Meet Wilma Mankiller, the Woman Who Could Be on $20 Bills

She's one of four finalists chosen by the W20 campaign to replace Andrew Jackson on the U.S. currency.

Wilma Mankiller. (Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

Apr 8, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Wilma Mankiller may not be a household name, but that all could change if her face ends up on a $20 bill.

Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe, is one of four finalists chosen by the campaign W20, whose goal is to present the White House with a woman candidate to replace Andrew Jackson on the paper currency. The other finalists, narrowed down from 100 via online votes by more than 256,000 Americans over the course of five weeks, are Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks.

Mankiller's honorary nomination is significant because she wasn't added to the final ballot by vote but by "strong public sentiment" that a Native American woman should be an option to replace Andrew Jackson, W20 organizers wrote on their website. Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which resulted in the forced removal of Cherokees from unsettled lands west of the Mississippi. Mankiller doubled membership in the Cherokee Nation and expanded health care and job-training programs during her time as chief from 1985 to 1995, according to The New York Times. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, by President Clinton.

The only other women to grace U.S. currency are on coins: Sacagawea on the golden dollar, Susan B. Anthony on the silver dollar, and Helen Keller on the back of an Alabama quarter. Martha Washington appeared briefly on a Dollar Silver Certificate in the late 1800s.

The voting period to cast a ballot for one of four women leaders is now open on W20's website. If President Obama's remarks during a Kansas speech last summer are any indication, then W20's chances of successfully petitioning him to replace Jackson with a woman on the $20 bill aren't half bad.

"Last week a young girl wrote to ask me, 'Why aren't there any women on our currency?' " Obama said, "and then she gave me like a long list of possible women to put on our dollar bills and quarters and stuff—which I thought was a pretty good idea."