Yesterday, Jacob Lew, Treasury Secretary, announced the proposal to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist, and to add women and civil rights leaders to the $5 and $10 notes. This brought up a couple of questions at the Info Desk. Has there ever been a woman on United States paper currency? There’s the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, right? Yes, but it’s no longer minted.
ICPL’s reference collection is no where near as large as it was before the Internet (BI), but books on collecting coins and paper currency and stamps are still staples. (The collecting of coins and stamps have two fancy names -numismatics and philately – but I am always afraid I am mispronouncing them so I just stick with calling them coin collecting and stamp collecting, no need to put on airs…) The Standard Catalogs of World Paper Money and Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogues are integral parts of the collection. While there is a lot information on the values of coins, paper currency and stamps online, many collectors still prefer to use books. I am sure that next year’s Standard Catalog of World Paper Money will have a feature the changes to United States currency. Maybe they will even feature the Harriet Tubman bill on the cover.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History had a fascinating piece on woman on currency on its website. One of the first historic women to appear on money was Arsinoe II, a Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, in the 3rd century BCE. Queen Elizabeth the Second, (celebrating her 90th birthday today, Happy Birthday!) has been featured on coins and currency all over the British realm. The federal government began issuing paper currency in 1861. Martha Washington appeared on a one dollar silver certificate in 1886 and Pocahontas was on the back of a 20 dollar bill in 1875. Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be featured on the back of the new $10 bill. Women on 20, a online site that pushed to have women featured on currency, is now mounting a campaign to have the new $20 bill appear at the same time as the $10 bill. The movement is a strong one and highlights the power of the web as a tool for change. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t also include the Irish pound note that featured Queen Medb, also know as Maeve. The note was issued from 1977 to 1989 until is was replaced by the Euro.