The decision to put a woman on the $20 bill was almost an afterthought. And now we’re supposed to be grateful.
Well, ladies, now that they’re putting a woman on the $20 bill, what are we supposed to do?
Clutch our chests and let loose with an ugly cry? Look around like we’ve just been crowned Miss America and mouth “Thank you” to everyone we pass on the way to the ATM?
It is indeed an honor that a woman will appear on the $20 bill in a few years. Even better that the woman chosen is also the first African American to appear on U.S. currency: Harriet Tubman, a former slave and a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
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But in truth, the decision to put a woman on the bill was secondary. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Treasury had already planned a security redesign that would have been completed in 2020.
Only when someone (and my money is on a woman) realized that that same year marked the centennial of women’s suffrage, Treasury officials decided to put the founder of the movement, Susan B. Anthony, on a bill.
We’ll take it. But let’s not forget that it took 100 years for this to happen, which means that three generations of women have been loading their wallets with Georges, Abrahams, Alexanders, Andrews and Benjamins. Not a pretty face in the bunch.
Sure, we had Anthony and Sacagawea on dollar coins, but when was the last time you dug one of those out at Starbucks? Each was a one-off, a consolation prize that got us nothing but a weird look as the cashier puzzled over where in the register to put the thing.
When news broke that we would finally get our moment, and that Anthony would replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, we still had to stand there and wait while people protested and pleaded over Hamilton’s fate, much of that love fueled by the Broadway hit “Hamilton.”
The musical premiered just last year. We’ve been tapping our toes since before the Mexican Revolution.
I’m happy for “Hamilton” writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda for his Pulitzer Prize and all his success and for giving America a hip-hop history lesson like no other.
But here’s how the decision was played by at least one news organization: “Hamilton to stay on $10 bill, $20 to change.”
Here’s another headline for you: “Women Control the Money in America.”
Oh, the irony. Women hold 60 percent of all personal wealth and 51 percent of stocks in the U.S., according to a Virginia Tech study. They drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing, spend 58 percent of online retail dollars in the U.S. and make 80 percent of health-care decisions, according to Time magazine.
We’re the ones handling the money, and yet, we don’t see ourselves on it.
I’m tired of being grateful for every little acknowledgment women get. Now I just look at the calendar and shake my head, incredulous that women are still “making history” when it’s often men who decide when and how that history happens.
Meanwhile, we’re still making babies, we’re still making dinner, we’re still working full time and paying the mortgage and sitting up half the night thinking about everyone else’s problems while they’re dead asleep in the sheets that we washed and folded, which may be the most maddening duty of all.
And we’re still expected to be so grateful for the privilege of being recognized and treated equally.
My mother always served herself last, and it was always the smallest, the burned, the driest portion of whatever was for dinner. That’s what mothers — and what most women — do.
That shouldn’t happen anymore. We deserve the big piece. The bigger bill.
We’ll take that $20 bill, thank you very much, because we’ve earned it.
It’s been all about the Benjamins for long enough. It’s nice to have Harriet in the house.