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Page 4 - Women and Money & Money as Coins
The social earmarking of money appears throughout ancient as well as modern societies. Often money attained special qualities and distinct values independent of quantity. How much money was less important than what type of money it was and who owned it. It was not unusual for multiple currencies to have coexisted in the same village. Each currency would have specific and restricted uses and, sometimes, designated users.
Historically a “woman’s wage” was very different from a “man’s wage.” On Rosell Island separate lower-value coins were reserved exclusively for women. While on Yap men used the large stones as currency, mussel shells strung on strings served as women’s money. In the early twentieth century a woman’s wage was set not by productivity but by what seemed proper. This led to an interesting moral balancing act, because high wages were seen as encouraging independence yet wages that were too low might push young women into prostitution.
When a wife did not earn wages of her own, her husband would give her money as a gift or occasionally as an entitlement. The wives money was not meant for her personally but for housekeeping and family expenses. Pocket money was after all, for husbands and children but not for wives. The amount of the wife’s allowance was not determined by her domestic contributions, but by prevalent beliefs about what was a proper amount for a wife to receive. Therefore, when the husband received a larger paycheck he was under no obligation to give more to his wife, he simply had more money for himself.
Money as Coins
The word “money” derives from the Roman goddess named Moneta. Coins minted in her temples were issued to the far reaches of the empire. In fact, the Latin word moneta (meaning mint or coins) evolved into the Old English word mynet (meaning coins or money), which became the English word “mint.” The Greeks minted the first coins in about 750 BC, and in the 6th Century Croesus, the King of Lydia, minted coins of pure gold and silver. In the 5th Century BC in Greece, the temple at Delphi began minting silver coins. As a continuation of the fertility/prosperity rituals, these coins paid homage to the gods. The coins were minted with the likeness of Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, and Apollo. As these coins started to circulate, the energy of the spirit started to move into the world of trade. One of the most important early coins was minted in Athens in 525 BC. It pictured Athena, who served as a goddess of fertility on one side and her owl on the reverse. This coin was widely used in trade throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond.
Viewed against this background many aspects of our coins and bills reflect the sacred origins of money. Early US coins were minted with the image of Liberty or Standing Liberty, which were similar to the likeness of Athena. And today the motto “In God We Trust” appears on all our coins and bills.
Page 9 - What is Money Today?
While we tend to think of money as something exclusively created, distributed, and guaranteed by the government, this is not now and has never been the case. In the late 1700’s churches issued their own notes and tokens. In the 1830’s merchants distributed copper “hard-time tokens” that served as both currency and advertising. Patriotic and political tokens were common before the Civil War. During the Civil War, when silver was more valuable as a metal than as a coin, privately issued “shinplasters”--paper money in small denominations -- along with thousands of tradesmen’s and political tokens were used as substitute currency in everyday transactions.
Transportation companies, hotels saloons, restaurants, and retail stores that could not carry on business without change out of necessity produced their own currency. For example, Boston’s Young’s Hotel issued a system of checks for 15, 25, and 50 cents signed by the proprietor. Gold coins were also privately issued. Between 1830 and 1860, individuals in California, Georgia, and other states produced thousands of coins. Indeed, from 1849 to 1855, private gold coins were the main currency in California.
In the 19th Century, America worked to create a standardized national money. It taxed thousands of state issued paper currencies, suppressed the private issue or tokens, paper notes, coins by stores, businesses, churches, and other organizations and stamped out the personalization of money by individuals. At the time there were 5,000 or more distinct varieties of state bank notes not counting thousands of counterfeit issues. Merchants and bankers had to rely on bank-note directories to keep track of the different denominations, sizes, and colors.
In 1863, the National Banking Act allowed newly chartered national banks to create a uniform currency. Still there remained a variety of currencies in circulation including interest-bearing legal tender notes, government demand notes, postage and fractional currency, as well as silver and gold certificates—not to mention silver and gold coins.
In many cases different monies were earmarked for specific purposes. Greenbacks, for instance, were receivable in most payments but neither for duties on imports nor for interest on bonds and notes. Gold was largely used for foreign transactions but was also used for certain domestic payments such as customs duties.
For decades debate raged over the legitimacy of money. Was gold the only true standard or was silver equally sound or was only government issued currency acceptable. In 1900, the Gold Standard Act established the gold dollar as the national monetary standard, but it was not until 1933 that Congress formally declared all US coins and currencies as equal legal tender.
As hard as the government tried to unify money into a single entity, the general population worked just as hard to expand currency. Instead of adopting the idea of one type of money, people expanded the idea of having multiple monies. While the currency itself was looked upon as a single entity, its use was fractionalized. A windfall was treated differently than an inheritance. There was men’s money and women’s money, family and children’s money. Wages and bonuses were thought of as separate monies. Legislatures debated whether tips were an acceptable kind of money or a punishable misdemeanor. Categories of almost all types of income and expenses were treated differently.
More than just different categories of money abounded. Retail stores created trading stamps and product coupons; they issued credit cards and gift certificates. Companies issued stocks and bonds. Various levels of government offered bonds. The whole idea of wealth in a single currency was lost in an explosion of ideas
Let’s be clear: money multiplies! People are constantly creating new types of monies. They earmark certain monies for particular uses; distinguish others by how they are earned, designate some for special users; as well as converting non-monetary objects into money for exchange. Of course, quantity makes a difference; people care about how much money is involved in their transactions. But what kind of money it is and whose money it is also matters greatly.
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