Home Opinions $10 Makeover: From Alexander Hamilton to Wilma Mankiller

$10 Makeover: From Alexander Hamilton to Wilma Mankiller

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Illustration by: Birmy Michelle | Staff Illustrator

Say bye-bye to everyone’s favorite $10 figurehead Alexander Hamilton, and hello to his female replacement.

In early July, United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced redesign plans for the $10 entering circulation in 2020. Lew further stated that in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the bill would be redesigned to feature a woman proven to be a “champion for our inclusive democracy.”

Since a woman will be seizing Hamilton’s spot, it’s only right to speculate on who it should be, and we at The University Star support Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and the first woman chief of a native nation in modern history.

During her time as principal chief, Mankiller revitalized her clan. Mankiller tripled her tribe’s enrollment to over 150,000 people and doubled employment. Her administration built new housing, health centers and implemented programs for the children of the tribe to ensure their future. She was, by all accounts, a revolutionary leader and an honored chief.

The accomplishments of Wilma Mankiller as the first female principal chief of a native tribe in modern times are unparalleled, by any of her male predecessors or successors. Most importantly, to represent the suppressed history and presence of America’s original, indigenous roots is to tell the unheard story of those truest to this continent. The woman on the $10 bill should not just be any woman, but one of color.

Mankiller is so much more than simply a woman of color filling a slot, she has proven herself and her accomplishments are vast. However, she is symbolic of a greater cause and an even more significant depiction.

Long gone is the notion that America is some European-adjacent utopia of infallible men who have done no wrong. It’s time to represent a more broad, truer image of America. Having a woman of color on the bill would effectively kill two birds with one stone—a double dose of inclusivity and diversity.

After all, there are women and non-white people in this country, and quite frankly, Americans shouldn’t be so proud of the “founding” fathers. For those who haven’t heard, most of them were not the most upstanding people.

For the inevitable naysayers, do not fret. No one is trying to change history or tarnish the revisionism of some of its beloved American founders. The entire campaign is simply an attempt to acknowledge the untold histories, experiences and contributions made by the other half of the population: women.

Representation is important. It helps people see the full possibilities and realize that nothing is out of reach. Trying to rationalize the effects of representation to those who have been fully and thoroughly represented is like trying to explain water to fish. When people are surrounded by something their whole lives, it becomes a part of their identity and hard to objectively understand.

Women and people of color have helped shaped America just as much as any overly represented white men. It’s unfortunate that this sentiment must still be reiterated in 2015 because everyday American objects do not illustrate this truth.

To help with this, the grassroots nonprofit organization Women on 20s held an open online election this spring to find out who should replace disgraceful president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

Everyone is in agreement that Jackson should get the boot due to his horrific native removal policy known as the Trail of Tears. Unfortunately, the $20 is not in redesign circulation.

Replacing Jackson with an indigenous woman, one who’s great-grandfather survived his deadly forced migration, would be the greatest sense of poetic justice. But Jackson has been saved by time—for now.

Then again, there are enough men occupying American currency. Can women not be afforded the same kind of multi-representation? Women should not be relegated to only one bill. A woman should grace the $10 bill in 2020 and also the $20 when it comes into rotation.

Americans see money every day—at least those fortunate enough to have some sense of stability in their lives. When the things people hold dearest paint a very white and exclusively male image, it unconsciously reinforces beliefs of importance and inadequacy for those who do not fit that mold.

America should continue on an upward, progressive path as a nation. Indigenous Americans have been silenced for far too long, and women have been waiting for their turn for millennia. It’s about time America truly honored them for their grace and undue sacrifice.

Wilma Mankiller was an icon, a symbol and a revolutionary for women and people of color. She deserves to be on the $10 bill. It’s only right, and it’s about time.