April 15, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Womenon20s.org has been campaigning to have a woman’s image replace the image of former general and president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. The group held a national vote for the public to choose among 15 candidates. Now, the field has been narrowed to four. Three were chosen by popular vote: Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.
The fourth, Wilma Mankiller, was added by popular demand to include a Native American option to replace Jackson. Jackson ordered the forced relocation of Cherokee Indians off their lands, causing deaths of 4,000 in what became known as the Cherokee Trail of Tears.Mankiller, fittingly, was a Cherokee chief and the first Native American elected to lead a tribe in modern times, noted for her accomplishments to help the Cherokee people.
Here are highlights of the four finalists:
Wilma Mankiller was a Cherokee Chief and the first woman elected a Native American nation leader in modern times. Her great-grandfather survived the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Born in 1945, she was raised on an Oklahoma reservation in a home without electricity, indoor plumbing or phones. After her family moved to San Francisco, she became involved in the Indian rights movement and became coordinator of Indian programs for Oakland public schools. After a divorce, she took her daughters back to Oklahoma and married a full-blooded Cherokee. She founded the Community Development Department for the Cherokee nation, making dramatic improvements in housing and the community water system.
She initially was elected as deputy chief, but when the chief left office to head up the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mankiller became chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was later reelected twice, earning 83% of the vote the second time in 1991. In her three terms, she tripled her tribe’s enrollment, doubled employement and built new housing health centers and children’s program. Infant mortality fell and educational accomplishments rose. In 1990, she signed a historic self-determination agreement in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs surrendered direct control to the tribe over millions of dollars in federal funding.
Her leadership made her a national role model. She remained a strong voice worldwide for social justice, native people and women after she left office in 1995. In 1993 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and in 1998, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians in the United States. In her autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, she wrote that she wanted to be remembered for emphasizing that Cherokee values can help solve contemporary problems.
Rosa Parks, a seamstress, became known as the “mother of the freedom movement” after she refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus for a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Her act of civil disobedience and the resulting Montgomery bus boycott helped spark the success of the civil rights movement
Parks collaborated with civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King. Jr. as an organizer of civil rights actions. Raised with grandparents who were former slaves, as a child she had witnessed Ku Klux Klan activities and attended a segregated school. She later became head of a local NAACP chapter aiming to end discrimination. For her own defiance in refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, she was arrested and found guilty – but the events she set in motion led to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring Alabama’s bus segregation law unconstitutional a year later.
But Parks and her husband lost their jobs due to her arrest and the court battles. The moved to Detroit, where she worked for Congressman John Conyers for many years. In 2013, President Barack Obama unveiled a statue honoring Parks in the U.S. capitol, stating, “In a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and changed the world.”
Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady during her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, working to address the needs of women and minorities through a newspaper column and radio broadcasts. She was the first president’s wife to take an activist role. Later, she became a delegate to the United Nations, where she championed human rights. President Harry Truman dubbed her the “First Lady of the World.”
Born into wealth, she suffered the tragic loss of her brother and both parents by age 10, when she was shipped off to boarding school in England and was deeply influenced by its feminist headmistress. After marrying Roosevelt, she soon found herself raising six children and serving as wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I, speaking at patriotic rallies and working with the Red Cross, also visiting wounded soldiers and working to improve conditions for the mentally ill.
She supported her husband after he contracted polio, often campaigning on his behalf during the Depression and later, World War II. She fought for equal pay legislation, child labor limits, civil rights and women’s rights. When Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow African-American singer Marian Anderson to perform in their Constitution Hall, the First Lady resigned her membership. After her husband’s death, as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations she successful fought for passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, helping people around the world.
Harriet Tubman has been called the Moses of her time. An escaped slave born in the 1820s, she became a leading abolitionist before the Civil War, risking her freedom to return to the south 19 times to rescue slaves via the Underground Railroad, a network of secret safe houses on their journey to freedom in the North. Later, she served as a scout and spy for the Union Army.
In her childhood she saw her father freed and many of her brothers and sisters sold off. At 13, she refused to help restrain an escaped slave who had been captured, and suffered a blow to the head that left her with seizures the rest of her life. She fled in 1848 and soon came back to rescue her own family and others, never losing a single passenger on the road to freedom. Also a gifted healer, she helped nurse those who were wounded.
After the war, she advocated for freed slaves to received an education and own property, also joining the fight for women’s equality and the right to vote. Called “General Tubman” by her admirers, she was laid to rest with full military honors as one of the first African American women to serve in the military.
You can cast your vote at www.Womenon20s.org . The winning choice will be sent to President Barack Obama with a request that he instruct his Treasury Secretary to make the change in honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. Congressional approval is not required to change the faces on U.S. currency.
Womenon20s.org considered dozens of candidates before narrowing the field to 15 and now, four. No living women were eligible, since U.S. law requires that only people who have been dead at least two years may be honored with their images on currency.
Two women have been honored on coins: suffrage leader Susan B Anthony and Sacajawea, a Native American guide who led explorations by Lewis and Clark through the American West.
With the slogan, “A woman’s place is on the money,” Womenon20s.org hopes to convince the President that the time is right to recognize the accomplishments of a woman on the $20 bill as well.