Fifth-grader's letter prompts decision on money In this Wednesday, April 20, 2016, photo, Sofia, 11, stands with a U.S. $20 bill outside of her home in Cambridge, Mass. Sofia, who wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to put a woman on U.S. paper currency has gotten her wish. (Ryan Mcbride/Boston Herald via AP/AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Fifth-grader's letter prompts decision on money
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In a few years, when Sofia gets her first chance to spend a redesigned $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman, the Massachusetts fifth-grader can take some extra pride in knowing the role she played in getting the first woman portrayed on U.S. paper currency in more than a century.
 
Sofia, whose family asked that her full name not be used, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama after noticing the lack of women on U.S. currency while working on a class project.
 
"It makes things feel fair," Sofia said.
 
On April 20, her 11th birthday, she received phone calls from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and other officials, who 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 in an interview with The Associated Press at her Cambridge home.
 
Her letter to Obama in 2014 read in part: "I am writing to know why there aren't more women on dollars/coins for the United States. 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."
 
At the bottom of the letter, Sofia suggested a dozen names that could fit the bill, including Tubman's. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and after she escaped, 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 and wondered if it was her. It turned out that it was, and in February 2015 a letter arrived from the White House from Obama, thanking 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. What impressed her so much in learning about Tubman was that she not only escaped from slavery, but 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 in the future, and instead 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, with Tubman replacing 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, who was on a dollar silver certificate from 1891 to 1896.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (24)
  • josuev-san
    4/28/2016 - 11:58 a.m.

    The prompted a that Sofia wrote to the president was about. Putting women of the us currency. She said if there was no women there will only be men. And the the president agreed and said in 2020 women will be on the us currency

  • oliviaw-4-bar
    4/28/2016 - 11:27 p.m.

    Her sense of fairness and her concern regarding the world urged Sofia to write a letter to President Barack Obama addressing an issue she believed was unjust. While working on a class project, the fifth-grader noticed the lack of women on The United States's currency. Promptly, Sofia wrote a letter to the President, in which she stated: "I am writing to know why there aren't more women on dollars/coins for the United States. 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." Her simple yet genuine concern began a movement to replace former President Andrew Jackson's portrait on the twenty dollar bill with that of Harriet Tubman. I found this article very inspiring and eye-opening as it displayed an average eleven-year-old girl who genuinely had intentions of helping make a difference in this world, and she did so.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    4/29/2016 - 02:38 p.m.

    I don't even know how children would think of this. Many adults think that it is an abomination to put an African American female on the dollar bill. I have even heard some ADULTS say that only Presidents should be allowed on money.

  • briannec-ste
    4/29/2016 - 05:30 p.m.

    Sofia thought that it was unfair that only men were on money, so she thought that she should see if she could make it fair by writing the president.

  • felicityw-hug
    5/03/2016 - 12:51 p.m.

    That is so cool and lucky that you got a letter from the president and on your birthday. I can't wait to get a 20 dollar bill and see Important people.

  • ravend-bag
    5/03/2016 - 07:06 p.m.

    She was encouraged to write a letter to Barack Obama because there was not one single woman on the dollar bill. And just for my advice I don't think men realize that they can't live without women, literally.

  • zacheryd-bur
    5/04/2016 - 08:08 a.m.

    Because she wanted to have women on the dollar bills because she thought it would be fair to women.

  • zacheryd-bur
    5/04/2016 - 08:12 a.m.

    I would want to see mlk because he helped with racism. He was a strong leader in the past and helped on what is racism today.

  • cadenh-bur
    5/04/2016 - 08:12 a.m.

    I would like to see Sofia have her face on us currency.because she said if there were no women that it would be just men.and in 2020 that women will be in the currency.

  • taylorm1-bur
    5/04/2016 - 08:39 a.m.

    Cause she wanted a women in the $20 dollar bill so it can change the way it looks and she sent a letter to Obamato see if it was ok and it was cause he wrote I'm back they said the new changes would be in 2020.

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