A Woman on the $20 or the $10 Bill? Who Can Be on Currency?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, is coming up soon in 2020.

A group called Women on 20s wants a woman to be featured on the $20 bill by then to commemorate the occasion.

Is this legally possible?

Goodbye Jackson?

Earlier this year, Women on 20s (W20) started a campaign to put a woman's face on the $20 bill. You may have remembered the online voting campaign to decide which influential woman in our nation's history should be chosen. After more than 600,000 votes, Harriet Tubman was the winner.

In May of this year, W20 petitioned the President to instruct Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to design and authorize the new bill in time for the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in 2020.

While the President and Jacob Lew may be listening to the voice of the people, Jackson may have dodged a bullet. On June 18th, 2015, Lew announced that a woman will be featured on the new $10 bill instead of the $20. However, we do not know yet who the lucky lady will be.

Who Can Be on Currency?

Did you know that the law actually regulates who can be on currency?

The law prohibits pictures of living persons from appearing on any government issued currency. More specifically for coins, the law states, "no coin .. may bear the image of a living former or current President or of any deceased former President during the 2-year period following the date of the death of that President." So, a President cannot be on the dollar coin or any other coin until 2 years after his death.

This rule, which dates back to the Revolution, ensures that the United States would not look like a monarchy.

This Won't Be the First Woman on Money

Despite all the hullabaloo, women have been featured on money before.

The first woman to be featured on a U.S. coin was Queen Isabelle of Spain on a commemorative coin cast in 1893. Before that, First Lady Martha Washington was the first woman to appear on paper money. Her portrait was featured on the $1 Silver Certificate in 1886 and 1891.

Since then, Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony, and Helen Keller have been featured on coins.

So, who will be on the next $10 bill? We'll just have to wait and see.

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