Harriet Tubman Was Christian, but Other Women Who Will Be On Our Money Were Critics of Religion April 22, 2016

Harriet Tubman Was Christian, but Other Women Who Will Be On Our Money Were Critics of Religion

When we’re talking about the new faces that will eventually appear on U.S. currency, most of the attention is rightfully on Harriet Tubman, the soon-to-be face of the $20 bill. While many people are excited that a woman will finally be on the front of the bill, others are also excited that Tubman was an “unabashed Christian.”

But there are many new faces who will soon appear on our money, and many of the other women had plenty of unkind things to say about religion. Let’s not forget them in this discussion.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (via Library of Congress)

Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s suffrage, will appear on the back of the $10. She wanted to include people from all religious backgrounds in her movement, but she reportedly said in an 1896 address to the National American Woman Suffrage Association:

I dislike those who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

Sounds like a Humanist to me.

Her partner-in-crime Elizabeth Cady Stanton will also appear on the back of the $10. Stanton was about as vocal a critic of religion as you’ll ever find. After all, she’s the person who said:

My religious superstitions gave place to rational ideas based on scientific factsI view it as one of the greatest crimes to shadow the minds of the young with these gloomy superstitions; and with fears of the unknown and the unknowable to poison all their joy in life.”

Stanton’s book, The Woman’s Bible, was a harsh critique of the holy book:

I know no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of woman… When our bishops, archbishops and ordained clergymen stand up in their pulpits and read selections from the Pentateuch with reverential voice, they make the women of their congregation believe that there really is some divine authority for their subjection.”

Wow. It didn’t make her popular, but she wasn’t wrong.

Alice Paul, who will also be on the back of the $10, was no less a force to be reckoned with. The woman who fought for the Equal Rights Amendment for nearly five decades was born into a Quaker family but allegedly became an Agnostic later in her life.

And Eleanor Roosevelt, who will appear on the back of the $5, was also a proponent of church/state separation and freedom of conscience.

So, yes, let’s celebrate all the women who will appear on the money. But let’s also recognize that some of them recognized that religion was the most powerful force keeping them down and weren’t afraid to speak out against it.


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