In 2013 the Treasury Department put the $10 bill next in line to receive a facelift, mainly for security reasons. However, in an unexpected move, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Wednesday that a portrait of a woman will grace the United States’ paper money for the first time since the 1890’s.
Traditionally, the Treasury Secretary decides on bill redesigns with the sole help of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. However, in the announcement video, Lew asked, “we want to know what democracy means to you,” and opened up the discussion to social media with the hashtag #thenew10.
Lew also noted that the current portrait on the $10 bill, that of the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, will not be removed. Though whether he will share the bill or whether there will be two bills has yet to be determined.
While women have already been featured prominently on US dollar coins, only two women, Martha Washington and Pocahontas, have ever been on paper currency. Even so, both women were only featured briefly during the 19th century and no portrait has been changed since the 1920’s.
The woman who will be featured on the $10 bill will be officially announced later this year and the bill will enter circulation in 2020, the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
By law, the yet-to-be decided woman must be American, and she must be dead. Most importantly; however, Lew noted that the woman “should be iconic and have made a significant contribution to — or impact on — protecting the freedoms on which our nation was founded.”
Over the summer, the Treasury will conduct town halls and roundtables in addition to social media polling in order to collect input on their decision. So far, social media has proven most immediately fruitful, providing suggestions from Sally Ride to Harriet Tubman to Eleanor Roosevelt to even the Statue of Liberty, though some on Twitter seem (unjustly) upset that the Treasury has decided to remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill.
Even so, while the addition of a woman to paper money is historic, the impetus of any bill redesign is always security, such as the addition of a magnetic stripe to the 2009 redesign of the $100 bill. As of now, the Treasury has made no plans to redesign any other currency.
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