In case you hadn’t already heard, the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently made an historic announcement: For the first time in more than 100 years, a woman will appear on the next iteration of the $10 bill. Its 2020 print date will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
When we heard the major news, we couldn’t help but be excited for what’s to come. But it also got us thinking about all the great American women deserving of the honor that comes from having your visage plastered on the greenback. Since Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew didn’t divulge which woman of history would soon make history again, we started thinking about whom we would love to see grace the new $10 bill.
Given the deep pool of women we had to choose from, it was no easy task whittling down the contenders. But we did the best we could, given the circumstances. Though the U.S. government has limited potential candidates to those who are deceased and fit the bill’s theme of American democracy, we couldn’t help but include a few living women in our list. So, without further ado, here are the American women we think are deserving of this honor.
Born in 1797 into slavery, Sojourner Truth is one of the earliest and most influential Civil Rights crusaders in American history. After suffering for years at the hands of her slave owners, she walked to freedom in 1826 before settling in New York City two years later, according to PBS. Over the next decades, Sojourner Truth—whose birth name was Isabella—became a fierce proponent of both racial justice and women’s rights, advocating for universal suffrage.
Yet another trailblazer, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate with a medical degree from an American university. Blackwell, who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology, was drawn to medicine after a friend who was dying told her that her suffering would have been lessened had she been treated by a female doctor, according to the National Institutes of Health. Though not technically an American, Blackwell, who moved from Britain to the U.S. when she was 11, went on to become a fierce advocate for women in medicine and co-founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Apart from treating patients, the healthcare facility also accepted women physicians who were rejected from other internships.
Appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frances Perkins retains the distinction of being the first woman cabinet member in U.S. history. Perkins, who served as the Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, was an accomplished diplomat and policy wonk over the course of her illustrious career, establishing rules and regulations that continue to influence U.S. labor policy. Among her many achievements was the influence she had in the passage of the Social Security Act, of which she was the principal architect, according to the Department of Labor.
The first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was a fearless adventurer who continues to inspire generations of women. As history buffs know well, Earhart eventually went missing during her historic attempt to fly solo around the world. More than 75 years after her disappearance, Earhart continues to captivate people all over the world, especially recently, as news broke earlier this year that researchers believe they had discovered fragments from her doomed July 1937 flight over the Pacific.
More than a half-century after her death, Helen Keller arguably did more than any one person in history in the fight to advance rights and recognition for the blind and deaf communities. Born in 1880, Keller lost her vision and hearing during a bout of illness when she was a child. It wasn’t until she met Anne Sullivan that Keller began to learn how to both read and write. She went on to become the first blind and deaf person to graduate from Radcliffe College with a bachelor’s degree. Yet she didn’t slow down after receiving her diploma and instead went on to become a prolific writer and lecturer, inspiring men and women across the U.S. and the world.
Sandra Day O’Connor
One of the greatest jurisprudential scholars of the past century, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor served on the Supreme Court from 1981 until 2006. When President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Supreme Court, O’Connor became the first woman in its history to assume such a position, paving the way for the female judges who have followed in her path. During her tenure at the Supreme Court, O’Connor played a pivotal role in deciding a number of key issues argued before the court, earning recognition and praise from all sides of the political spectrum.
Since this site is, after all, dedicated to business, there was no way we couldn’t include one of the savviest and most successful media magnates in history on this list. Born in 1954 in Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey overcame immense odds to transform herself into an instantly recognizable brand. The entrepreneur worked her way from a gig as an anchor for WTVF-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, to become the head of Harpo Inc., the sprawling media empire she built from the ground up. After her spectacularly popular talk show ended, Winfrey continued to push forward, launching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), according to CNN. Her fame, influence, and entrepreneurial success has garnered her acclaim over the course of her illustrious career, placing her near or at the top of many of the power and wealth rankings compiled by Forbes, which estimates her net worth at a whopping $3 billion.
Who doesn’t love Julia Child? One of the most influential and important chefs in American history, Child ushered in a revolution in the cooking world when she published her groundbreaking cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Born in 1912 to a well-to-do family in Pasadena, California, Child didn’t find her calling until after she had served as an agent in the Office of Strategic Services, a position that brought her around the world. It wasn’t until she moved to Paris that she discovered her passion for cooking, a realization that set her on a journey that would upend the culinary world as it was. Written for the “servantless American cook,” Child’s two-volume cookbook made formerly exotic foods relatable, forever changing the way Americans think about food and cooking.
The first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride has helped inspire generations of men and women to pursue careers in the sciences. According to NASA, Ride decided to apply to become an astronaut after seeing an ad in the student-run newspaper at Stanford University, from which she graduated with a degree in physics. The event proved fortuitous, as she was one of six women selected. She officially became the first woman to fly to space in 1983 and, in 1984, flew again on a Space Shuttle mission. Ride went on to earn a place on the Astronaut Hall of Fame and became a major force urging young people—young women, in particular—to pursue careers in the sciences and math.