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April 02, 2015

Women on the $20 bill: Philly's female leaders weigh in

Prominent area women select their top choice to replace Andrew Jackson

When it comes to gender equality, the numbers don't add up. 

Today, women make 76 cents to every dollar a man gets paid. Just in Pennsylvania, a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that women working full time earned a median income of $38,000 to a man's $50,000 in 2013. 

But while the wage gap inches to a close, actual currency might be getting a facelift soon. Women on 20s is a growing Internet campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill. The nonprofit was founded by Barbara Ortiz Howard, CEO of an exterior restoration company, and joined by journalist Susan Ades Stone. Together, they want to make a difference. 

Once voting in the primary round wraps next week, Howard and Stone will petition the White House to replace Andrew Jackson with the top vote-getter by 2020, the 100-year anniversary of women's right to vote. More than 200,000 men and women have already voted. 

Fifteen meticulously researched women are currently nominated in the online poll. The main criteria are that they be historically relevant and deceased for more than two years. They include women both popular and relatively unknown, like Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. 

You can still vote for your top 3 at

Given the breadth of their achievements, who better to weigh in on the issue than great women leaders making a difference in the Philadelphia area? We asked six women of substance who they would pick and why.

Lynne Abraham, 2015 Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate

Vote: Susan B. Anthony

"During my life I’ve witnessed many of the accomplishments of Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Rachel Carson, Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan, Margaret Sanger, Patsy Mink, Frances Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt. However, since this event specifically commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the woman’s right to vote, I am compelled to choose Susan B. Anthony - the icon of the woman’s suffrage movement. In fact, the 19th Amendment is named the Susan B. Anthony Amendment."

Natalye Paquin, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania

Vote: Rosa Parks

"I think I was drawn to her courage and her confidence in taking a stand and the strong character and values that she represented throughout her life. ... Our organization is 103 years old and was founded by Juliette Gordon Low, who was also a very courageous woman. Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who go out and make the world a better place. 

People – women – like Rosa Parks were discussed in my household as a young girl. ... Susan B. Anthony was on a coin, so it’s not like we haven’t had a woman represented in currency. We haven’t had a woman of color or a man of color represented on currency in the United States."

Cecelia Fitzgibbon, President of Moore College of Art & Design

Vote: Margaret Sanger

"Women are still struggling over their ability to control their bodies. There are people who want to regulate those decisions, which should be a woman's alone to make."

Varsovia Fernandez, President & CEO of Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Vote: Rosa Parks

"I love Lady Bird, but I have to go with Rosa Parks. Ms. Parks' perseverance, determination and resilience has allowed me and people of color in this country to freely ride anywhere in a seat of our choice. ... Having her picture on the $20 bill would give me and many women a great sense of accomplishment and liberation from inequality."

Siobhan Reardon, President and Director of Free Library of Philadelphia

Vote: Susan B. Anthony

"I recommend Susan B Anthony first, then Eleanor Roosevelt, with Rosa Parks as a very close third. [Anthony] was a longstanding suffragette who was indefatigable in her pursuit for a woman's right to vote, in addition to her work on civil inequalities and the abolition of slavery."

Sharmain Matlock-Turner, CEO of Urban Affairs Coalition

Vote: Harriet Tubman

"One of the most widely known conductors on the Underground Railroad, the woman called 'Moses' helped over 300 enslaved Africans escape to freedom in the North. ... The smart, tough and wise Tubman was also a skilled orator who inspired action. A daughter, wife, mother, friend and businesswoman, Harriet Tubman remains an inspiration to women today."

Molly Shepard, Founder & CEO of The Leader's Edge

Vote: Alice Paul

"I would go with Alice Paul, who bravely risked her life to gain women in this country the right to vote. She not only spoke eloquently to the issue and picketed the White House in a day and age where women were meant to be seen not heard, she went to jail for her actions and became quite sick there. She was brilliant, courageous, outspoken and educative in her efforts, and we all owe her a great deal to this day."