Gina Barreca: Picking A Woman Who’s Right On The Money

By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant.

America’s been discussing women’s influence on our nation’s history, destiny and character. And we managed to talk about women’s contributions for almost, oh, an entire quarter of an hour until the conversation veered back to men.

Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

The topic under discussion was, “Which women, from U.S. history, might appear on a piece of paper currency?” (Just one piece of paper currency, mind you, one single denomination.) Many men, however, became so distraught at hearing nothing about their accomplishments, for up to three minutes at a stretch, they tried to shut the whole thing down.

Men swiftly reclaimed the conversation with a fierce debate over the merits of the two men on the $20 bill and the $10 bill, respectively.

Not that there aren’t several good reasons for suggesting that Andrew “Trail of Tears” Jackson be ousted from the $20 instead of Alexander “Federalist Papers” Hamilton from the $10, I’m all for it. But what I noticed is that we’ve shoved the women out of the way so that Jackson and Hamilton can have center stage. The women of American history are now sitting in lawn chairs, drinking cold coffee and wondering whether their time for recognition will come.

But for a while there, we were having a fun, active, interesting conversation about which women might appear on paper money. We know it didn’t work out with the coins. Some of us still have the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea coins sequestered somewhere in a separate compartment, probably in a plastic bag tucked into a drawer, because we’re afraid we’ll mistakenly circulate them as quarters.

Sure, they gave women coins, but they made the coins look as if they were worth one-fourth of their value. Are you shocked?

Yet it seemed as if the country, or the part of it that can make conversation, was having a lively and enthusiastic discussion about putting one woman on one piece of paper money, while still allowing the original owner to keep some real estate on the bill (Hamilton’s image will still be there somewhere). Even Jack Lew, U.S. Treasury secretary, cheered the idea and said merely that the woman had to be representative of American democracy and, by law, no longer living.

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