Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made it official; a woman's image will appear on a newly designed $10 bill set to be issued in the year 2020. But it doesn't sound like the Treasury has made any final decisions about which woman or women it will choose. So before we bury ourselves under a list of famous American women filled exclusively by courageous First Ladies, suffragettes, and politicians, why not consider some of the great women of American finance and economics?
After all, Alexander Hamilton hasn't been on the $10 bill since 1929 because of his political achievements or even his very real military heroics during the Revolutionary War. He's on the bill because of his crucial role in setting up an American financial structure that favored an orderly form of economic freedom. And there are a number of women in U.S. history to choose from who helped forward the same cause of American financial strength and economic savvy.
There are women like Mary Katherine Goddard, an enormously successful publisher born in 1763. She was a great advocate for a free market and a free press, and she combined both by printing and distributing the first copies of the Declaration of Independence. She went on to become the first woman to be made a postmaster of a major U.S. city. Then there's Madam C.J. Walker, whose parents were former slaves but she became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in American history. Walker created an internationally popular line of hair care products and paved the way not only for other women entrepreneurs but helped boost economic opportunities for the entire African American community.
But there's one American woman who I think stands out above all others when it comes to keeping and enhancing the traditions Hamilton established for the American financial markets. That woman was Muriel Siebert, who died in 2013 but not before establishing an incredible record of personal success and generosity. Siebert's resume always has to start with the fact that she was both the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and lead one of the NYSE's member firms. To do so she had to overcome not only sexism but anti-Semitism. She was also New York's Superintendent of Banking during the rocky period of 1977-81. No New York bank failed during that time.
But what I like best about Siebert was that she never made it about only herself. She devoted countless hours and a lot of her personal fortune to programs she herself developed to teach young women and girls about finance. And I also think it's important to honor a woman whose struggles aren't just distant history but still very real for too many women on Wall Street and throughout corporate America.
Siebert didn't break into the exclusive men's club because of legislation or any other kind of government help. She did it because she was extremely talented and knowledgeable. And she knew that her future success and the success of all the women coming after her in finance or in business would need to be based on talent and knowledge more than political activism. In that way, she emulated Hamilton who was never really a success as a politician but was deemed too valuable and economically talented to be left out of our founding government.
Former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has also written a book about groundbreaking American women, agrees with the idea of putting Siebert on the 10. Hutchison points out that Siebert was responsible for innovations that helped all investors. "She introduced low cost brokerage fees to make stock purchasing more accessible for small investors. She was a feisty trailblazer and generous giver to charities and educational causes."
There would be nothing wrong with choosing a non-financial female American hero to put on the new $10 bill. Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sally Ride would be fine choices. But there are so many women still not participating fully in the American economic dream, and billions more women overseas who aren't allowed to participate in any financial transactions at all. And this is about using currency to make a point after all. It might be better if we reminded girls and boys all over the world that there were American women who truly embodied the notion that there can be no real freedom without economic freedom.