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. She will know 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. 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.
 
On April 20, 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 in an interview with The Associated Press. She lives in Cambridge.
 
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. 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, and 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. 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. 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 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 (252)
  • tylerl-ver
    4/27/2016 - 04:50 p.m.

    She felt it was unfair that women were not recognized for the important work that they had done.

  • dianner-2-bar
    4/27/2016 - 06:16 p.m.

    What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president was woman's rights. Sofia said "It makes things feel fair." I really liked this article because i believe that Sofia was right and if women are allowed to be on money people will realize and know who these women are and will want to know more about what the person did. I found this article amazing and surprising because the president wrote to Sofia and practically mentioned her in one of his speech.

  • williamb-4-bar
    4/27/2016 - 06:53 p.m.

    Sofia wanted to write to the President because she noticed that there are no women on any of the U.S. dollar bills or coins. Sofia said that it wasn't fair so she wrote a list of important women. One of the women on the list was Harriet Tubman , and she got chosen to go on the $20 bill replacing President Andrew Jackson. I think she was chosen because she in my opinion one of the most important women in history because she stood up for herself and fled from her slave master then came back to help free other slaves.

  • melissaj-Ste
    4/27/2016 - 07:37 p.m.

    Money is the biggest part of any economy. It is a material object that drives people to all sorts of motives, good and bad. Because we've all grown up with it, no one has really noticed the fact that every person on our currency is a male. I think that I've never noticed the lack of female presence is because I don't have all the different types of bills and I never take the time to look at them.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/27/2016 - 09:05 p.m.

    The fifth grade girl might have been able to notice something on the dollar bills because she had noticed that all of the paper money have men's faces on the paper money which they would want changes on the paper moneys. The President might have been able to get the letter and agree with the girl which he might have wanted to get changes on the bills after getting a letter about the paper money. The people might have wanted to get the paper moneys to be changed because they had noticed something that they had seen when they saw the faces on the dollar bills. People might have wanted to change the dollar bills because they wanted to get things changed with the dollar bills that they wanted more women to be on the dollar bills.
    Critical Thinking Question: What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president?
    Answer: I know what had prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president is that she had noticed something on the dollar bills that it is lacking women on the dollar bills and she wanted more women to be on the dollar bills and men on the back of the dollar bill.

  • calis-3-bar
    4/27/2016 - 09:24 p.m.

    Sophia wrote a letter to the president because she wanted to make things fair for women. In a male-dominated world, women often are pushed down by men, and she saw this inequality being represented through the United States currency. So, because of her sense of justice, she was prompted to write a letter to the president. I liked this article. I like to track the feminist movement and I think it is amazing how a little girl is capable of such great things. Overall, this article was empowering and interesting.

  • anthonyg1-ver
    4/27/2016 - 09:42 p.m.

    Wow that is nice of Sofia to be concern about the world and its fairness.

  • william1108-yyca
    4/27/2016 - 09:47 p.m.

    Sofia was brave enough to write a letter to Barack Obama. I don't think that one day I will do such thing. Or maybe one day I will. And also it is amazing that Barack Obama accepted her suggestion and actually put more women on bills and coins. And it is also is amazing that Rosa Parks will be on the bills.

    CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president?

    ANSWER: She did because there was a lack of women on the bills and also if there weren't any women then there would be no men on the dollars and coins.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    4/27/2016 - 10:12 p.m.

    It is a good thing that Sofia stood up for women. Also this was two years ago when she was nine. Not a lot of people are brave enough to do something that young. Sofia should be someday be praised. She did a really important thing in the world, that will make more women equality. I hope that when Sofia becomes older, she will change her mind and become a politician. She has made a big change in the world which is a good thing.
    Critical Thinking Question Answer: When Sofia was working on a project, she saw that there was not a lot of women in money. So, she wrote the letter to the president.

  • sean1116-byo
    4/27/2016 - 10:46 p.m.

    This article lifted my spirits. It lets people know that america is equal for every person. I think that the government made a good choice putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 dollar bill. The girl made a god choice too write a letter to Barrack Obama. This shows that leaders like Obama listen to people like us. It was a good thing Sofia noticed that not enough women were on US currency.

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