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GOP Debates the New $10

The ongoing discussion about changing the personages who grace US currency is one that we have covered before (here,  here, and here). This spring, the Women on 20s movement effectively sparked a renewed national discussion about the lack of women on US currency (beyond of course the lightly-circulated Sacagewa dollar coin). Although the goal of that campaign was to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill, in June Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew made a surprise announcement that the ten-dollar bill, which was already in the process of being redesigned, would feature a woman. The rather general message was simply that a “notable woman” would feature on the bill and the American public was asked to share its ideas about who it might be here. Despite this solicitation for public feedback, the decision will ultimately be made by Jack Lew and opposition to removing Alexander Hamilton at this point seems moot.


The tremendous response to the announcement and discussions about the varied possibilities have been ongoing. The winner of the popular Women on 20’s poll was Harriet Tubman, with Eleanor Roosevelt coming in a close second. The poll we ran here on Pocket Change was won by Amelia Earhart, with Helen Keller just behind. Anecdotally, the name I have most often heard is Rosa Parks. In short, it seems like there are a number of different possibilities and it has been heartening to see this numismatic issue enliven the public interest. It was also fascinating to see it addressed at last night’s GOP debate on CNN. Although moderator Jake Tapper condescendingly introduced it is a “lighthearted” topic, he asked the Republican candidates directly: “What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?”

Their responses were interesting and the video below is cued to the segment if you would like to watch:


Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump rather lamely suggest their wife, mother, and daughter respectively. Jeb Bush looks to conservative icon Margaret Thatcher while John Kasich sees Mother Theresa as an inspiration, though neither would seem to be appropriate for US currency. Of the more considered responses, Mario Rubio advocates for Rosa Parks as “an everyday American that changed the course of history.” Citing his own work with the Red Cross, which she of course helped found, Scott Walker puts forward Clara Barton. Chris Christie observes that “our country wouldn’t be here without John Adams, and he would not have been able to do it without Abigail Adams.” It was somewhat surprising to me that the only candidate who did not accept a change as a fait accompli (perhaps because of the way the question was framed) was Carly Fiorina. Fiorina seems to think the proposed change is a meaningless “gesture” and does not “think it helps to change our history,” linking her opposition to her feeling that “women are not a special interest group.” 

The range of responses show just how compelling and open the question of whose portrait will feature on the new ten-dollar bill is at present. And it is a discussion that we will continue to follow with interest here on Pocket Change.

Matthew Wittmann

Excerpt from the full transcript (via Time) is below the fold:

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