US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen traveled to Texas Thursday to mark an important and historic milestone, touring the Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility to observe firsthand the printing of $1 and $5 bills with her signature for the first time.
Yellen became the latest Treasury secretary to sign US currency and the first woman Treasury secretary to have her signature on a US banknote. US Treasurer Lynn Malerba also signed the note, marking the first time the signatures of two women are featured on US currency and the first time a Native American’s signature has appeared on US currency.
It’s been tradition for more than a century that both the US treasurer and the Treasury secretary sign currency to make the bills legal tender. And despite Yellen being in her role since January 2021, it’s taken until now because of the delayed appointment of a new treasurer. In June, President Joe Biden appointed Malerba to the post.
Yellen and Malerba viewed the official engraving plates of sheets of dollars, using magnifying glasses to see their signatures. Yellen was then shown how to engrave a number into a conduction plate that will be used to produce the currency. She even got to push a button to print sheets of new bills.
Yellen said in remarks after her tour that she was “truly honored” by the banknotes, which will be delivered to the Federal Reserve this month and begin to circulate to Americans’ wallets “starting in the new year.”
“You would think this would be a straightforward process. But the founding fathers did not account for what seems to be a common attribute for Treasury secretaries – namely, terrible handwriting,” Yellen joked.
“I will admit I spent some quality time practicing my signature before submitting it,” she added.
The newly printed bills feature the signatures of “Lynn Roberge Malerba” and “Janet L. Yellen,” both written in clear, legible script.
The Fort Worth facility is one of just two places where paper currency is printed in the United States, a Treasury official told CNN, and prints more than half of new bills every year. The new bills are only being printed at this facility as of now, the official noted, but will begin to be printed at a second facility in Washington, DC, eventually.
Yellen honored the contributions of women at the Treasury Department and in the economics profession more broadly, touting a 62% female workforce in her department as an important signal of progress in a once-male-dominated field.
She outlined women’s history in the Treasury Department, including a “dedicated effort” to hire women during the Civil War, when “men were in short supply and women were cheaper to hire.”
“I hope that today is a reminder of the road we’ve traveled on equity and inclusion. And I hope it motivates us to continue to move forward,” she said.
Yellen also spoke to the broader efforts of engraving and printing federal employees.
“The currency that you produce here touches just about everyone in the United States and millions more across the world. Our currency is essential to the functioning of the financial system. And its integrity is core to our national security,” she said.
Currency, Yellen said, “plays a critical role in our economy” but also “has a deeper social purpose.”
“Currency is something we use and we touch every day. And when done right, it can tell us who we are, what we value, and what is possible,” she said.
She continued, “Today is not about me, or Lynn, new signatures on our currency. It’s about our collective work to create a stronger and more inclusive economy. At the end of the day, the field of economics is not about numbers or theory. It is about improving the lives of ordinary people.”
— CNN’s Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.