Friday, September 18, 2015

Heather Cox Richardson: We Need Women on Our Money

Should Mercy Otis Warren be on U.S. currency?
Heather Cox Richardson is not only a prolific author, but a wonderful example of a historian working as a public intellectual.

At the website she co-founded and makes a strong case for putting images of women on United States currency.  Of course she is writing in the wake of Wednesday night's GOP debate in which the candidates were asked to name women who deserved to placed on American money.

Here is a taste of her piece:

Traditionally, the images on our currency reinforce the central principles of America as a political entity. That’s why our money has always featured famous presidents, for example. Who is on them changes, but right now, Washington is on the $1 bill, Jefferson on the $2, Lincoln on the $5, Jackson on the $20, and Grant on the $50. It also features men who were significant in the construction of the nation. Alexander Hamilton, who created the financial system that kept the tottering early republic viable, is on the $10. Benjamin Franklin, who was crucial in swinging votes behind the Constitution, graces the $100. When the Treasury department created our first national money during the American Civil War, its leaders deliberately chose individuals that represented the American government, which was then, quite literally, under attack. As Americans carried these pictures in their wallets, they would come to identify with the nation as a political entity that required their participation and support.
Today, we badly need this sort of reinforcement of the American political identity. The cartoonish nature of today’s political debate proves how much we need people to take politics and the American government seriously again. And we need women on our money because women helped to craft our nation as a political entity.
During the recent GOP debate the candidates who took Jake Tapper's question seriously offered what I thought to be some fine examples of women who might appear on U.S currency.  They were Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks.

But Richardson is pushing harder.  She suggests putting women on currency who were more active in American politics.  She suggests ten.  They are Mercy Otis Warren, Julia Ward Howe, Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, Frances Perkins, Margaret Chase Smith, Wilma Mankiller, Fannie Lou Hammer, Shirley Chisolm, and Geraldine Ferraro, 

By the way, I love the Mercy Otis Warren idea!