10 Influential Women We’d Like to See on the $10 Bill

Image Source: Getty
Image Source: Getty

It’s not the $20 bill, but it’s not a penny, either. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew just announced a new $10 bill is in the works, and Alexander Hamilton will not be alone anymore. Nope, Hamilton is getting a bill-mate, and the face alongside his will belong to that of a woman, or, rather “a notable woman,” according to Lew. The decision won’t be made on the female face — as well as the new featured democracy symbols — until later this summer. Until then, public input is welcome on their website or you can tweet using #TheNew10. The new $10 bill will be officially unveiled in 2020, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.

While the news of the changing $10 bill emerged, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had already been working on legislation to try and get a woman on the $20 bill, which is just the most recent in a string of efforts to get a female face on some form of currency. An online poll about the $20 bill found the majority want to see Harriett Tubman take the honors. Regardless of the denomination, Shaheen applauded Lew for his decision on the $10, saying “young girls across this country will soon be able to see an inspiring woman on the $10 bill.”

Certainly there’s no shortage of worthy women who could appear on the bill, including these 10 (and, no, Oprah is not on the list):

1. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Blackwell was the first American woman to become an M.D., having graduated from Geneva Medical College in 1849. She went on to write books on the topic of women in medicine, and she established the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, which offered care for the poor and trained other women for careers in medicine.

2. Dr. Anna Lee Fisher

Fisher is a chemist, emergency physician, and NASA astronaut who, in 1984, became the first mother to go into space. She was awarded with NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal in 1999 and was the chief of the International Space Station from 1996 – 2002. From 1989 through 1995, Fisher took an extended leave of absence to raise her children.

3. Margaret Hamilton

“Software engineering” is a term credited to Hamilton, who is responsible for the concept of asynchronous software. As the lead software engineer on Apollo 11, her work is said to have helped prevent an abort of its moon landing mission by allowing an overloaded computer to continue operating by prioritizing its work.

4. Dorothea Lange

Lange was a documentary photographer whose work during the Great Depression put a striking face at the forefront of the people hardest hit by the economic hardships. Labor strikes, breadlines, and migrant workers were among the subjects to which she devoted a great deal of film. She is credited as being greatly influential in the field of documentary photography.

5. Annie Lumpkins

Lumpkins was a voting activist as a member of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s, which was the group that promoted civil rights and racial equality in the South, despite the great risk to their own physical safety at the hands of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and others who fought violently against desegregation. She was arrested in 1961 in Little Rock while performing an act of civil disobedience.

6. Jeanne Mamford

An activist and teacher, Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, which is a national support group, after her son came out as gay in the early 1970s. In an unprecedented move, she carried a sign that read, “Parents unite in support of our gay children” while marching with her son at a rally that eventually morphed into an annual gay pride march in Manhattan. Manford was deeply invested in her son’s rights and “what it means to be gay and to be the parent of a gay child.”
“What Jeanne Manford did was she put it in people’s heads that gay and lesbian people had parents,” writer Dan Savage said, “that we were somebody’s children, and that was the first real big step in the movement toward full acceptance of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.” In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama.

7. Rosa Parks

A Civil Rights activist, Parks helped spark an entire movement by refusing to give up her seat to a white man at the front of a bus, which resulted in her arrest in 1955. A bus boycott ensued, and the Supreme Court eventually ruled that forcing bus segregation was unconstitutional.

8. Kathrine Switzer

The Boston Marathon is arguably the most prestigious race of its kind, and Switzer broke ground as the first woman to run it in 1967. She was physically attacked by the race director for wearing a race bib, and a photo of the incident was documented in Time-Life as being among “100 Photos that Changed the World.” She went on to work to make all women welcome in the race, as well as to complete 39 marathons and make the women’s marathon an official Olympic event in 1984. Switzer also created the Avon International Running Circuit of women’s-only races in 27 countries.

9. Madam C.J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the daughter of slaves from Louisiana in the 19th century. Orphaned at 7, a servant at 10, and married at 14, she had a disease of the scalp that caused her to lose her hair. She went on to develop a formula to fix her hair problems, which she eventually marketed as a part of a complete range of hair products for black women. Walker became the first black female millionaire and used her power partly to lobby for the rights of black Americans. A commemorative stamp was issued in her honor in 1998.

10. Mary Lou Williams

A jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, Williams wrote, recorded, and taught such notables as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Swing and bebop were among Williams’ specialties, and between her prolific career as a performer, composer, and mentor, her influence is still heard around the world.

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