STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Every single day, over one trillion dollars changes hands in the United States, the equivalent of over 50 billion $20 bills.
One group is aiming to take advantage of this exchange of money and make a change with that in mind.
Women On 20s is a non-profit organization that is advocating to replace the face of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with that of a prominent American woman.
Under the slogan “A woman’s place is on money,” Women On 20s is aiming to give women the recognition that the group feels they have been denied.
If this proposal were to be put in effect its direct changes would be minimal, as the only change would be the printing of one piece of American currency, but it could stand for something much more impactful across the country and across Drake University’s campus.
“[The movement] shows that activism, grassroots activism, can really work. This wasn’t a huge corporation coming out with this idea, this was people deciding that they wanted to see a woman on the $20 bill,” Grace Rogers, a sophomore and a member of Students Advocating Gender Equality said. “It shows that people can make a difference.”
“The entire movement in itself shows that America is at least trying to move forward, or small pockets are trying to move forward, with the inclusion of women on our currency,” Hanna Howard, a sophomore, SAGE member and history major with a women and gender studies concentration said.
Jennifer Perrine, women and gender studies professor at Drake. She is also an advocate for women’s rights and of the Women On 20s movement.
“Having currency as a very powerful venue where we see those faces all the time and think of them as important figures even if we don’t know very much about them as individuals, so people might not know what Andrew Jackson’s policies were,” Perrine said. “But [people] still recognize those faces and see them as important and having weight.”
The group’s decision to try to put a woman on the $20 bill was deliberate.
The face of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, currently adorns the $20 bill, but many are perplexed by the choice to glorify such an infamous individual.
Jackson was notorious for human rights violations and was also, ironically, against the federal banking system.
He is perhaps most remembered for what has become known as The Trail of Tears.
The Trail of Tears was the forced migration of 16,000 Cherokee Indians from the southeastern United States to the Oklahoma territory in the mid 19th century.
Not only was the Cherokee nation forced to give up their homes, but 25 percent of them also died along the 2,000 mile journey.
Considering Jackson’s controversial policies, Wilma Mankiller, the first-ever female chief of the Cherokee nation, was chosen as a finalist by Women On 20s to be placed on the bill.
The other three finalists, are first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, abolitionist Harriet Tubman and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
Over 100 women were originally considered, but the field was narrowed down through online voting.
“This list of women … encompasses everybody,” Rogers said. “Women with all sorts of accomplishments.”
The movement has become more and more recognizable as its momentum has built, with over 250,000 votes being cast and its being covered by media outlets including The Huffington Post and Good Morning America.
President Obama has also helped fuel the movement by saying he would at least consider signing a bill that would make the change.
“To put (a woman), whether it’s Rosa Parks or Harriet Tubman or Wilma Mankiller or Eleanor Roosevelt, on the $20 is a way to signify that women have an equal cultural worth to the men that are on the bills,” Perrine said.
Once the vote is complete, the organization will propose a bill to Congress in the hopes of getting their choice of activist on the bill, the first time a woman would be on American currency.
However, there are still fears that the movement could be stopped, whether it through Congressional deadlock or opposition from the representative members of government.
“If it fails, it means that nothing has changed basically,” Rogers said. “I think that Americans in general are resistant to change because new things kind of scare us.”
And yet, there is still plenty of optimism from the movement’s proponents, confident that there could be a woman on the $20 bill someday in the near future.
“(If it passes then) I think it shows that the administration is extremely progressive,” Howard said. “Maybe not extremely, but at least more forward-thinking than any other administration, Rogers said.”
“Representation is really important and is also a sign that people are thinking more inclusively than exclusively.”
This proposition will not render the current Andrew Jackson design unusable.
If enacted the Jackson design will continue to be used, however the design would no longer be printed.
To learn more about this initiative and vote for a finalist, visit www.womenon20s.com