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Dorothy wins

18 June 2015 By Breakingviews columnists

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says a newly redesigned $10 bill will feature a “woman who has contributed to and represents the values of American democracy” starting in 2020, marking the centennial of women gaining the right to vote. We asked Breakingviews columnists to name their favorite candidates, living or deceased (the latter Lew’s preference), to share space on the $10 bill with founding father Alexander Hamilton, and explain why.

Victoria Woodhull

She embodies all the aspects of America to be worthy of appearing on its money. Politics: She was the first female candidate for president, in 1872, long before women even had the right to vote, and later became the first woman to address a congressional committee. Government: Woodhull fought in the 19th century to get Uncle Sam out of decisions of marriage and bearing children, in a movement then known as free love. Capitalism: With her sister, she was the first woman to run a Wall Street brokerage, and, oh by the way, made a fortune. Entrepreneurship: Woodhull was one of the first female newspaper owners, and even went to jail for her bold publishing decisions. She deserves another first: woman on U.S. paper currency in a century. -Jeff Goldfarb

Rachel Carson

She was the ecologist and scientific writer whose work exposed the consequences of irresponsible industrialism. Her book “Silent Spring,” on the poisonous effect of pesticides, is credited with igniting the modern environmental movement. Carson’s citizen science was done in the public interest and will remain useful until the end of time – literally. No better likeness to render in green. -Kate Duguid

Amelia Earhart

The pioneering aviator who disappeared on an attempted around-the-world flight in 1937 was a model of American risk-taking entrepreneurialism. After breaking several air-speed and distance records, she parlayed her growing celebrity into a successful writing and lecturing career supporting progressive women’s causes. In a letter left before the start of her fateful journey, to be opened in the event of her death, she wrote: “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge for others.” -Kevin Allison


The singer symbolizes a host of good things – she’s a survivor, independent woman, champion of single ladies. But she’s also rather symbolic of the American stand-on-your-own-two-feet/small-state ethos. That house she lives in and the car she’s driving: she bought them herself. -George Hay

Edith Bolling Wilson

Woodrow Wilson’s second wife became the de facto first female president of the United States in 1919 after her husband suffered a debilitating stroke. Though she later claimed in her memoirs not to have “made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs,” for nearly two years she acted as the bedridden president’s filter, deciding what was or was not important and worthy of his limited attention. Though it’s hardly a model for democracy – and ultimately helped spur the passage of the 25th amendment to the Constitution establishing protocols to deal with an incapacitated president – Edith Bolling Wilson responded to extraordinary circumstances by stepping up in exemplary fashion to help her country and the man she loved. -Rob Cox

Rosa Parks

Unoriginal maybe, but she’s an icon of change, social protest and the spirit of getting things done. Also, imagine the discomfort it would cause China to see an activist’s face on the global reserve currency. -John Foley

Eleanor Roosevelt 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wife (and distant cousin) may be the popular choice, and the beneficiary of money, political connections and high social standing. But she was hands down the most influential American woman of the last century, maybe ever. She was an outspoken and effective advocate for women, civil and human rights and a progressive prod to her husband. She helped create the United Nations and remained a force in national politics after FDR’s death. It’s tough to beat that record. -Reynolds Holding

Caitlyn Jenner

The transgender former Olympic champion would almost be a fitting choice for what sounds like an insulting attempt at tokenism. Only the $50 and almost non-existent $2 bills have fewer notes in circulation than the $10 bill. To symbolize how women should eventually be able to beat these overwhelming odds, though, let’s put Rosa Parks on there. -Antony Currie 

Wallis Simpson

Over a century after the U.S. War of Independence, this Pennsylvanian divorcée humiliated America’s former rulers by romancing the British King Edward VIII. The scandal triggered a constitutional crisis and forced the only voluntary abdication of a monarch in the country’s history. Britain had already been surpassed by its erstwhile colony in economic and cultural terms. The loss of dignity completed America’s victory. -Neil Unmack 

Judy Garland

As Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” she represents the United States’ finest gift to itself and the world: the movies. Since Frank Baum’s masterpiece is best read as a financial allegory, it is also entirely appropriate to put Dorothy on the $10. Walking doubtfully along the yellow brick road – or the gold standard – in slippers that were silver in the book, it’s surely no accident that the primary destination is the Emerald City. It’s where the greenbacks come from. -Robert Cole

Jane Addams

The first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize was a controversial champion of the under-privileged. Addams wore many hats: suffragette, peace activist, “mother” of the social work profession in the late 19th century. She founded Hull House, a haven for poor immigrants on the west side of Chicago that ended up blazing a trail for social legislation. She literally toured Europe trying to stop World War I after presiding over the women’s international peace congress in The Hague in 1915. She was arguably the most politically influential woman of her age. Sorry Beyoncé. She certainly didn’t need anyone to put a ring on it. -Fiona Maharg Bravo

Katherine Drexel 

A classic riches-to-rags story, the Philadelphia socialite (of the Drexel family which brought junk bonds to prominence in Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1980s) gave all her inherited fortune and dedicated her life to the service of Native Americans and blacks. The name of the organization she founded, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored, sounds old-fashioned, but the spirit of charity is all-American. She has also been named a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, which would add something to the currency. -Edward Hadas 

Judy Garland

Forget the Kardashians. If there is one life that encompasses the highlights and the horrors of American celebrity in the 20th century it was the one that belonged to the woman born Frances Ethel Gumm in 1922. Most of her 47 years were lived on the stage or the screen, where her role as Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” ensured eternal fame by the age of 18. Her career was scarred by exploitative studios, criticism of her looks, serial marriage and divorce, financial insecurity, a lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol, and an early death. Each $10 bill would serve as a reminder of the pleasures and perils of being born a star. -Peter Thal Larsen

Oprah Winfrey

As the richest self-made woman in United States, Winfrey embodies some of the key values America stands for in hard work, overcoming obstacles and accumulating wealth. The billionaire is also a major figure in one of the nation’s strongest industries: entertainment, where she has exercised considerable influence over the country’s culture and America’s soft power. Featuring her on the currency will save the Treasury some time in a few years when it also realizes there is no African American on a bill. -Dan Indiviglio

Melinda French Gates

Many people will say that she is merely the trailing spouse of her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, but that is unfair. She is the inspiration and the brains behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has set a new standard in global charity, and given away the equivalent of a lot of $10 bills. Besides, by all accounts, she inspired her geek husband to think more about responsibility and the future, setting a laudable new standard for American billionaires. -Edward Hadas

Elizabeth Warren

Has any woman had a bigger impact on the modern financial framework in the United States than Elizabeth Warren, advocating for consumer protections and cracking down on Wall Street? Americans might feel a little bit safer every time they stare at a $10 bill in their hand with her face on it. And just think of how fun it would be for bankers to loathe even one particular sort of money. -Dan Indiviglio


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