Do Americans hate their contemporaries?
Do we revere Washington because no one can remember him rather than because he is the Father of our Country?
I have to ask that question after receiving the results of the final vote in the Women on $20s organization’s effort to choose a woman to be placed on the $20 bill to replaced Andrew Jackson.
The winner is Harriet Tubman, a truly worthy individual.
However she is the only one of the four candidates that a substantial part of the American population can’t remember.
She died in 1913 and there is no one still around to remember the time she spoke a cross word to them, or didn’t say hello when they passed on the street.
The other three candidates lived much more recently.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt died in 1962.
Rosa Parks, who was saluted by Congress as the first lady of civil rights died in 2005.
Wilma Mankiller, the first elected female chief of a Native American nation in modern times died in 2010.
As I observed in an April 8 blog at the beginning of the vote:
“What is perhaps most interesting about the four individuals is that three of them are our near contemporaries with many people still living who would have known them or known of them as they lived their lives and made history.
“Only Tubman is beyond the reach of living memory.”
The person beyond living memory won.
The vote precisely followed the dates of the individual’s demise.
Tubman, who died longest ago, won the vote with 118,328.
Roosevelt was next with 111,227.
Rosa Parks had 64,173.
Mankiller received 58,703, the lowest number of votes and she is the one who died most recently.
As I wrote, Tubman is a very worthy choice. All the candidates are. But why the odd voting pattern?
We will probably never know.
The biography of Harriet Tubman, 1822-1913, on the website reads in part: ”Born a slave, she fled North to freedom, later making 19 trips back to the South as an Underground Railroad conductor, leading some 300 slaves to freedom. A nurse during the Civil War, she served the Union army as a scout and spy. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement after the war.”
To see the full results and to read the rest of the biographies go to:
The organization has high hopes of persuading Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to make the design change on the $20.
Congress will likely have the final word. That being the case, none of us who remember this vote might be around by the time action is taken.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."