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This year, to celebrate International Women’s Day, the international foreign currency exchange business, eurochange, conducted research to discover what percentage of global currency features a female. Disappointingly, they found that only 12% of banknotes across the globe feature a female on their currency. Additionally, Swedish loan company Advisa studied over 1,000 current international currencies and found that only 15% featured females on their banknotes. Many countries, including the United States, have never featured a woman on their banknotes.

England’s Queen Elizabeth II is the most represented female on banknotes across the globe. Canada was the first to feature Queen Elizabeth II on their money, beginning in 1935 when they included her image on the $20 banknote. She is also featured on banknotes in several other countries, including, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, New Zealand, and more.

Women on U.S. Banknotes

Having a woman featured on U.S. currency has been a long time in coming. The U.S. has featured female figures on coins, including the new American Quarters Program, “a four-year program that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women to the development and history of our country.” In 2022, the U.S. Mint will release quarters with the likenesses of some exalted women, including:

  • Maya Angelou – celebrated writer, performer, and social activist
  • Dr. Sally Ride – physicist, astronaut, educator, and first American woman in space
  • Wilma Mankiller – first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation
  • Nina Otero-Warren – a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools
  • Anna May Wong – first Chinese American film star in Hollywood

However, up until now there has been no woman featured on a U.S. paper banknote. That is about to change. After cancellation of the project by the Trump Administration, in February the Biden Administration announced that a $20 bill featuring the likeness of Harriet Tubman is back on track to debut into the economy in 2030. 

As part of the U.S. Treasury Department’s advancement of the project, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated, “We know that putting Dr. Angelou on the quarter is just the beginning of the work ahead to make our currency and coinage reflect the totality of the diversity of this country, including placing Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. This Black History Month – the third February of the pandemic – I believe that we as a Department, and as a country, are more cognizant of where we’ve been.”

Having a woman featured on a popular U.S. banknote is well overdue, but advocates are welcoming its upcoming arrival.