We are still super excited about the potential of a woman being on the $20 bill and the effort that Womenon20.org have put into this campaign. Going through the 15 potential list of candidates, we reflected on all the great women who sacrificed so much for us. Of course, we noticed some omissions; how can there only be 15 women worthy of minting? We thought of five (well, technically four) more women who should deserve consideration. Not just for the $20—there are plenty of other bills that would more than benefit from featuring a woman. Does Grant really deserve that $50? (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.)
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Investigative journalist, suffragist, sociologist, and one of the early leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Ida B. Wells is one of the most important black figures in our history. She risked her life documenting the crime of lynching throughout the United States, how it was used as a fear tactic to prevent black people from exercising their civil liberties. She refused to give up her seat on a train decades before Rosa Parks, and she had to deal with pushback within the Suffragist Movement to get black women the right to march with their white counterparts. Despite being criticized by a racist, white society, she continued to speak her truth. Ida B. Wells is a heroine of the highest order.
Matilda Joslyn Gage
Considered more radical than Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gage spent her whole life involved in activism. As a child, her home was used as station of the Underground Railroad. Well-educated and a dedicated writer, Gage made sure that every woman in Fayetteville, NY had the opportunity to vote by writing a series of letters to make them aware of their rights. She even camped out at the polling site in order to ensure no one was turned away from voting. Frustrated by the conservative takeover of the suffrage movement, she founded the Women’s National Liberal Union. One of the most radical women in feminism, Gage is a name that has been largely ignored; we need to ensure she’s not forgotten.
Coretta Scott King
Often remembered solely in the shadow of her husband, Coretta Scott King was an active member of the Civil Rights movement as well as the Women’s and LGBT movements. After her husband’s death, King participated in anti-apartheid protests and was arrested along with her daughter and son. Alongside Betty Shabazz and Myrile Evers, she helped register one million African-American women to vote in 1995. King stood in solidarity with the gay and lesbian movement, recognizing how those groups had always been a part of the civil rights movement, and stood against other black pastors who criticized her. Until her death, Coretta Scott King stood for the rights of all people to be seen as equal. She was not just a wife; she was a leader.
One of the most widely read poets of the 20th century, Rich, while not a politician, led the way in terms of bringing the oppression of women and lesbians to poetry in a way that was critically recognized. After moving to New York, Rich became deeply involved in anti-war, civil rights, and feminist activism that was reflected in her poetry. She was awarded the National Book Award for Poetry with Allen Ginsberg and accepted it with Alice Walker and Audre Lorde on behalf of all women “whose voices have gone and still go unheard in a patriarchal world.” Her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Existence” was one of the first to really focus on lesbians and their place in the LGBT movement.
Yes, Rosa Parks is already on the original list, but we felt the need to remind people that Rosa Parks was not just the “bus lady.” She was an active member of the NAACP and defender of women’s rights. After the rape of Recy Taylor was ignored by the Alabama authorities, Rosa Parks was one of the women who was sent to investigate the crime, and she organized the protests for getting justice. It was one of the first times there was a real nationalized movement organized within the African American community. Through the work that Rosa Parks and others did, the spark for the civil rights movement was ignited.
Who would be your dream face of the $20?
Images c/o Womenon20, BIO.com, Herman Hiller, Katharyn Howd Machan, Ebony Magazine