Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said recently that he had received more than one million responses to plans to put a woman on the $10 bill. I’d like to make that more than one million and one responses.
When I heard about the plan just one person came immediately to mind: Eleanor Roosevelt. I could think of no other American woman worthy of such a lofty honor, except possibly Susan B. Anthony. Mother Theresa, unfortunately, did not belong to us.
It is a commentary on the historically sad treatment of women in our own country — not to mention the rest of the world — that after 250 years so few women have had a lasting impact on our consciousness.
A recent poll of preferences for the new $10 bill redesign included in the top five Amelia Earhart.
Really? Amelia Earhart? The woman who got lost at sea half a century ago? That ought to show the sorry lack of female role models we can summon up.
But I digress. I come to praise Eleanor, not to bury others.
(Disclosure: My daughter’s middle name is Eleanor, in honor of the great woman herself.)
Eleanor Roosevelt became first lady during the Great Depression, when the country was torn apart by labor strife, class warfare and racial injustice.
Later, while World War II occupied the president, Eleanor stepped up and tended to the domestic problems at home — meaning the country, not the kitchen.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin had this to say in her book, “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II:’’
“Eleanor Roosevelt insisted that the struggle would not be worth winning if the old order of things prevail. Unless democracy were renewed at home, she repeatedly said, there was little merit in fighting for democracy abroad.’’
Eleanor Roosevelt, Kearns Goodwin wrote, was the first president’s wife to testify before a congressional committee, the first to hold press conferences, to speak before a national party convention, to write a syndicated column, to be a radio commentator, to earn money as a lecturer.
It all made her, in the words of columnist Raymond Clapper, “the most influential woman of her time.’’
Honestly, I’m not wild about replacing Alexander Hamilton, who, as our first treasury secretary, created the nation’s banking system, fighting the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison all the way, and put the infant nation on strong economic footing that has seldom wavered. It helps only a little that Lew said Hamilton would be honored in another way.
So that decision has been made and if Hamilton has to go, Mrs. Roosevelt is certainly a noble replacement. Not Amelia Earhart, please.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.