decision to remain seated on that Montgomery, Alabama, bus will forever stand as proof that one small act of defiance can ripple across an entire nation.
In her run for the presidency in 1972 Shirley Chisholm broke zillions of symbolic barriers. She embodies much of what is best about this nation and its ongoing struggle to become a better and more just place for all kinds of people, not just the kind whose images currently decorate our currency.
OK, we're not going to lie. We're trolling you a bit here. But as the potential first female president of the United States, it's hard not to wonder if having her face on the dollar bill might not be in Hillary's future...
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