Monet Izabeth Eliastam
March 04, 2015 9:46 am

As a kid, did you believe that little girls didn’t play with trucks? Or after constantly being told you were pretty, instead of smart, did you begin to understand that your looks were more valued than your mind? Hashtag feminism campaigns — #askhermore, #likeagirl, #whyIstayed, to name but a few — have helped to bring gender stereotyping into the public arena, but one non-profit — WomenOn20s — is currently campaigning to diversify something so integral to our lives, we may never have noticed just how white and male it really is — our money. Their hope is that by getting a million votes they will catch the President’s attention, and be the first step towards making some currency changes.

Everyday millions of people reach into their wallets to pay for things with an Abraham, an Alexander, an Andrew, a Ulysses, or a Benjamin. But where are Betty, Rosa, Susan, Margaret, Eleanor, or Harriet? In Australia, for instance, kids can buy candy with a Mary Reibey bill, (Mary Reibey came to the country as a convict at the young age of 13 after dressing up as a boy and stealing a horse — and then went on to become a successful businesswoman). In the UK, people can pay for goods by handing over crisp notes featuring the face of the queen. And can you imagine going through the insecurities of middle school with the insanely talented, gender-norm-defying Frida Kahlo in your pocket? Mexican girls and boys have the opportunity to do just that.

Is writing more your thing? Then the Turkish Lira’s depiction of the first female novelist in the Islamic world, Fatma Aliye Topuz, is right up your alley.

While a few women have made it onto our coins — Sacagawea is currently circulating on the dollar coin — our paper currency has gender stats worse than Silicon Valley. There has only been one woman on a bill: Martha Washington, and that was in 1886.

WomenOn20s believes its time for the United States to step up to the plate. The non-profit is campaigning to gain a million signatures in support of putting a female figure on the $20 by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. They’ve even offered up some prototypes including this pretty nifty bill featuring feminist writer and activist Betty Friedan.

A change sounds great, but when could and would it actually happen? Last summer, President Obama said he thought having women on American money sounded like “it was a pretty good idea.” That’s a decent start, because in order for anything to change, we need his signature (changing currency doesn’t require an act of Congress, it only requires that the President tell the Treasury Secretary to do it). It would be amazingly cool if one of Obama’s lasting legacies was some powerful women on our money. 

Quite frankly, this is about much more than just dollar bills. When young girls grow up in a world where they aren’t represented, they are taught, overtly and covertly, that their gender doesn’t have a place in our history, much less our future. What we put on our currency — a vital part of our everyday lives — is a chance to reflect the ideals and morals of our nation. In a country where women still only earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, it would be a great first step to make sure women are equally represented on the very currency for which they’re fighting.

Head to WomenOn20s to join the campaign and vote for your top three awesome ladies to be on the next $20 bill!

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