By R. D. Flavin


     Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced a plan to include the portrait of a woman alongside Alexander Hamilton on a new version of the ten dollar bill to be released in 2020, the centennial celebration of the Nineteenth Amendment which allowed women the right to vote. This meager panacea is offered at a time in our nation's history when women's rights are being challenged on local, state, and federal levels, with the U.S. Supreme Court doing an odd dance around issues which will affect women, while various religions ...seem content to continue to either do nothing or do really bad things to women. Geez, even the English word 'woman' is sexist (OE wīfmanna , wīfmannum – wife-man)! WoeMan might be a better fit, but I'll leave such change to the professional grammarians and the basement social-media contingent.

     While I support a female representation on our currency, I must confess to a particular fondness for Al Hamilton. Though born a literal bastard, Hamilton survived the death of his mother while he was in his early teens, received a combination education of being “home-schooled” by a Jewish woman, and being an autodidact from an inherited library, became an apprentice clerk, and eventually relocated to New Jersey, where he immediately enrolled in a preparatory school, and went on to attend and graduate from college. Picking one's self up by one's 'boot-straps' comes to mind... After serving in Washington's 'Continental Army' for several years, he became a New York “Congressman,” founded the Bank of New York (the oldest ongoing bank in the United States), spent a bit of time as an assemblyman, was appointed our first United States Secretary of the Treasury, yadda-yadda, under Pres. Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton was critical of Jefferson's Vice President Aaron Burr, the two agreed to a duel, Burr shot and killed Hamilton, Jefferson briefly befriended Burr, until finally Burr left and tried to sell half of North America to the French. While Aaron Burr remains beyond my ability to adequately express contempt, I remain a supporter of Hamilton (despite his period-era flaws) because of his singular determination of self-betterment and being a 'Founding Father,” though I fault him for being a poor marksman.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller.

     The Treasury has narrowed the list down to four potential candidates to appear alongside Hamilton – Former First Lady and wife of our 32nd president, Eleanor Roosevelt, the highly respected African-American abolitionist and suffragist, Harriet Tubman, the Civil Rights activist famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person,Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee Asgaya-dihi), the first female Cherokee Chief who received the Medal of Freedom in 1998 for her activities involving the improvement of the relationship between Native Americans and the U.S. government. It's a sound and thoughtful list, though some would add such names as Mae West, Judy Garland, and Marilyn Monroe...

     We've had women on paper currency before with Pocahontas and an unnamed Native American woman, as well as Martha Washington, the First Lady of our first president. There was also a ten-cent note featuring Lady Liberty, and then there's the coins...

Portrait of Pocahontas ca. 1616 and a $20 demand note from 1865 showing Pocahontas.

Martha Washington by Gilbert Stuart and pictured on an 1886 $1 silver certificate.

Lady Liberty as pictured on a "Fourth Issue" ten cents note from 1869-1875.

Image of Susan B. Anthony from The St. Paul Globe May 1, 1904 and Anthony on a dollar coin minted between 1979 - 1981.

The 1794 "Flowing Hair" Lady Liberty dollar coin.

Mizuo Peck as Sacajawea in 2006's Night at the Museum and Sacajawea dollar coin minted from 2000 to the present.

     The coins which show either Lady Liberty or the Statue of Liberty are too extensive to reproduce here, though here's a partial list: Liberty Cap half cent (1793-1797), Flowing Hair large cents (1793), Braided Hair large cent (1840-1857), Lady Liberty in Native American headwear penny (1859-1909), Liberty Head nickel (1883-1912), Liberty Seated dime (1837-1891), Barber dime (1892-1916), Winged Liberty dime (1916-1945), Seated Liberty quarter (1838-1891), Barber quarter (1892-1916), Standing Liberty quarter (1916-1930), Capped Bust half dollar (1807-1839), Seated Liberty half dollar (1839-1891), Barber half dollar (1892-1915), Walking Liberty half dollar (1916-1947), Draped Bust dollar 1795-1804), Morgan dollar (1878-1921), Peace dollar (1921-1935), Statue of Liberty on the reverse of the Presedential dollars (2007-present), Indian Head $10 gold eagle, and what many believe to be America's most beautiful coin, the Augustus Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle (1907-1933).

The Saint-Gaudens designed $20 "double eagle" coin.

     And, thanks to my observant cousin, Steve Peslak, we also have the Platinum Eagle with Lady Liberty showing a “face-value” of $100. Right, sure, fine... Platinum is around $1400 and change an ounce, so I'd LOVE to purchase any such coins at “face-value.”

     So, with America's population being comprised of approximately 50.8% females, it only seems fitting they have representation on our currency. Some would add women love to spend money and men love to spend money on women, but such comments could generate controversy, as equality only exists in mathematics and not in society, especially America's. From a woman's right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy, breast-feeding in public, wage earnings discrepancies, and a host of other issues, American women continue to struggle against a patriarchal society.

     And, yes, we must recall the famous quote from a 1925 letter from Sigmund Freud to Marie Bonaparte: “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?' (quoted in Jones, Ernest. 1981-2006. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud: Life and Work. 3 vols. New York: Basic Books; as well as The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. #294. Edited by Angela Partington. Fourth edition. 1992. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press).” I doubt very much the correct answer would have anything to do with being depicted on American paper currency. Likewise, Dr. Timothy Leary's What Does WoMan Want (1976; Dexter, OR: 88 Books) reads like a sci-fi novel and won't be of much help to anyone who isn't wicked stoned...

     It's difficult to separate her-story from his-story... The popular saying “All are created equal, but some are more equal than others...” seems to have been applicable for a long time. If Job was a woe-man would G*d have acted any differently? I couldn't walk a mile, probably no more than a few feet, in a pair of high heels, so any assessment regarding the problems of women are little more than guesses. I can empathize the woes of women, but it's more extrapolation than genuine insight. And, of course, I could say the same about men, as empathy only goes so far... However, I can wish them well, cast a ballot on their behalf if such arises, maybe open a door or three, and continue to boycott Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels. Well, it's a start...

Still asking,

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