Ten Dollar Bill Will Feature Woman, Treasury Announces

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A $10 bill featuring Alexander Hamilton. The new $10 will feature a woman, a first in nearly 100 years. Shefali Kulkarni/Newsweek

The United States will feature a woman on its paper currency for the first time in more than a century, officials from the Department of Treasury said in a press conference Wednesday. The woman, whose face will appear on the $10 bill, will be selected by the Treasury Secretary based on input from the American public, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and U.S. Treasurer Rosa Rios said.

"America's currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation," Lew said in a call with reporters Wednesday evening. "We've made changes to the faces on our currency only a few times since bills were first put into circulation and these moments are an occasion to take stock of where we are as a nation and where we're going."

The announcement of the new bill was embargoed for 12 a.m. Thursday by the Department of Treasury, but conservative blogIJReview.com broke the embargo Wednesday, shortly after the Treasury call. Other outlets soon followed.

The new $10 will be the first in a new series of redesigned notes that will feature images meant to represent democracy, Lew said. "We're asking the American people to tell us what democracy means to them and to share their ideas, symbols and designs for the new $10," Lew said. "Their feedback will shape what the new $10 will look like." The only legal requirement for the new face of the $10 is that she not be living, Lew said.

Based on that feedback, the Treasury Department will announce its decision later this year. Lew said the process would be open-ended and did not dismiss the possibility that more than one woman might be chosen, resulting in more than one new $10 note. The decision to solicit input from Americans marks a departure from tradition. "Historically, the decision has been made in a very small and private circles, including the Treasurer of the United States, the Head of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Secretary [of Treasury]," Lew said.

The bill will be unveiled in 2020, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave women in the right to vote.

Lew did not speculate on the final design, but said the image of Alexander Hamilton will not be removed entirely from the bill.

The new bill will feature enhanced security features and "tactile elements that will allow sight-impaired people to use it more easily," Lew said.

The decision to redesign the $10 bill was made years ago, according to Lew, and was motivated by security concerns. The decision was not motivated by a recent petition to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman on the $20 bill, he said. The Treasury Department makes changes to U.S. currency relatively infrequently, the last change being a new design for the $100 bill in 2013.

Whomever is chosen will not be the first woman to feature on U.S. paper currency. In the 19th century, former first lady Martha Washington appeared on $1 silver certificates and Pocahontas was depicted in a group portrait on the $20 bill.