Women’s War Bonnets

These two coins are curiosities. The one on the left you probably don’t know. It’s the ten dollar gold piece designed by the famous sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens during the TR administration.

Roosevelt wanted to upgrade the designs on American coinage. He approached Saint Gaudens to assist, starting at the top of the federal coin firmament with the $10 and $20 gold pieces. Sadly, the artist died just as the initiative began in 1907 (or MCMVII as the dates on some of the larger denomination coin shows).

Abraham Lincoln replaced the “Indian” Liberty (which you probably do know) on the cent in 1909, but the rest of the coin design upgrades waited until the Wilson administration.

What’s so curious about these designs? Women are depicted wearing men’s headgear. That never would have happened in live Native cultures on this continent. I don’t think. Even the white culture was somewhat finicky about women and Indians, so I find it curious they were so well loved on these metallic scraps of finance.

But Americans have long had a strange view of the liberty goddess as depicted on coins. They sit with shields, arrows, torches, eagles, and all sorts of aggressive symbols. Olive branches, too, from time to time.

Now we get kind of a cereal box Statue of Liberty on the new presidential dollar. For all the fuss about “losing” the God motto to the coin rim, I wonder how people would feel if they realized these coins also depicted a pagan goddess? Of course, the new dollar waters down the problem by making Liberty a symbol of a symbol, so to speak.


Give me back the days of coins with real women, not statues.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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