The final votes are in and cosmic justice will not prevail. The point of Women on 20s is not to remove Andrew Jackson as much as to accomplish a woman on U.S. paper money for the very first time in history before the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020.
The women did their due diligence. They researched how such decisions have been made in the past and what the requirements are. Then they faced the obvious fact of a zero-sum game: if a woman is to be put on the currency, then a man must be removed.
Jackson was an easy choice for two reasons.
First, Jackson’s historical reputation is not what it once was. The Indian Removal is noted, when historians choose to note it, for the horrific and deadly ethnic cleansing that it was. Some people have even noticed that the Battle of New Orleans was in fact fought after the War of 1812 ended and therefore Jackson did not win it.
Second, there is a built-in argument to everybody’s crank uncle who gets all his information from Fox News. Not only did Jackson not believe in paper money, he considered his veto of the rechartering of the national bank that was the forerunner of the Federal Reserve Bank to be one of his major accomplishments, right up there with Indian Removal. Andrew Jackson himself would consider his portrait on a Federal Reserve Note to be a historical insult.
Having come that far, and recognizing the significance Jackson has to all Indians—but particularly the Five Tribes—they advanced a Cherokee woman to the final round because she was Cherokee and a name some non-Indians would know.
This Cherokee would have preferred Nanyehi, AKA Nancy Ward. Meaning no disrespect to Chief Mankiller, Nanyehi cut a bigger swath though Cherokee history and her very existence is proof of the argument Mankiller made when running for Principal Chief of the Cherokees: Women enjoyed political equality in the Cherokee Nation before the missionaries infested our body politic and the colonists refused to make treaties with women.
Nanyehi was also a “mankiller” in the literal sense, having come to leadership on a battlefield. But I digress. My point was that the organizers of Women on 20s advanced the most likely Cherokee woman to the final round out of respect for Jackson’s victims. They understood cosmic justice even if a majority of the voters in the Jackson Removal project did not.
Women on 20s
And the votes are in... Wilma Mankiller brought in 58,703.
I wrote at the time that Chief Mankiller was in distinguished company by sharing the final ballot with Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. The same could be said about the first round ballot.
There being no Indians in the first round, and given that I understood Chief Mankiller had an in to the finals, I cast my vote in a pretty establishmentarian manner, for two women who matched the government service of the men on the money (Frances Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt) and one who previously appeared on the unfortunate one dollar coin that was so easy to confuse with a quarter (Susan B. Anthony).
The one dollar coin was so useless I did not believe Anthony had gotten a fair shot. Susan B. Anthony got put in jail after she mau-maued a voter registrar into allowing her to vote based on the newly ratified Fourteenth Amendment which did, after all, promise “equal protection of the law.” Anthony got herself jailed with a legal theory for women’s rights that would lie dormant until our times, when it was resurrected by the Notorious RBG.
The winner of the final round was Harriet Tubman, who I am constrained to admit did more with less than Wilma Mankiller. Born a slave, Tubman ran away to the free states of the North.
Once safe, Tubman risked her life repeatedly by returning to the South as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. Those risks paled beside Tubman’s spying on behalf of Union forces in the Civil War. If caught, she would have been hanged on the spot.
There is no dishonor in losing a vote to a woman of Harriet Tubman’s accomplishments and historical profile. Still, it would have been sweet to accomplish Jackson Removal with a representative of the peoples to whom Jackson did so much damage.
At the creation of the United States, the democratic idealists among the founders make two bargains with the devil in the interest of creating a nation separate from England. The drafters of the Constitution compromised the process by supporting chattel slavery, even if they never called it by name. And through the most influential Chief Justice of the United States, they determined that the law would offer no remedy for the Indians being separated from their land. “Conquest gives a title which the Courts of the conqueror cannot deny,” Chief Justice John Marshall opined, ignoring that it was so only because he chose to make it so.
There is no profit in African-Americans and Indians engaging in a competition to prove who was dished the most historical dirt by the Andrew Jacksons of the world. Jackson’s slave mongering practices left him with a poor reputation even among many who agreed with slavery.
Therefore, in a phrase Rosa Parks would recognize and all the other finalists—including Chief Mankiller—would endorse, we should keep our eyes on the prize. The prize is Jackson Removal, and like the poet Mitch Walking Elk, I have no problem getting there in the footsteps of a black African.