Most images on U.S. money have been of White men, conveying a message that the stories and achievements of women and people of color are less deserving of the honor of currency recognition. The new American Women Quarters initiative is designed to honor women change-makers. In these activities you will get a chance to design your own currency and campaign for change.
Given their constant use, the images on banknotes and coins become part of everyone's accepted stock of knowledge and important topics for critical media analysis. We take for granted that George Washington looked like just he appears on the $1 bill, Alexander Hamilton like he does on the $10 bill, and so on.
Since World War I and before the American Women Quarters program, only Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, and Helen Keller have appeared on U.S. coins. Martha Washington appeared on $1 silver certificates in 1886 and Pocahontas was on the $20 bill in the 1860s.
Booker T. Washington was the first African American on a coin in 1946; Jackie Robinson, Duke Ellington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and the Tuskegee Airmen, among others have appeared since then.
The new American Women Quarters initiative from the U.S. Mint is designed to honor women change-makers in U.S. history, including:
Maya Angelou, writer.
Anna May Wong, Asian American actress.
Sally Ride, first woman in space.
Wilma Mankiller, first elected woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Nina Otero-Warren, New Mexico suffrage movement leader.
The U.S. Treasury plans to bring forth an image of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, but not till 2030. New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D) is a supporter of the Woman on the Twenty Act that would require all $20 bills printed from 2027 onward to have Harriet Tubman portrait on the face. Additionally, commemorative coins honoring Harriet Tubman were released by the U.S. Mint at the beginning of 2024.
If you were in charge of designing the next currency for the U.S. Mint, who would you include on coins and bills? In these activities you will get a chance to design your own currency and campaign for change.
Activity 1: Examine the Images of Women and People of Color on Currency
Explore the following resources about women, African Americans, and Native Americans on money:
Digital currency is emerging as a means of exchange around the world. For example, early in 2021, China began testing in cities its own homegrown digital currency, the Electronic Chinese Yuan (New York Times, March 1, 2021).
Design a digital currency for use by the United States and other countries featuring influential individuals from history.
Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example
Analyze the Constitutional issues that caused the Civil War and led to the eventual expansion of the power of the federal government and individual civil rights. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T5.3]