Rosie the Riveter on the $10 Bill: Adding to the Discussion

In January, the U.S. Mint announced that it would “feature a notable woman” on a newly designed $10 bill (set for release in 2020).  As a part of the vetting process, Jacob Lew, the U.S. treasury secretary, has asked the public to chime in with suggested candidates for this honor.  In an Asbury Park Press article, Gerald Thomas argues that the U.S. Mint should place an image of Rosie the Riveter on the $10 bill.

Thomas makes a number of good points in advocating that the U.S. Mint replace Alexander Hamilton with this World War II era image.  He is spot on when he states that Rosie the Riveter, “demonstrates the perseverance, fortitude and strength of the nation, exemplifying the wartime contributions of women coast to coast.”  He also makes a valid point when notes that the picture speaks not only to the accomplishments of women, but to the perseverance of Americans in general (military veterans and others) during times of war and strife.

Thomas does an excellent job in advocating for Rosie’s inclusion on the $10 bill; however, I think that an individual, by delineating a few other key points, can strengthen the case for her inclusion on the currency note. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the matter:

  • The Person Who Portrayed Rosie the Riveter is Deceased: The U.S. Mint will not place a living person on a currency bill.  Mary Keefe, the model who portrayed Rosie the Riveter on the government billboards and posters, passed away in April of this year (2015).  Hence, the government could place Rosie on its $10 bill.
  • Excellent Way to Transmit Values/Ideals: I would imagine that almost every American will use these new $10 bills and thus view the portrait, located on this note.  Most of these people will see the image numerous times.  As a result, the federal government has an opportunity to use the currency to convey important values and beliefs regarding women.  I think that it can more clearly and effectively transmit these messages by using the image of Rosie the Riveter than it could via utilizing the portrait of a notable American woman.  In the former case, a viewer, even one who does not know anything about American history, will clearly understand that Rosie the Riveter is a symbol of empowerment for working class women (and indeed all women).  The image conveys this message through her rolled up sleeves, her flexed biceps, the serious face, the work shirt, etc.  I do not think that a portrait of Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, or any other woman would convey such clear, symbolic messages. 
  • Add a Little Flair: I also think that the government could add a little flair to its overly staid paper currency by opting for Rosie the Riveter over a formal portrait.  Perhaps the U.S. government could follow in the footsteps of Canada (and other countries) and even add a little color to the bill.

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