Fifth-grader's letter prompts decision on money
In a few years Sofia will get her first chance to spend a $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman. When that happens the Massachusetts fifth-grader can take some extra pride. She will know the role she played in getting the first woman featured on U.S. paper currency in more than a century.
Sofia wrote a letter to President Barack Obama. She noticed the lack of women on U.S. currency. She realized it while working on a class project.
"It makes things feel fair," Sofia said.
April 20 was her 11th birthday. She received phone calls from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and other officials. They informed her of the decision to put Tubman, an African-American abolitionist, on the front of the $20 bill. Other women will be featured on bills, too.
"If women do important things just like men, women should be on our currency, too. And once that happens it's going to be amazing," Sofia said. She was interviewed by The Associated Press. Sofia lives in Cambridge.
Her letter to Obama in 2014 read in part: "I think there should be more women on the dollars/coins of the United States because if there were no women there wouldn't be men."
Sofia suggested a dozen names that could fit the bill. One name was Tubman's. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery. After escaping, she helped other slaves gain freedom through what became known as the Underground Railroad.
Sofia also listed civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, poet Emily Dickinson and first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Sofia did not hear back right away. But a few months later, the family heard that Obama had referenced a letter from a "Massachusetts girl" in a speech. The family wondered if it was her. It turned out that it was. Then, in February 2015, a letter arrived from the White House. President Obama thanked Sofia for writing to him "with such a good idea." The women she suggested were an impressive group, "and I must say you're pretty impressive too," the letter stated.
While Tubman wasn't the only famous woman Sofia offered, she is very happy with the choice. Sofia was impressed to learn that Tubman did much more than escape from slavery. Tubman risked her life to help others do the same.
Sofia's mom, Kim, said her daughter is concerned about the world. "But I think the part of the story I like the best is that she really is just an average, typical little girl who noticed something that was unfair in the world. And she decided to do something about it."
Sofia said she does not have plans for politics herself. She hopes to become a scientist. For now, she is enjoying a heartfelt wish that has come true.
"I was really excited and to have it happen on my birthday. It was the best birthday present ever," she said.
The new $20s are expected to go into circulation in 2020. Tubman's image will replace the portrait of President Andrew Jackson. His image will move to the back of the bill.
The last woman featured on U.S. paper money was Martha Washington. She was the wife of George Washington, the country's first president. She was on a dollar silver certificate from 1891 to 1896.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president?
Write your answers in the comments section below