Women on 20s: Mankiller Should Replace Jackson


Women on 20s, a campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill to replace former president Andrew Jackson, has been gaining a lot of attention in recent months. The campaign hopes to raise enough attention to compel President Obama to instruct Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to make the change to the $20. Changing currency does not require a vote from Congress; therefore this change could be made by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.


Women on 20s let the public choose a nominee from 15 great American women in history. These 15 were eventually narrowed down to four admirable women: Underground Railroad conductor and suffragette Harriet Tubman; First Lady and UN delegate Eleanor Roosevelt; Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks; and Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller.


Obviously all the women that were nominated and made it to the final round are women that shaped America in a positive way, but there is one woman who stands out from all the rest.


Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation in modern times, was put into the final round due to an outcry from social media. Initially, she was not part of the original final three, mostly because she is not very well known. Many people thought her Cherokee heritage should earn her a place on the $20, since Andrew Jackson’s government-committed genocide against the Cherokee people (as well as other tribes) during the Trail of Tears in 1838-39. Not only that, but Mankiller rose up from a male-dominated tribe to become Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. During her three terms as Chief, Mankiller built up the Cherokee people by initiating tribally owned businesses and improving infrastructure. She helped improve the U.S. government’s relationship with the Cherokee Nation. She revived a Cherokee high school and saw the population of the Cherokee people increase.


In her own words, Mankiller said, “Prior to my election, young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief.” This solidified her status as an influential figure in the hearts and minds of many young women.


To simplify the reasons Wilma Mankiller is the best choice for the Women on 20s campaign: She was a Cherokee, a woman, and she revitalized the Cherokee nation after decades of shame and pain leading back decades from the Trail of Tears. Andrew Jackson was essentially a president who committed genocide and who has not been recognized by the U.S. government. He also made decisions behind his cabinet and Congress’s backs, and was exactly what a president should not be. Electing Wilma Mankiller would shed light to a group of people who have been ignored and put down for years. It would not take away from the fame of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, or Rosa Parks, because they are all recognizable and important in their own ways.

However, despite all of the reasons she should have been chosen to replace Andrew Jackson, Wilma Mankiller came in last out of the four women in the final round. This was probably because of her lack of popularity – Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt are all extremely well known (many people hadn’t even heard of Mankiller before the Women on 20s campaign). Abolitionist Harriet Tubman won instead, and if Jacob Lew proceeds to put her on the $20, it will still be a great accomplishment for America and for its women.


This doesn’t dispel the irritation many people have with regard to the rejection of Wilma Mankiller. It would have been a wonderful reconciliation if she had won, because it would almost be an apology from the U.S. government for its mistreatment of not only the Cherokee Nation, but of all native peoples. It is amazing that Americans are beginning to realize that women also deserve a place on our currency and that representation of women can change the way a young girl thinks about herself and her ambitions. Still, it is a shame that the Cherokee people and such a great woman as Wilma Mankiller will continue to be overlooked.


Visit http://www.womenon20s.org/ for more information.