American Government Announces First Woman on US Paper Currency

Step aside, Alexander Hamilton.

The familiar portrait of Hamilton is being removed from the American $10 bill to be replaced by an influential woman in history, according to the Department of the Treasury.

After months of speculation that the face on the $20 bill, that of Andrew Jackson, would be replaced, treasury secretary Jack Lew announced yesterday that Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and former chief aide to General George Washington, will cede to a prominent woman.

John Trumbull is responsible for the 1805 portrait of Hamilton on the bill. Curiously, the original portrait is part of the portrait collection housed at New York City Hall, the same collection mayor Bill de Blasio has been trying to diversify.

But which historically prominent woman will replace Hamilton on the banknotes?

In March, the organization Women on 20s—which was advocating to place a woman on the $20 bill—began asking the public to vote for top female candidates. Top picks for a replacement included Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clara Barton, and Harriet Tubman, all of whom have portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.

More than 350,000 votes were cast, and Tubman beat Roosevelt, getting 34% of the vote.


H. Seymour Squyer, Harriet Tubman (1885). Photo: National Portrait Gallery.

H. Seymour Squyer, Harriet Tubman (1885).
Photo: National Portrait Gallery.

Meantime no official decision has been made by the Department of the Treasury as to which woman it will be on our new $10 bill. Yet we can’t help but wonder which artist or designer will be commissioned to help bring it to fruition.

While the Hamilton bills are unlikely to disappear entirely any time soon (there are more than 1.9 billion of them currently in circulation), putting a woman on paper notes will hopefully be a longer-lived honor than previous endeavors to represent women on currency.

Both the Susan B. Anthony silver dollars, minted between 1979 and 1981, and the Sacagawea gold-colored dollar coins, minted between 1999 and 2000, were quickly discontinued, as they were often confused with quarters. Sculptor Glenna Goodacre was selected to design the front of the Sacagawea coin, while the reverse, depicting a soaring eagle, was designed by sculptor and engraver Thomas D. Rogers.

The Anthony coins were designed by Frank Gasparro, the tenth chief engraver of the US Mint.

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