March is Women’s History Month, which is a great time for the nation to reflect on all that women have done to build this country and how far we’ve come in terms of our rights and social standing. Unfortunately, doing so often highlights the avenues where women are still fighting for parity. For example, we have yet to have a woman president. That unfortunate detail has made women nearly completely absent from American currency. In fact our only representatives are Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony on dollar coins that hardly anyone wanted to use, and Helen Keller on the Alabama quarter.
This got me thinking about how things would be different if we put women on our currency instead. Despite never holding presidential office, women have made significant, undeniable contributions to the foundation of our country. And in honor of those contributions, I have re-imagined our paper currency with some of the most significant women in American history.
Current historical figure: George Washington
Female alternative: Abigail Adams
George Washington is an American History icon for his contributions during the Revolutionary War and establishing the foundations of our country. But Abigail Adams, America’s second First Lady, was also an important part of those foundations. She was the first First Lady to preside over the White House and created a formal tradition of entertaining political figures. And despite her lack of formal education, she was quite the bookworm and provided John Adams with sound advice during his term as President.
Current historical figure: Thomas Jefferson
Female alternative: Madeleine Albright
Thomas Jefferson became America’s first Secretary of State in 1789. Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State in 1997 and is among the highest ranking women in the history of the U.S. Government. While it’s a shame that it took almost 200 years to appoint a female Secretary of State, it’s a good thing that we did. She was a key decision maker in the country’s involvement in the Bosnian War and received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official.
Current historical figure: Abraham Lincoln
Female alternative: Harriet Tubman
Given that he was the president that ended slavery in America, Abraham Lincoln is kind of the hero of the abolition movement. But Harriet Tubman was instrumental in the anti-slavery movement. After escaping slavery herself, she made 19 return trips to the South to help free her family and other slaves. Because of her efforts, she earned the nickname, “Moses,” a $40,000 bounty on her head, and an important part in the history of our country.
Current historical figure: Alexander Hamilton
Female alternative: Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony is best known for her work in women’s suffrage, but she also worked to end slavery, create educational opportunities for both genders and all races, and improve working conditions for women. She also did not die in an illegal duel with a disgruntled political rival.
Current historical figure: Andrew Jackson
Female alternative: Jane Addams
Given his controversial policies of Indian removal in the 1800’s, Jackson is already sort of a questionable figure to have on our currency. Jane Addams, in contrast, was far more nurturing and inclusive. She co-founded Hull House, the first ever settlement house, and opened its doors to newly-settled immigrants. She also offered classes for women and children, and firmly believed in equality across genders and class lines. Her efforts towards peace and social equality earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was the first American woman to receive this honor.
Current historical figure: Ulysses S. Grant
Female alternative: Eleanor Roosevelt
Ulysses S. Grant was President during the Reconstruction and worked hard to rebuild a war-town south. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady after the Great Depression and during WWII, and worked hard to rebuild America’s economy and morale. While her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, focused on the programs involved in the New Deal, Eleanor focused on ways to provide immediate aid for Americans who were homeless and unemployed. She also made several trips to witness firsthand that the New Deal programs were truly efficient and effective in getting Americans back on their feet.
Current historical figure: Benjamin Franklin
Female alternative: Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin bears no relation to the famous kite-flying scientist. However, if it weren’t for Rosalind’s x-ray photographs, James Watson and Francis Crick would never have discovered the structure of DNA. She sadly passed away before she could be nominated for a Nobel Prize (which Watson and Crick received the year of her passing).
I’m not discrediting our Founding Fathers or our need to honor their contributions through our currency. But it’s March and women are awesome. These women might not be on our money, but they are in our country’s legacy. Let’s celebrate that.
Photo credit: Getty ThinkStock, Demand Media Creative Services