A woman will feature on US currency for the first time in more than 100 years – thanks to the efforts of an 11-year-old girl.
Sofia, from Cambridge in Massachusetts, had written to President Barack Obama in 2014 after a school project on historic American heroes.
‘I realized no women had their face on our currency, so I went home and wrote the letter,’ she told WCVB.
The schoolgirl demanded to know why there were no women on US bills, as ‘if there were no women, there wouldn’t be men’.
A woman will feature on US currency for the first time in more than 100 years – thanks to the efforts of an 11-year-old girl, thanks to the efforts of 11-year-old Sofia (pictured)
Celebrated former U.S. slave Harriet Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 banknote, the first time an African-American has been featured on US money
She added that there were ‘many women could be on dollars/ coins for the United States because of the important things they have done’, and even provided a list of suggestions which included Emily Dickinson, Abigail Adams, Michelle Obama and Harriet Tubman.
Obama later wrote back calling her proposal ‘a good idea’ and praising the girl as ‘pretty impressive.’
Two years later, and on Sofia’s birthday, she had extra reason to celebrate after she got the news that former slave and abolitionist leader Tubman is set to appear on the $20.
Tubman replaces Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president and documented slave owner.
Senior Adviser to Obama, Valerie Jarrett, called Sofia personally to break the news – who was overcome with emotion.
Sofia, from Cambridge in Massachusetts, had written to President Barack Obama in 2014 after a school project on historic American heroes, asking why there were no women on US bills
Obama later wrote back calling her proposal ‘a good idea’ and praising the girl as ‘pretty impressive’
‘I was so happy and I was weeping,’ the 11-year-old said. ‘If you really think about what you really want to change and put your heart and mind to it, then you can do anything.’
Her proud mother added that it had been the ‘greatest birthday present ever’ for her daughter.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on Wednesday that Tubman will become the first African-American and woman on the $20 bill.
Tubman, who was born into slavery in the early part of the 19th century, escaped and then used the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to transport other slaves to freedom. After the Civil War, Tubman, who died in 1913, became active in the campaign for women’s suffrage.
Last year, the treasury announced plans to replace Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, on the $10 bill with a woman.
But they have now decided to keep Hamilton after both Hamilton supporters and women’s groups championed for the $20 bill to be changed to incorporate a woman instead.
Tubman escaped slavery but then returned to the South to lead other slaves to freedom
In the past year, Hamilton has undergone a revival in popularity, with the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer-prize winning Broadway musical named after the founding father.
Jackson, meanwhile, is a more complicated figure, and there is no doubt some symbolism in the former president – a slave owner – being replaced by a woman who was born into slavery.
When it was announced last year that the treasury would be printing a woman on U.S. currency for the first time in history, a women’s group called Women on 20s organized a survey to select an appropriate figure.
Over the course of 10 weeks, the group collected 600,000 votes and Tubman came out on top.
Civil rights hero Rosa Parks, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Wilma Mankiller – the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation – were among some of the other popular figures in the vote.
The $5 bill will also undergo change. The illustration of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the will be redesigned to feature civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech on the steps of the memorial in 1963.
It will also include Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Anderson, an African-American opera singer, gave a concert at the memorial in 1939 after she had been blocked from singing at the then-segregated Constitution Hall. The Lincoln Memorial concert was arranged by Mrs. Roosevelt.
The $10 bill is the next note on Treasury’s redesign calendar, and it aims introduce updated protections against counterfeiting.
That redesign was scheduled to be unveiled in 2020, which marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Lew had often cited that connection as a reason to put a woman on the $10 bill.
The treasury originally planned to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with a woman. But now they are replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Tubman, and keeping Hamilton as is
Various groups have been campaigning to get a woman honored on the nation’s paper currency, which has been an all-male domain for more than a century.
Amrita Myers, a historian at Indiana University, said honoring Tubman was appropriate.
‘Not only is this going to be the first African-American historical figure on U.S. currency, but it’s a woman specifically from the era of slavery,’ Myers said.
While Oprah Winfrey said she ‘loves’ the choice of Tubman.
‘That was my first choice. My second choice was Sojourner Truth,’ Winfrey said during the red carpet for her new series, ‘Greenleaf.’ Like Tubman, Truth also was an abolitionist during the 19th century.
‘Now people that didn’t even know who she was are going to know who she is,’ Winfrey said.
Wednesday’s announcement helped mark a decades-long decline in the reputation of Jackson, once a pillar of the modern Democratic Party but now often defined by his ownership of slaves and the ‘Trail of Tears’ saga that forcibly removed American Indians from their land.
His image will now be featured on the back of the note.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a statement that the currency move was a ‘small but meaningful vindication’ for Native Americans.
However, not everyone is a fan of the proposal.
Donald Trump claimed the move was due to ‘pure political correctness’ and insisted that Jackson, who ‘had a great history of success for the country’ should remain while Tubman could appear on a $2 bill.
Former presidential candidate Ben Carson also questioned the plans saying Jackson should not be moved in the redesign because he was ‘a tremendous president’.
The last woman featured on U.S. paper money was Martha Washington, who was on a dollar silver certificate from 1891 to 1896. The only other woman ever featured on U.S. paper money was Pocahontas, from 1865 to 1869. Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea are on dollar coins.