Well, it’s about time.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced that the redesigned $10 note will feature the portrait of a woman who was a champion for democracy. The bill will be unveiled in 2020, the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Not since the end of the 19th century has U.S. paper currency featured a woman. In that case, a portrait of the nation’s first First Lady, Martha Washington, appeared on $1 silver certificates.
The current $10 note was issued in March 2006, and bears the images of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who was the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and the U.S. Treasury building. Current Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said Hamilton will still appear on the redesigned note, which will also have a tactile element to assist the visually impaired.
The decision to include a woman on the $10 note represents "an important symbolic step," said Jarin Eisenberg, executive director of the Melbourne Main Street community advocacy group in Florida and an instructor in Florida Institute of Technology’s 100% online degree programs.
“The conversation alone holds so much value because it makes people think, 'Oh, yeah, why isn’t there a woman represented in this form?’” said Eisenberg, who previously was project manager at the Women’s Business Center at Florida Tech.
“I don’t know that I have a specific person in mind,” she said. “There are so many women who have contributed to the fabric of this nation who have gone unrecognized for so long.”
The Treasury Department earmarked the $10 bill for redesign in 2013, mostly in an effort to address counterfeiting threats, which are on the rise. The United States rarely changes the faces on its currency; the last time was in the 1920s, just before the onset of the Great Depression.
Federal law prohibits the use of images of living persons on U.S. currency.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing typically provides suggestions for currency redesigns. This time, Lew is seeking public input on the portrait selection as well as other design aspects that best represent democracy. Citizens can share their ideas by using the hashtag #theNew10 on Twitter or by visiting The New 10 website.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (27%), and former slave and hero of the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman (17%) are the most popular choices, according to a McClatchy-Marist Poll conducted in July 2015.
Other women receiving public support in the poll include Sacagawea (13%), and Amelia Earhart and Susan B. Anthony (11% each).
Among female respondents to the poll, Roosevelt had a more commanding lead, with 33% to Tubman’s 18%, McClatchy-Marist reported.
The final decision rests with Lew, who is expected to announce his selection later this year.
The $10 bill is the third least-circulated bill of the seven major denominations, accounting for 5.2% of all bills in use at the end of 2014, according to Federal Reserve data. There were about 1.9 billion $10 bills in circulation, and 627.2 million new notes were ordered for fiscal year 2015.
The new $10 note also will be designed to guard against counterfeiting. Advances in printing equipment and the adoption of the U.S. dollar as legal tender in other countries has increased the threat posed by fake currency, triggering more international investigations and better counterfeit-detection programs.
In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. Secret Service intercepted $58 million in counterfeit currency, arrested 2,191 people on counterfeit charges and shut down 188 counterfeit manufacturing plants.