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. She noticed 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 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. 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 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 (23)
  • christopherp-2-bar
    4/27/2016 - 07:08 p.m.

    Sofia wrote the letter to the president because she thought it was unfair that only men were on money. She thought there were many women out there who did equally important things as the men and they should also be put on bills. She says without women there wouldn't be men. I think what she did was brave and it's inspiring to see someone out there who really cares for equality.

  • genevieveb-6-bar
    4/28/2016 - 12:19 a.m.

    Sofia's own realization of lack of female representation on currency prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president. Taken from Sofia's letter, part of the middle of the article reads, "'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'" (paragraph 6). Since Sofia has stated herself that she addressed President Barack Obama about female representation, that is clearly the reason why she wrote the letter- out of her own epiphany that women should be depicted on United States currency.

    I found this article inspiring because it is empowering that an eleven-year-old girl, Sofia, would take the initiative and be so determined as to write to the president on matters that most would think she was too young to understand.

  • taylorl-3-bar
    4/28/2016 - 12:38 p.m.

    Sofia wrote the letter to the president because she thought it was unfair that only men were on money. She thought there were many women out there who did equally important things as the men and they should also be put on bills. She says without women there wouldn't be men. I think what she did was brave and it's inspiring to see someone out there who really cares for equality. I chose this article because once I saw the name it just came to me, I really want to read this article.

  • johnl-6-bar
    4/28/2016 - 03:18 p.m.

    Sofia was prompted to write a letter to the president because she noticed the lack of women on currency. After noticing, she wrote a letter on why there should be a female on a dollar. She suggested the president with a couple of good women. The president responded months later and there is now plans for Tubman being on the 20 dollar bill, instead of Andrew Jackson.

  • jacobb1-ver
    4/28/2016 - 06:15 p.m.

    Wow a woman is now going to be on a dollar. Bring out the sparkling cider.

  • jacksonm-2-bar
    4/28/2016 - 06:21 p.m.

    Sofia wrote the letter to the president because she thought it was sexist because only males were on money. She thought there were many women out there who did just about the same things. She thinks that Harriat Tubman would be a great choice for the new 20$ bill.

    I think the article was interesting because i know that someone new will be on the 20$ bill.

  • josiec-1-bar
    4/28/2016 - 07:49 p.m.

    Sofia was prompted to write a letter to the president because, "after noticing the lack of women on U.S. currency. She noticed it while working on a class project." (paragraph 2) She wrote this letter to the president because she believed that it was very important to represent woman as equally as men. Her ideas of improving the world at such a young age shows bravery and it is inspiring to see such a big decision come from the mind of a girl who is only eleven-years-old.

  • jacks-6-bar
    4/28/2016 - 09:44 p.m.

    What prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president was her recognition of lack of women on dollar bills/coinage. The article states: "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." Sofia is concerned with the striking absence of women's representation on the national currency: after all, she says it would be "fair" if women do get their chance to be on bills and/or coins. Since the moderation, production, and the design of the currency is controlled federally, the primary logical decision to revolutionize America's money would be to write the president, who plays a primary role in the government. It's practical to write to this specific individual of the government because he has a majority of say, power and especially influence, and, in this case, usually sympathetic views on issues of these sorts. To make sufficient change, Sofia would need to go to the tip of the hierarchy, forming her cause not only into recognition but to execution. Though the president receives maybe millions of letters per year, the idea of placing women's faces on currency, being such a controversial yet relevant issue, possibly could catch his eye (in which it luckily did).
    The article was of great interest to me: it allowed me insight on how one individual with little height in social hierarchy or importance could become a revolutionary by simply requesting an idea that has troubled many and is sadly not properly addressed. It was great to see how the president, Barak Obama, taking serious consideration with the public's desires.

  • avab-4-bar
    4/28/2016 - 09:58 p.m.

    Sofia's own realization of lack of female representation on currency prompted Sofia to write a letter to the president. She thought too many men where on the bills and that women that do amazing things should be too.

    I thought this was interesting because I think she is right! Women should get more chances to be recognized.

  • lucasddd-3-bar
    4/28/2016 - 11:08 p.m.

    Sofia wrote a letter to the president because she wanted the money to be equal with men and women. The second paragraph says "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."
    This article was interesting, and I think it would be cool to have a woman on paper money.

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