How a small N.J. company helped put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

MONTCLAIR — It took nearly a century to get a woman on the front of the $20 bill, but only about a year for a small New Jersey company to contribute a vital two cents to the effort.

Since April 2015, Montclair-based Mosaic Strategies Group has helped manage a website for Women on 20s to make the country's currency co-ed — one that finally paid off big last week when the U.S. Treasury announced Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

With a total of six employees, the small digital strategies shop's work often flies under the radar. Last year, however, partner Francesca Larson found herself on the receiving end of a call from Barbara Howard, one half of the duo behind Women on $20s.

The group's campaign to put a woman on a paper bill was snowballing at a breakneck pace, and Howard and partner Susan Ades Stone were struggling to keep up. In Larson, they found an ally with both the necessary technical chops and a passion for their cause.

"Our little campaign grew into a very big campaign. It was something very difficult to manage by ourselves," said Howard. "I knew she was a person that could actually help us forge ahead. She's doing this because she lives and breathes it."

Mosaic stepped in to help support a poll the organization narrowed from 15 potential choices down to 4 finalists and assisted with a design for a bill featuring Harriet Tubman, attracting attention from news outlets and social media.

"(The poll) was a way to engage people on the issue," Larson said. "To get them talking about why it was important and what it means for women's equality."

The Treasury quickly took notice of the campaign, and in June 2015 committed to putting a yet-to-be-determined woman on the $10 bill.

Christie doesn't quite care whose face is on the $20, just as long as the money works.

Nearly a year later, the government has committed to placing Tubman on the $20 bill, and Women on 20s is being credited for much of the change of heart (along with a Broadway-fueled rise in popularity for the face of the $10, Alexander Hamilton).

Though Howard said she and Stone were pleased with the news, they have already begun the next phase of their campaign by advocating for the Treasury to fast-track the changes. Under current plans, the Tubman bills would reportedly not enter circulation until as late as 2030.

"It's a historical point where people have been able to affect a change, a long overdue change in a very novel kind of way," Howard said. "It's a win, but it's a beginning to hopefully usher in an new era of respect for women, and for all people. "

For Larson, the year represented tremendous professional success for her small firm, but also a rare chance to help change the course of U.S. history.

"This has been a labor of love," she said.

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