Simanaitis Says

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ENGLISH NOVELIST Jane Austen, Scottish astronomer Mary Somerville and an as-yet unnamed American woman of historical significance will soon be portrayed on their respective countries’ paper currency.

They join an elite group. Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Syria’s Queen Zenobia, 240 – c. 275 A.D., already appear on bills, as do only a few other women, including Polish physicist Marie Curie, Swedish singer Jenny Lind, Australian soprano Dame Nelly Melba and New Zealand suffragette Kate Sheppard.


Martha Washington $1 U.S.

George Washington’s wife Martha made a brief appearance on the U.S. $1 bill, 1891 – 1896. American suffragette Susan B. Anthony and Native American pathfinder Sacagawea played to mixed reviews on U.S. dollar coinage: The Susan B. Anthony dollar was minted from 1979 through 1981, briefly in 1999, then dropped from lack of public demand.


Above, Susan B. Anthony $1 U.S. Below, Sacagawea $1 U.S.


Sacagawea’s “golden” dollar (actually a manganese brass coating) has been minted occasionally since 2000, though not widely distributed. Generally, it and Susan B. Anthony dollars are considered handy for vending machines and in public transportation. Wife Dottie and I seem to have accumulated three Sacagaweas, along with a Jefferson $2 bill.


Jane Austen, 1775 – 1817, English novelist. Colorized portrait from a drawing by her sister Cassandra, c. 1810.

Jane Austen’s works are hallmarks of romantic fiction, among them Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815). Her image is scheduled to appear on the Bank of England £10 note in 2017.


Mary Somerville, 1780 – 1872, Scottish astronomer, polymath. Portrait by Thomas Phillips, 1833.

Mrs. William Somerville née Fairfax shared the role of being the first woman nominated to the Royal Astronomical Society, in 1835. The other woman was Caroline Herschel, sister of Sir William Herschel, yet a third astronomer. Somerville’s expertise in mathematics contributed to calculations that led to discovery of the planet Neptune.

In February 2016, the Royal Bank of Scotland ran a public competition to decide the image for its new £10 note. Somerville was short-listed, along with Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Telford (of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct fame). Somerville won the public vote, held on Facebook.

There’s a wonderful tale of Somerville’s mathematical acumen and of the times in which she lived: Her first marriage to Captain Samuel Greig was complicated by his pointed lack of enthusiasm for her academic pursuits, one of these being correspondence with French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace.

During her second marriage, Mrs. Somerville profited from Mr. Somerville’s encouragement of her continued study, not to say an inheritance of the late Captain Greig. When she finally met Laplace, he told her, “There have been only three women who have understood me. There are yourself, Mrs. Somerville, Caroline Herschel and a Mrs. Greig of whom I know nothing.”

Last year, Jack Lew, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, announced that a redesigned $10 bill will feature a woman’s portrait. The bill will be unveiled in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the women’s right to vote.


From left to right: Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks.

“Who Will It Be?” asked The Washington Post headline on June 18, 2015. In the article, correspondents Yian Q. Mui and Abby Ohlheiser suggested Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks as contenders.

Susan B. Anthony, 1820 – 1906, was a prominent leader in the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. Harriet Tubman, c. 1822 – 1913, was a leader of the Underground Railroad, a Union Army spy and nurse during the Civil War. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962, was an advocate for civil and women’s rights and also served as U.S. delegate to the United Nations. Rosa Parks, 1913 – 2005, is remembered for an action triggering the U.S. civil rights movement in 1955. Already seated in the “colored” section of a crowded bus, Parks refused the driver’s order that she relinquish her seat to a white man.

Treasury Secretary Lew is soliciting suggestions through social media and town halls. The only requirements for candidacy are that the woman be deceased and embody the “democracy” theme of the new bill’s appearance.

Who would be your choice? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016 href=http


  1. Michael Rubin
    February 26, 2016

    I’d vote for Harriet Tubman and/or Eleanor Roosevelt.

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