four bills





How would you vote about the face that should replace Andrew Jackson's?  (Money pictures by Marylin Warner)

How would you vote about the face that should replace Andrew Jackson’s? (Money pictures by Marylin Warner)

I was in elementary school when “play money” became popular. Not just because of the game of Monopoly, but also because of the packages of miniature paper money of all denominations and plastic circles painted to look like quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. The packages could be purchased (with real money) at all kinds of stores, and one newspaper reported that Playing House had been replaced by Playing Bank.

About that same time, I was given a $3.00 bill.   Funny money.   There were two different versions: Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” was pictured on one; the version I was given had W.C. Fields’ picture, and beneath it were the words “A Sucker is Born Every Minute.” The adults thought it was funny; I didn’t get the joke. There wasn’t even a denomination printed on the funny money, so what was it worth?

My mother  just smiled said that money was only as good as the good it could do and the necessary things it could purchase.  I asked her who she thought should be pictured on real paper money. We talked about it and decided on Helen Keller, because she knew first hand that many things were much, much more important than the things money could buy.

Since 1928, the face of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States, has appeared on the $20 bill. Currently there’s a big push to change that. Women on 20s would replace Jackson with a woman by 2020, 100 years after women were given the right to vote.

Online responses have so far listed these four historical women as favorites: Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller. If these are the final choices, I’d vote for Wilma Mankiller because Andrew Jackson signed and enforced the Indian Removal Act which relocated Native Tribes to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). It was a horrible “removal” of tribes and families, so I’d like to see Jackson “removed” from the $20 bill and replaced by a Cherokee Nation Chief.   But that’s just my opinion.

This is one of the many times when I wish my mother’s dementia would fade away and she could tell me what she thinks.  I can guess, but not be certain, that she would wonder why no one is voting for Helen Keller.   I think she’d say that many things are much more important than money, and we need to remember that.

Two of the finalists from the responses so far.

Two of the finalists from the responses so far.

Some of the numerous women proposed to replace Jackson on the $20 bill.  (These pictures from NBC news)

Some of the numerous women proposed to replace Jackson on the $20 bill. (These pictures from NBC news)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, importance of doing good things, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

55 responses to “WHAT CAN’T BE BOUGHT

  1. Oh Marilyn, how often I have thought I should like to hear my mother’s view on this or that. As with your mother, her last years were spent living with Alzheimer’s, probably the worst disease of all. Strong in body but weak in mind. Enjoy the time you spend with your mother, even if sometimes you don’t recognise her as the strong woman who brought you up. In love and friendship from the other side of the world.

    • Thank you, Judith, and I send you love and friendship from this side of the world. Like your mother, mine has remained strong in body but very confused in mind. Even though she no longer responds, I still remember the wise, funny and kind ways she responded to ideas, people and events when I was growing up. I agree that Alzheimer’s and dementia is the cruelest and worst disease of all.

  2. Don

    interesting post, Marylin. Found your comments on the change fascinating. It’s always so good when other important aspects of history that in a sense have remained unacknowledged are brought to the fore.

    • When I first heard of WOMEN on 20s, Don, I assumed they wanted to replace Jackson because his face was on $20 bills. Then I did some research, and I was appalled. Before he was President he owned hundreds of slaves, and then he became obsessed with destroying Indians, including the women, children and elderly. And his rise in politics to the presidency is questionable at best.
      Sometimes even a little knowledge is a very necessary thing.

      • Don

        It’s quite amazing how we interpret history at times and then find out these hidden things Marylin. I didn’t know that about Jackson.

      • I didn’t even suspect it until I read a short blurb about how it was time to get Jackson off any denomination. I didn’t know what that meant, Don, so I googled Jackson and then read two different accounts, and both were very graphic.

  3. Good Morning Marylin, I hope you have a wonderful sunny weekend. I immediately went into my thinking mode. How about other currencies , do they have famous women on their bills? Leave it to the Swedes! I found a 20 Kronor note that has Selma Lagerlöf , a Swedish schoolteacher , author and the first women to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Jenny Lind, a famous opera singer, is on another Kronor note. But then of course the Swedes pay students to go to school.

    • Wonderful information, Gerlinde! Thank you for immediately going into thinking mode. Leave it to the Swedes, is right! We don’t have any paper money with women featured. We did have limited special-issue coins with Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, Martha Washington, and even for awhile Helen Keller on Alabama quarters, but as far as folding bills, we’re very far behind you. I hope this Women On 20s signals a change.
      As a 30-year high school teacher, I was especially interested in your final sentence about Swedes paying students to go to school. 😉

      • Students in Sweden are paid for going to school, that is what my niece told me who did some work on her masters in Sweden. We visited her in Stockholm ( it’s on my blog under Wanderlust). Sweden is an amazing country that does a lot for the people.

      • Sweden’s approach IS amazing, Gerlinde! The closest we seem to come to “paying” is when students’ parents pay for good grades instead of punishing them for bad grades. This is very interesting.

  4. Another interesting post Marilyn and one that would be fascinating if indeed a woman graced one of our bills. Many incredibly talented and strong women from our history would be well qualified, I do like your choice. Great post.

    • Thank you, Mary. Any ideas of women you’d like to see on the 50s or 10s or 5s? How about artists–would you want to see Georgia O’Keeffe on a 100-dollar bill?

      • I actually thought of Georgia O’Keeffe, but question the level of value vs some other notables. Great discussion Marylin.

  5. I would certainly vote for Helen Keller if it were based on courage and tenacity. Sad to say…I haven’t thought much about it, tho.

  6. juliabarrett

    If we’re going to change the $20 bill, and to be honest I don’t really care either way, my choice would be, hands down, Helen Keller. Probably my second choice would be Wilma Mankiller – original Americans forced from their homes. I could go for Chief Joseph as well, but he’s a guy so I guess he’s out…

    • I can’t speak for my mom, Julia, but if it weren’t for the dementia, I think she’d be writing letters and finding out how to vote online for Helen Keller.
      I’m afraid Wilma Mankiller’s surname would give pause to many, but so be it. 😉 After doing research on Jackson, I wonder why he was ever chosen to appear on any denomination.

      • juliabarrett

        He was cute?

      • No, definitely not cute. ;(
        He must have had a lot of money or good old boys behind him, or similar thinkers who also owned hundreds of slaves and wanted to slaughter Indians.
        We’re never quite sure what goes on behind the scenes to choose political leaders.

  7. I suppose nobody has suggested Lucille Ball? I used to watch I Love Lucy as a child and them moved on to Bewitched. Elizabeth Montgomery would be fine too. More seriously I would probably support Eleanor Roosevelt but your argument is compelling. Sadly there will always be questions we want to ask our parents but can not do so. This would have made a good discussion. I suspectmy mother would have chosen a tennis player as she adored watching it. What a shame Maria Bueno isn’t American!

    • A lighter note, and laughing at Lucy on a $20 or even a $2 bill would lighten the mood considerably, Andrew. I am also a fan of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks would be a good choice, too. I was thinking Harriet Beecher Stowe would be a possibility as well.
      A tennis player, or any number of female athletes would be a nice change. Sometimes all we can do is speculate what our mothers would have suggested. Thanks, Andrew.

  8. As always your mother gave you a good philosophy about money. On our notes we have the queen on one side and on the other it’s varied between writers, composers, inventors. Not too many women have featured – Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Fry (a prison reformer).

    • I like that you have writers, composers and inventors on one side of the notes and the queen on the other, Andrea. I’m familiar with Elizabeth Fry’s prison reforms, and both she and Florence Nightingale are excellent choices. What you and Gerlinde have shared shows me how much catching up our country has to do!

  9. I hadn’t thought about it (I hardly know what’s going on until after it happens….). One of the reasons I love reading your blog, is you make it so easy for me to make up my mind on issues like this one. I’m going with your opinion, because although it’s only an opinion, I’m sure it’s the right one. Wilma Mankiller belongs on the bill.

    • Thanks, Tracy. I like the balance of a woman Indian leader replacing Jackson, the President who relocated the tribes. But that’s the anger in me wanting at least some measure taken against Jackson; I’d be open to any number of other historically helpful, significant women to be chosen.

  10. Claudia

    Oh, I agree with you. I would put up Wilma Mankiller…ever read her bio?? Very good. Andrew Jackson was always a hero to me after reading The President’s Lady three times in my lifetime and then seeing his handwritten love letters at The Hermitage in Nashville. Then I dug deeper into history and I was SO disappointed in him as a man, how he knifed the Five Tribes after some helped him so much. And the Cherokees were living so close to White and taking more and more White behaviors…alas, we know how THAT ended!

    • The reality of Jackson is much darker than his handwritten love letters. The cruel things he did to so many made me furious when I dug dipper, too, Claudia. With all the political corruptions and illegal actions, I’m afraid I’m getting very cynical. Which is all the more reason I’m hoping for a truly outstanding woman to replace Jackson on the $20!

  11. I would love to know your mother’s thoughts as well, Marylin. I think her photo would go quite nicely myself. 🙂

    • That’ so sweet, Jill. 😉 If we were going to use one of her pictures, I’d choose the one of her as a little girl in a sunbonnet, playing in the sand box with her brother. That would seem very Early American Farm Life, when $20 would have gone a very long way!

  12. I always find food for thought here. This post is no exception. And like Tracy, I agree with your reasoning on featuring a woman like Wilma Mankiller to replace Andrew Jackson because it would make things more even: quid pro quo?

    • Yea! Now there are several more of us, Marian! 😉
      To make it truly quid pro quo, Jackson would have to actually be relocated somewhere dismally grim, and unfortunately that can’t happen. But it would be a good start to have Wilma Mankiller’s face replace Jackson’s on the $20!

  13. If my mother were living she would probably suggest Georgia O’Keefe, Ella Fitzgerald or Lucille Ball. She always leaned toward the arts. There are so many strong women in our country who have left their mark and Helen Keller definitely stands out for courage and determination. Not a bad trait to pass on to others. Thoughtful post, Marylin.

    • Thank you, Lynne. And you’re so right; there are MANY strong, honorable and creative women in our country who have left their mark. We might have to start updating the portraits on $100s, $50s, etc.!

  14. I’ve lived from California to New York including the midwest. I’ve walked along parts of The Trail of Tears and worked with Native Americans. I also grew up in a town that had one of the old schools for the children ripped from their families. I’ve seen enough! If I were still there, I would have to agree with your choices. Fortunately, I am not and deal strictly in Euros. Bonne chance!

    • You understand this first hand, Lea. Thank you for sharing this. My experiences with Trail of Tears have come from books, plus visiting some of the schools that were set up in Kansas to re-teach children away from their tribe families. That was enough for me.

  15. If I were to vote in your poll it would probably swing toward Rosa Parks.
    Andrea has already outlined our female representation on our bank notes , so I’m going to have to try and think of someone just as worthy. An author, maybe?

    • Absolutely, Jenny. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, comes to mind as an author, or Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a character…I could go on and on. I certainly don’t think that Presidents are the only ones who deserve to appear on money, especially when I think of all the cruelty and damage done by Andrew Jackson.

  16. This would be a difficult decision to decide who to replace Jackson. But I’m with you. Wilma Mankiller has my vote.
    xo Joanne

    • Our votes are climbing, Joanne. But the comments have brought up some other viable candidates, too, so I’m open. Anything to get Jackson replaced now that I realize all the damage he did.
      Have a great weekend, Joanne.

  17. Would there just have to be one face? Perhaps the twenties could feature a number of women. Maybe they could be a bit like postage stamps and change every few years. They may then become collectables and actually gain in value!

    Maybe the US could even consider having different colours for the denominations like many other countries – so they are easier to differentiate and less likely for people to make mistakes or be deliberately short-changed.

    • Good ideas, Rod, for both the different colors for denominations and also featuring a number of women and changing every few years. I like both suggestions. And once we’re changing faces every few years, we could also change out some of the long-time regulars and add a long line of new ones. So many possibilities! 😉

  18. Marylin, you always jog my childhood memories. I love that, and I would vote for Helen Keller. 🙂

    • I like Rod’s suggestion, Tracy. If we have women on several denominations, then we could also include many worthy women. You and I and my mom could cheer for Helen Keller and others! 🙂

  19. I’ve never understood why Jackson made it onto a bill in the first place. While a woman would never have been considered at the time, even then there were far more deserving men from American history. Let’s hope this change is made with better awareness and acceptance than the Susan B. Anthony dollar met with.

    • Ditto on that! I keep wondering what was going on that Jackson’s face was on anything reputable. I kept checking sources, and beyond the general facts of when and where he did political/administrative things, the why of his treatment of Indians and even his own slaves is disturbing.
      I still have maybe a dozen coins of Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea that I’ve kept for my granddaughter. I never could understand why they didn’t do well. I hope having women on 20s and other denominations will do better.

  20. I agree with your choice Marylin, for the same reasons, and thank you for educating me about this, I had no idea. Helen Keller would be a wonderful choice too and I’m not surprised that your dear Mom chose her all those years ago 🙂

    • I only wish she could have a clear moment and realize how many agree with her choice, Sherri. I think she would love it. And now, with my husband nominating Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher who taught her to communicate, I know Mom would love that too, as a mother and a former kindergarten teacher.

  21. What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Marilyn. I do like the poetic justice of replacing Jackson with a Cherokee leader, and a woman at that. I think Helen Keller and Eleanor Roosevelt would also be appropriate.
    I am sorry to learn about your mother–my heart goes out to you.

    • Thank you, Naomi. The dementia has taken a huge toll on her quality of life these past six years, but no in the same raging way Alzheimer’s affected my dad before his death.
      As far as the $20 bill, I think any of our choices would be worthy replacements for Andrew Jackson.

  22. Jim

    All of the suggestions for a new face on the $20 bill are worthy nominees. I could vote for any of them.

    However, could I suggest an additional nominee? Certainly Helen Keller has been an inspiration for us over many years. but I would like to nominate Helen’s gritty teacher Annie Sullivan as well. Annie never gave up on Helen and is solely responsible for Helen’s breakout from her deaf and blind prison. Annie continued to teach and mentor Helen for many years after Helen’s “miracle” grasp of language at the pump. Honoring Annie Sullivan would be a worthy tribute to the many special education teachers who work with relentless love and patience to improve the lives of those in society most in need of help. Thank you, Molly, and any other special education teachers who read this blog.

    • Annie Sullivan, for sure! As retired teachers, you and I both know how making the most of a “teachable moment” with some students can change everything for them, even though ours weren’t at at a water pump and spelling “water” into the palms of their hands! You’re so right, honey, Annie Sullivan would be a wonderful new face on the $20. And we’ve seen how our daughter Molly has worked “miracles” in her Special Education classes.

    • Molly

      Ahhhhh…..Thank you Daddy! Being a special education teacher is definitely not for everyone, but for those who find it is for them, it is the best career in the world.

      Today was my last day of school, and I know I will enjoy my break, but my mind and heart will be with my students.

  23. Jane Thorne

    I agree with you and your lovely Mum Marylin…Helen Keller and I love Jim’s comment. Here’s to all the unsung special education teachers that lift souls to shine their own special light. Hugs for your Molly. I would also feel drawn to suggest Maya Angelou who shone a very loving light too…. ❤ to you all with hugs xx

  24. I am torn and not sure able to decide. The twenty dollar bill could be made without a face on it? maybe? I like who your mother chose, since I grew up believing Helen Keller was a ‘Superheroine,’ Marylin. The fact she overcame so much, still wrote books and spoke to help the public to be aware of disabilities and overcoming adversity are great reasons for your mother to have admired and chosen her.
    I feel having someone who was oppressed is an equally valid reason to choose Chief Wilma Mankiller. I admire her very much and was appalled at Andrew Jackson’s behavior. He should not continue to be recognized on our $20 bills, that is for sure, Marylin!

    • I love the Helen Keller suggestion, Robin, but there’s a part of me as a 30-year teacher that agrees with my husband. Annie Sullivan, the teacher who broke through the barriers with Helen, would also be a very good nominee.

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