Woman to Grace New $10 Bill, First Time in More Than 100 Years for Female Face on American Note

PHOTO: An uncut sheet of the redesigned $10 bill is seen after a news conference to commemorate the first day of circulation of the new notes at the National Archives March 2, 2006 in Washington.PlayGetty Images
WATCH Which Woman Will Be Printed on the $10 Bill?

It's time for a change.

Treasury officials say Alexander Hamilton no longer fits the bill for the $10 note, and plan to replace him with the face of an American woman or women.

The move, part of a planned upgrade for all paper currency, represents the first time in more than a century that a bill will have a woman on it. Hamilton's face will continue to be on some of the new notes, slated to enter circulation in 2020 -- a year that marks the 100th anniversary of women’s gaining the right to vote.

“The new 10 will be the first bill in more than a century that features the portrait of a woman,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

But the woman who will replace Hamilton remains a mystery, at least for now.

That’s because the Treasury Department is asking the public to weigh in on the new design and what woman –- or women –- should get her face on the bill before reaching a decision later this year. They are using the hashtag #TheNew10 to collect suggestions and launching a website: TheNew10.Treasury.Gov.

Though public comment will be taken into account, the buck stops with Secretary Jack Lew for the final decision on which woman will appear on the bill. Not even President Obama has the power to trump Lew in this particular case.

“It will be my decision,” Lew said. “Obviously, I share my views on a regular basis on a wide variety of issues with the president but it's my decision.”

Martha Washington was the last woman whose face appeared on U.S. currency -- the Silver Dollar certificate, which was in circulation between 1891 and 1896. Pocahontas was also featured on a $20 currency note in group photo in during the mid-19th century.

Women appear on some U.S. coins: Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony appear on dollar coins; Hellen Keller on a quarter.

The only legal limitation to upgrading the $10 bill is that the person can’t be still living, and that $1 is permanently George Washington’s turf.

The entire bill – not just the portrait -– is undergoing a redesign to upgrade security features on the bill and make it harder for criminals to tamper with or replicate the design.

Despite the makeover to come, Lew said that the new $10 bill will look familiar. “American money should look like American money,” the treasury secretary said.

Wednesday's announcement comes after a concerted public campaign to get a woman on U.S. paper money.

The campaign was sparked after a 9 year-old girl named Sofia wrote a letter to President Obama last year suggesting it was time to put a woman on a U.S. bill and included a list of possible candidates.

In February, Obama wrote her back, complimenting her impressive group of suggested female candidates and adding, “I must say, you’re pretty impressive too.” And on Wednesday, Sofia received a special call from Rosa Rios, the current treasurer of the United States, who informed her that her wish is becoming a reality.

A grassroots campaign, called Women on 20s, also sprung up to support the effort of getting a woman on the $20 note and New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen introduced legislation in April to start the process.

“While it might not be the twenty dollar bill, make no mistake, this is a historic announcement and a big step forward,” Shaheen said in a statement Wednesday. “Young girls across this country will soon be able to see an inspiring woman on the ten dollar bill who helped shape our country into what is today and know that they too can grow up and do something great for their country.”

Finalists in the grassroots campaign to pick a woman to grace the $20 note were abolitionist Harriet Tubman, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks, and the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller.