On the Money

by Priscilla Read

[Editor's note: this entry is one of four awarded Special Merit by the challenge jurors and project history consultant. Read more on the Special Merit Entries​ page.]

Although my quilt depicts Harriet Tubman, the issue represented is a contemporary one: to have a woman on the US $20 bill.


In the early 21st century, a project was proposed to redesign the twenty dollar bill with a portrait of a woman by 2020 for the centennial of the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote after nearly a century of protest. As the project evolved, 15 candidates were proposed, including Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks. The selection was further narrowed to Harriet Tubman by a "grassroots" poll of over 600,000 people. By 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the twenty-dollar bill.


At that time, the possibility of a woman on the twenty excited many of us following this in the news. I was taking a ‘working in a series’ drawing class at UC Berkeley Extension and drew a series of charcoal portraits of women I thought should be considered for the twenty. I was disappointed when in 2017, the new Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the redesign would be delayed until at least 2026 with no guarantee that Harriet Tubman, or in fact any woman, would replace Andrew Jackson.