The campaign to place a woman on the twenty-dollar bill began with Barbara Ortiz Howard, who decided to ask her friends in an email chain what woman they would want on a banknote. Included on that email chain was her friend Ades Stone, a journalist, who saw a potential for a serious campaign. They registered as a non-profit under the name “Women on 20s,” recruited friends, and developed a website with a social media presence. Once they launched and started inviting the public to vote for their favorite choice, they went viral and reached a very broad audience. Women on 20s was another reminder to the country that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to women’s rights and equality in America.
On June 18, 2015, Barbara and her friends were awarded with anannouncement from the Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew that a woman will replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. In his announcement Lew said, “I would like to say something to everyone involved in the Women on 20s campaign—we thank you for your passion and your citizenship. Your campaign is exactly what democracy is about—making your voice heard.”
The Daily Show had a segment about the announcement of placing a woman on the ten-dollar bill, and correspondent Jessica Williams explained why she’s not excited about this movement. She said she would rather focus on creating real change for women by earning as much as men and having equal pay be the primary focus of female activists. Once again, The Daily Show introduces an idea that the other networks aren’t covering. Jessica Williams should give the ten-dollar bill announcement some credit because of the historic nature of finally having a woman will be on a U.S. banknote. However, she is correct in stating that equal pay and closing the gender gap should be the primary focus.
Currently, women earn on average, 78 cents to every dollar that a man earns. For a minority woman, that number is much lower. African-American women earn 64 cents, and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. President Obama has been vocal on this issue and the very first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which extended time periods for filing discrimination claims. In 2010, he created the Equal Pay Task Force and in 2014 signed an Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum making it easier to find out if discrimination is taking place.
These are all steps in the right direction, but there’s more work to be done.
Overall, Women on 20s was the beginning of a grassroots movement to remind a nation that we have had an arduous history for women. It also demonstrates how one idea can turn into a nationwide campaign and create change with the help of social media. With that being said it is time to focus our attention to women’s rights in other ways, like equal pay. Enjoy the victory on putting a woman on the ten-dollar bill but let’s start a new, viral campaign to create equal pay and close the gender gap.