10 Women Who Belong on the $10 Bill

October 14, 2015

To commemorate 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, the U.S. Treasury has announced it will put a woman on the $10 bill in 2020. The Treasury called on Americans to submit their proposals for the redesigned $10, inspiring a widespread discussion about the role of women in U.S. history. We wanted to hear from you, so we conducted a poll where you wrote in the names of more than 100 women and voted for your favorites.

On October 9, 2015, AAUW members and staff were invited to meet with U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios to discuss the results of the poll and key initiatives beyond the $10 bill, including diversity, equal pay, and the underrepresentation of women in leadership.

No matter who is finally selected, this has been an excellent opportunity to remember the many women who deserve more recognition than the history books have given them. As Rios put it, “This is not about currency design. This is much bigger.”

Here are your top five choices from the poll, plus five more women we think deserve a spotlight.


Top Picks from the AAUW Poll

1. Barbara McClintock, Nobel Prize-winning geneticist

Barbara McClintock, a pioneer in genetics, became the first woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1983. While McClintock was acknowledged in the scientific community, her major findings were largely ignored or dismissed until much later, despite their profound implications. AAUW was one of the first national organizations to recognize her importance, honoring her in 1947 with an AAUW Achievement Award. If selected for the $10 bill, McClintock would spark an important dialogue around women’s struggle to be recognized by their peers in male-dominated fields.


2. Eleanor Roosevelt, global activist and first lady

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Italian version of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Italian version of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our poll’s runner-up, Eleanor Roosevelt, transcended her role as first lady through her work as a global activist. Appointed by President Harry Truman as one of the first U.N. delegates, she played a key role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt was also a staunch supporter of women’s rights, and served as chair of John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Perhaps unsurprising given her activism, she was also an AAUW member.


3. Harriet Tubman, conductor on the Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery herself, led hundreds of slaves to the North through the secret network of the Underground Railroad. In addition to abolition, Tubman advocated for women’s suffrage, for she faced limitations as a citizen because of both her race and gender. Her bravery and activism have established her as a deservedly inspirational figure.


4. Rosa Parks, civil rights activist

Rosa Parks

Photo courtesy of Ebony Magazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rosa Parks is celebrated for her refusal to move to the back of a segregated bus, an action that catalyzed the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. This popular narrative of Parks as a weary seamstress not willing to relinquish her seat for a white man should not overshadow her longstanding commitment to civil rights. She worked in conjunction with the Scottsboro Boys in 1932 and was an officer in a branch of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. A symbol of the civil rights movement and an activist in her own right, Rosa Parks came in fourth place in our poll as a write-in candidate.


5. Susan B. Anthony, suffragist

Susan B. Anthony

Photo by G.E. Perine, via Wikimedia Commons

Susan B. Anthony campaigned tirelessly for women’s voting rights, but unfortunately she did not live to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Anthony became the first woman ever to be depicted on U.S. currency when the $1 coin debuted in 1979. A prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement, Anthony helped found the National Woman Suffrage Association.


Bonus! 5 More History Makers You Should Know

1. Azie Taylor Morton, former U.S. treasurer

Azie Taylor Morton

Photo courtesy of Office of the U.S. Treasurer, via Wikimedia Commons

Azie Taylor Morton is the only African American to have held the post of U.S. treasurer. Prior to becoming Treasurer, she served on President John F. Kennedy’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.


2. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton

Photo by Mathew Brady circa 1965. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Clara Barton founded and became first president of the American Red Cross in 1881 (the same year as the founding of AAUW’s predecessor, the Association of Collegiate Alumnae). Barton was a nurse during the civil war, she campaigned for the U.S. to adopt the Geneva Convention, and she was a proponent for civil rights and women’s suffrage. Barton, like the next four women on our list, was a popular write-in candidate.


3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragist

Elizabeth Cady Staton

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

While less known than her activist partner Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a great orator in the fight for women’s suffrage. Stanton, in fact, wrote many of Susan B. Anthony’s speeches. She is perhaps most notable for organizing the Seneca Falls convention where she introduced her Declaration of Sentiments, a document that outlined the rights women should be guaranteed as citizens.


4. Elizabeth Peratrovich, Alaska Native civil rights activist

Elizabeth Peratrovich, a Tlingit Native Alaskan, was instrumental in the passing of the Alaska Civil Rights Act. Support for segregation was strong when the Alaska Territorial Senate met in 1945, until Peratrovich gave an impassioned speech as a representative from the Alaskan Native Sisterhood, which led to the act being passed by a vote of 11 to 5.


5. Mary Church Terrell, founder of the NAACP

Mary Church Terrell

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One of the first African American woman to earn a U.S. college degree, Mary Church Terrell broke many barriers as an activist for civil rights and women’s suffrage. She was a founder of the NAACP, the first president of the National Association for Colored Women, and she served on the Washington, D.C., Board of Education. Additionally, Terrell was an important figure in AAUW history.

This post was written by AAUW Web Production Intern Chelsea Burns.



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