Groups Celebrate Harriet Tubman as Face of Next $20 Bill

Black abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be the first woman in a century and the first African-American ever to be featured on an American paper bill.

Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the newest face to grace paper money. Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. While a change from the original plan to replace first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the $10, several organizations celebrated the news.

Women on 20s saw the news as a victory. The online organization has been advocating to put a woman on a bill and held a poll last spring to vote for the woman who should be honored. Tubman received the most support in the poll.

This is just as much a victory for the millions of American people, young and old, who cared enough about women and their worth to rally for this historic change.

“We had been looking to this Treasury Secretary to put a woman front and center as soon as possible and powerfully inspire the quest for gender equality going forward,” the group’s Executive Director Susan Ades Stone said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an important step in moving us closer to that goal.”

Though the $10 bill redesign will be released into circulation first, the new designs for the $20 and $5 bills will be ready by 2020, in time for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

“This is just as much a victory for the millions of American people, young and old, who cared enough about women and their worth to rally for this historic change,” Stone added.

The American Association of University Women has also been advocating for a woman to be featured on paper money, in addition to their work for equal pay. AAUW has said it is “thrilled,” “pumped,” and “excited” about the replacement of Jackson with Tubman. But they are still looking for a woman to also replace Hamilton on the $10.

“Obviously we don’t feel like women need to settle for just one bill,” AAUW Vice President of Government Relations Lisa Maatz told The Washington Post. “I think getting women on the front of more than one bill would be a great idea.”

However, the back of the redesigned $10 bill will depict the 1913 march for women’s suffrage that ended at the Treasury Building—along with famous suffragettes: American Equal Rights Association President Lucretia Mott, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, National Woman Suffrage Association Founder Susan B. Anthony, National Woman Suffrage Association President Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and National Woman’s Party Founder Alice Paul.

The National Women’s History Museum and the Google Cultural Institute commemorated the announcement with a virtual exhibit of Tubman’s life and time as an Underground Railroad conductor.

The museum said the new bill designs are a great step forward in recognizing the role of women in the country’s history. “What a resounding and important message we have sent to our young girls and women in this country,” NWHM President and CEO Joan Wages said in a release. “There have been many efforts to bring women’s history into our mainstream. This decision significantly raises the profile and the conversation about women’s impact on our country’s development.”

The announcement also marks the first time an African-American will be the face of a bill. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People applauds the decision, as well as the one to redesign the image on the back of the $5 to include Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Anderson, and Eleanor Roosevelt to remember the Civil Rights Movement.

“Tubman’s inclusion shows again how acts of courage and bravery are not confined to presidents and founding fathers of one gender or race, and are worth celebrating in our schools, culture, and currency,” an NAACP statement said. “We also look forward to additional design changes that will commemorate the full history and historical figures of the woman’s suffrage movement.”


Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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