Women, the $10 Bill, and the GOP Field

Yes, the following is not exactly all that consequential, but why blog if you can’t share your opinion on the inconsequential?

Via the WSJ:   Republican Debate: Rosa Parks Top Pick for $10 Bill

Some of the votes:

Rand Paul: Susan B. Anthony
Mike Huckabee: My wife
Marco Rubio: Rosa Parks
Ted Cruz: Keep Hamilton. Put Rosa Parks on the $20
Ben Carson: My mother
Donald Trump: My daughter, Ivanka, or Rosa Parks
Jeb Bush: Margaret Thatcher
Scott Walker: Clara Barton
Carly Fiorina: Don’t change it
John Kasich: Mother Theresa
Chris Christie: Abigail Adams

Couple of quick thoughts:

1.  I totally agree with Ted Cruz (a sentence I am unlikely to type ever again):  Hamilton should be on the currency (arguably after Washington, he makes the most sense to be on our money).

2.  Jeb! can’t think of a single American female? (Ditto Kasich).

3.  What’s with the flippant “my mother” answers—seriously, guys? (And Trump should probably just not comment on his daughter, lest he remind people of this).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Tillman says:

    The only thing that saved Jeb Bush’s campaign from collapsing in on itself over how dumb an answer Margaret Thatcher is was Rand Paul’s Hail Mary Secret Service code name “Justice Never Sleeps.”

    Not to beat the drum too much, but while a lot of them said Rosa Parks, Rubio due to his position on the stage got to say it first.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’m hard pressed to name an American woman of the stature of Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Grant, or Franklin. Anthony was a civil rights leader but not as significant in that regard as King. Eleanor Roosevelt was pretty important but not as much so as, say, Teddy or Franklin.

    Paul is right that it makes more sense to remove Jackson than Hamilton. But there’s no reason aside from tokenism that a woman would be the replacement.

  3. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner: Women were artificially prevented, for much of this nation’s history, from having much impact at all. Nevertheless some did – I’d add to the list above Harriet Tubman. Very few people living or dead have been as brave as she.

  4. @James Joyner:

    I’m hard pressed to name an American woman of the stature of Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Grant, or Franklin.

    I am not sure that is the right question, however, given that in the generations of which you speak it was impossible for a women to have that kind of stature.

    Further, I am not sure that it is necessary that our currency a) be stable over all time in terms of who appears on it, or b) that it has to honor only the founding generation and persons of similar stature (e.g., Lincoln).

    I think it goes well beyond tokenism to acknowledge that woman have contributed to the growth and development of the US.

    Rosa Parks strikes me as symbolic of a major watershed in US politics and therefore strikes me as a good possibility.

  5. Joe Dokes says:

    @James Joyner: Frances Perkins.

  6. M. Bouffant says:

    Jeannette Rankin, first woman in Congress. Bonus: A Republican

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    The initial impetus was replacing the genocidal Jackson on the $20 with Harriet Tubman. I still think that’s the best option.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Great, so women get kept from holding public office (or any office at all) for most of this nation’s history and then you complain that “there’s no American woman of the statute of Washington, Hamilton, etc.”?

    Do you realize how silly you sound? It’s like complaining about the lack of black billionaires right after Jim Crow ended!

  9. Tyrell says:

    I would go with Madison (Dolly). The leadership and determination of James and Dolly Madison saved this country from total catastrophe in 1812.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    Marco Rubio: Rosa Parks
    Ted Cruz: Keep Hamilton. Put Rosa Parks on the $20

    I agree with Ted on this one: Hamilton belongs, Andrew Jackson – who hated the banking system – does not belong on ANY American currency.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. My vote would be for Harriet Tubman on the $20. Leave Hamilton alone–get rid of that Jackson fellow.

  12. Andre Kenji says:

    Most countries that have historical figures in their currency use writers, poets,artists, and people other than politicians. Frida Kahlo and Soror Juana appeared in Mexican Peso Notes. Mark Twain, Edgar Alan Poe, Emily Dickson, these people could appear on the Dollar without any problem.

  13. MBunge says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think it goes well beyond tokenism to acknowledge that woman have contributed to the growth and development of the US.

    Nah. It may be worthwhile and useful, but it’s still tokenism. I mean, if the thing that gets you put on money is contributing to the growth and development of the U.S., that means there’s a whole new list of dudes more deserving that any woman.

    Dr. Martin Luther King jr?
    Thomas Edison?
    Dwight Eisenhower?
    Ernest Hemmingway?
    Jesse Owens?


  14. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W: @Steven L. Taylor: @grumpy realist: Obviously, much of the reason that men have dominated the history of accomplishment is that women weren’t permitted in the fields that we tend to honor until recently. But that doesn’t change the history.

    Rosa Parks has been highly honored, and rightly so, for her role in the civil rights movement. But she’s no Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Dolly Madison was indeed important. But her husband, who’s not honored, is widely considered the father of the Constitution.

    Frances Perkins? She’s not even the most important American woman of the New Deal and WWII era. I’d vote for Grace Hopper over her, for example.

  15. John Peabody says:

    I like how the Wall Street Journal reported it: “As the men on stage fumbled to think of a lady heroine to grace the $10 bill, Ms. Fiorina demurred. “I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture,” she said. “We ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group.”

  16. @James Joyner: @MBunge: I think when almost all national symbols honor men and only men (and mostly white men) that sends a strong signal to the population who is really important.

    Further, I am not sure why the currency has to graced by people who are the most significant of the most significant. If we are doing that should JFK and US Grant be on coins and bills? Heck we used to have bills with such really important people as Glover Cleveland and William McKinley.

    And I agree with@Andre Kenji, why does it have to be politicians?

  17. And: I think that it was so difficult for a crowd of educated politicians to conjure a women worthy of honoring in this way is not a comment on the worthiness of American women, but is indicative of the fact that we, as a society, focus very heavily on the contributions of men to the exclusion of discussing women.

    I will also say that this whole discussion (even Jeb’s answer) suggests that we pay a bit too much attention (and give too much praise) to people who occupy executive office.

    Having said that, who is on the $10 or $20 is hardly the most pressing issue of our time.

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: In this age of electronic banking and money do enough people still use paper cash to make the expense of a change worthwhile? I don’t even remember the last time I used paper to pay for anything.

  19. KM says:

    3. What’s with the flippant “my mother” answers—seriously, guys?

    And: I think that it was so difficult for a crowd of educated politicians to conjure a women worthy of honoring in this way is not a comment on the worthiness of American women, but is indicative of the fact that we, as a society, focus very heavily on the contributions of men to the exclusion of discussing women.

    These two statements are tied together. For many man, a woman’s worth is their personal relationship and proximity to the male in question. So prevalent and deeply entrenched in our culture it’s not even noticed by most – it even has its own TVTropes entry, Never a Self-Made Woman; To this day, I can walk around and be introduced not as the successful and published career woman I am but as “David’s daughter”….. and most people never inquire further then that. My contributions are summarily dismissed in order to present me in tribal terms ie I belong to that guy over there. When a woman is trying to discourage a male’s attention, he’s far more likely to back off when “I have a boyfriend” is mentioned instead of accepting her “I’m not interested” at face value.

    The chuckleheads above are trying to play into Mom and Apple Pie mentality – where Mom is the symbol of American values and virtue just by existing and loving you, not because she’s done anything noteworthy. It plays into the ego – what’s important to you must be important to everybody else as well, disregarding the fact a lot of people aren’t on speaking terms with their parents. It’s a cheap appeal to sentiment and should drop them in everyone’s estimation for the lame panders they are.

    I’m with the others above – I don’t see why we need to have politicians on the currency because that implies that only politicians have ever done anything worthwhile for us to deserve the honor. We can have multiple versions – hell, if the quarter can have the fifty states embossed on back, why can’t we have paper money have Jackson, Hamilton, MLK, JFK, Tubman, Parks, AND any other worthies? As long as the bills meet stringent security standards, what’s the problem? Of course, I’m also in favor of different colored bills for denominations – I absolutely LOVE being able to go to Canada and know at a glance how much I have left for Tim Horton runs.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: You might as well say: “Men–they’re the only ones worth looking at. Women just stay home and take care of the children–that’s all you’re good for.”

    Do you realize how hard it has been for women to get ANYWHERE in the US since the founding?! Considering that for most of the history of the US we couldn’t even VOTE I think we’ve done damn well with the opportunities we were allowed to participate in!

    When you first went looking for a job, were you told: “oh, the only thing we can offer you is a job as a secretary”?

    Sandra Lee O’Connor was. A brilliant student in law school, and the only job she could find was as a legal secretary.

    THAT’s the mindset we have had to butt our heads against, year after year after year, and you say “oh, but the women haven’t accomplished that much.”

    The mind boggles.

  21. KM says:

    @grumpy realist:

    In defense of our host, I don’t think he’s saying American women have never done anything equal to Washington and Hamilton but rather is committing the very common mistake of holding the Founders/early generation on too high a pedestal and that history is as it was written. They accomplished great things, true, but demigods they are not. He’s got them so high in the stratosphere almost no one can touch them – including the incredible women who helped make this country and who’s names nobody ever bothered to write down or acknowledge at the time.

  22. Scott says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: To pick a scientist then, I would suggest Rosalind Franklin or Rachel Carson.

  23. DrDaveT says:

    @John Peabody:

    Carly: “We ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group.”

    Wow. Just, wow.

    The Republican war on women never lacks for fifth columnists…

  24. dmhlt says:

    You can count on Rubio and Cruz changing their minds once they learn that Rosa Parks was on the Board of Planned Parenthood!


  25. MBunge says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Further, I am not sure why the currency has to graced by people who are the most significant of the most significant.

    I have ZERO problem with putting a woman’s face on currency or honoring the fairer sex in any way for the significant contributions they have made to America.

    But if we’re honoring a woman just because she’s a woman, while men of equal or greater contributions/significance are left out, that is tokenism. It may very well be a perfectly appropriate remedy for generation after generation of discrimination and oppression against women, but I think it’s important to be honest about what we’re doing.


  26. grumpy realist says:

    @MBunge: If we want “men of greater contributions” on our currency, damifino why in the hell Jackson’s in there on the $20. He was AWFUL.

  27. Slugger says:

    I am going to put forth a proposal that I have made before. In today’s era we should be able to implant readable strips in currency paper that would allow each citizen to load the strips with value as in a prepaid debit card and print whatever they like on the paper. Then I could walk around with $100 bills with my mother’s face, $23 Michael Jordans, and $13 bills covered with marihuana leaves. The Treasury could charge a premium for these vanity bills.

  28. bookdragon says:

    @James Joyner: I personally voted for Tubman to replace Jackson, who was terrible and deserves to be replaced, esp by a courageous former slave.

    I think Christie had the best answer among the candidates since we have correspondence showing how much Abigail Adams advised her husband. However, I don’t see why someone has to be a Revolutionary era politician to deserve a place on currency. I’d second Grace Hopper – considering how we’re having this discussion, she richly deserves to be honored for her contributions.

  29. Tillman says:

    @grumpy realist: First president who was elected by the popular vote (among white men anyway), essentially founded the Democratic Party, first president to have an assassination attempt*, first president to deal with secessionary talk (nullification of federal policy first became prominent in the South during Jackson’s tenure, and boy did he hate it)…he’s not on the money for no reason. Hell, he’s probably on the money as much for the “good” things he did as the “bad.” Jackson is controversy — how we view him hasn’t changed much from how he was viewed back then.

    So if we’re going to replace Jackson, I’d recommend Shirley Chisholm. She beats him in number of assassination attempts. 🙂

    * Two if you count both pistols misfiring. Still the best presidential assassin story following Teddy Roosevelt continuing his speech after being shot in the chest.

  30. @Ron Beasley: There is still a lot of currency in circulation and they redesign the bills on an ongoing basis anyway, so yes.

  31. @MBunge: I think, perhaps, our disagree (such as it is) is over the connotation of the word “token” here.

  32. Tyrell says:

    @grumpy realist: Andrew Jackson: the only president who has entire era named after him: the Jacksonian era. We do not hear about the Lincolnian era, Jeffersonian era, Rooseveltian era, or the Nixonian era.
    Andrew Jackson was also the hero of New Orleans. He pulled off one of the greatest military feats in history by taking a rag tag, motley crew of cutthroats, prisoners, pirate, Tennessee backwoodsmen, and vagabonds and defeating a superior, experienced military force of British soldiers.
    There was also major expansion, growth, and other accomplishments under Jackson’s administration.

  33. KM says:


    Age. You mean the Age of Jackson as in “the coming generations will be very proud to be born in the age of Jackson”. In this, you are correct in that he is the only one officially acknowledged as such by historians in their terminology. However, Nixonian era is a thing and I’m fairly sure I’ve seen Jeffersonian era bandied about in literature. Never seen Lincolnian or Rooseveltian though……

  34. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: You can get the boy out of the South, but you can’t get the South out of the boy.

  35. grumpy realist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Probably one reason why my hackles rise so much. I’m a New Englander.

  36. Tyrell says:

    I remember as a student we learned the accomplishments of Andrew Jackson, which I have touched on. It is certainly convenient and self serving to jump on a man who is no longer around to defend himself from a lot of vicious, unfair attacks. History is history. It is not always pretty, neat, nice, or what we would like it to be. None of the leaders back then were perfect. Jackson was not alone in the treatment of the Natives, which I agree was terrible. There were a lot of others who were heavily involved in that also: Grant (on the $50), Sherman, “Fighting” Phil Sheridan (“the only good Indian is a dead Indian”), Kearny, Reno (has a large city named after him), Custer (a hero of the Union army), and Hancock,to name a few. These leaders have impeccable military records, and many attended West Point . Theodore Roosevelt became a great president after his heroism and full support of the Spanish American War: a war which now people find fashionable to condemn and criticize. While that view has some merit, let us not forget that Spain had full ambitions in the Carribbean and did not have a clean record either.
    If alot of these people could go back in history, they (not all ), would have got caught up in the spirit of the times and also supported the settlement of the west. If the leaders and citizenry back then could have been shown a glimpse of the future 20th century, they would have been slack jawed in disbelief: so many wars that we started numbering them, unimaginable horrors, fighting machines that seemed stuff of science fiction, casualty numbers beyond belief ! They would certainly ask why we are criticizing them !
    “Manifest Destiny” was supported by most of the leaders, newspapers, and citizens of the time. Now people avoid even talking about it. Again, if most of the critics of today could go back in time ( a star gate maybe), most would get caught up in the hoopla also.
    We live in an age in which there is an unwise movement to try and erase parts of history. People push to remove flags, monuments, portraits, statues, and names of streets, buildings, and commemorative days that they disagree with. They overlook the reasons for these initiatives to start with, and that those initiatives have a history and lesson in themselves. Many want to erase a lot of history that they deem wrong. That will prove to be very unwise. Historic events and people are part of culture.

  37. @Tyrell: But why are we supposed to extol (and venerate) the positive while at the same time ignoring the negative. If we were a bit less hero-worshipy we might could have better conversations about the past.

    Historic events and people are part of culture.

    Indeed. In fact, what we ignore and what we extol inform and shape that culture.

  38. Tyrell says:

    Yes, we should have the negative out there also. If not, lessons are not learned, destructive behaviors are repeated.

  39. Tyrell says:

    After more thought, I started to wonder – why is anyone even talking about this ? Who goes around looking at faces on money ? Who has time for that ? Who are these people who care about such a thing ? Coin and currency collectors ? Speculators ? Counterfeiters will of course take an interest in this.