There's been a lot of conversation recently about the idea of putting women on our dollar bills -- many would argue our money is in need of a facelift, as in, literally, lifting one face off our bills and putting a female face in its place. But what's the process for changing currency -- is that even a thing you can do?
Though the president can influence the final decision around changing the face on the dollar, the final word must come from the Treasury Secretary (his name is Jack Lew). The thing is, though the Treasury Secretary has the power to change the design of our dollars at any time, the faces on our dollars haven't really changed since 1929.
But as Susan Ades Stone, a founder of the not-for-profit organization Women On 20s, argued, “We’re a really different country than we were in 1929 and our money should reflect our times. The young people of this country deserve to have an update of our currency.”
Women On 20s are not only at the forefront of this dialogue, they’re also on a mission to replace Andrew Jackson's face on the $20 bill with a female figure from American history.
What's up with 20s? Basically, the ladies believe Jackson isn't a flattering (or accurate) reflection of American values. The country’s seventh president infamously passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forcing thousands of Native Americans to leave their homes and walk across the country to tiny reserves in Oklahoma. Many of them died on the passage, which is why we now refer to it as the Trail of Tears.
It makes sense why the ladies would want to see a new face on the 20, but MTV News decided to find out how this actually gets done -- if at all.
The short answer is it's very possible to make over our money. The ladies of Women on 20s say that once they've agreed on a suitable replacement for Jackson, they’ll present their candidate to President Obama, who has publicly expressed interest in featuring females on our currency.
But if there’s no fancy footwork required to get a historic female figure like Rosa Parks on a bill, it's hard not to wonder why there's basically no precedent for it.
MTV News put some of these currency questions to Michael O'Malley, a professor of American History at George Mason University and the author of "Face Value: The Entwined History of Race and Money in America." Prof. O'Malley said that, essentially, the men on our dollars represent a kind of mythical, romanticized vision of American values and any deviation from that is considered a bad thing.
"There is never a point when money isn’t connected to delicate, intangible confidence," said Prof. O'Malley, "and if you put Eleanor Roosevelt on the money or [another female figure], there would be a certain fraction that would feel that 'realness' is lost."
Sadly and perhaps unsurprisingly, there's a layer of sexism that seems to be delaying the change. But O'Malley doesn't think the resistance should stop the members of Women on 20s -- or anyone -- from continuing to push for female faces on our money.
"I am happy about [the movement], he said, "Quite frankly, we should have had women on money years ago."
In all, our money is a mirror: In the faces on our dollars, we see a reflection of our society's shared values. The cool thing about democracy, freedom of speech and the like is that these values are subject to change. Right now, we're changing to become a more accepting, inclusive, awesome society.
It's about time our money reflected that.
[Update: On April 14 (Equal Pay Day), U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a democrat from New Hampshire, introduced the Women on the Twenty Act, which "direct[s] the Secretary of the Treasury to convene a panel of citizens to recommend a woman whose likeness would be featured on a new [$20] bill." The senator gave a shout-out to Women on 20s in her proposal. MTV News will continue to follow this developing story.]