Could Jane Austen grace £10 notes?
Filed under: News
The suggestion is made amidst a storm of controversy fuelled by news last month that the only woman to appear on an English banknote other than the Queen – the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry – will be replaced by Winston Churchill in 2015.
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Women have been poorly represented since historical figures were first introduced on British banknotes in 1970. There have been only two women: Fry and Florence Nightingale to grace our notes, while the others have all been men.
Following the announcement last month that Fry will be replaced with Churchill on £5 notes, campaigners have threatened to take the Bank to court for discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act.
Lead by feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, more than 29,000 people have signed a petition to keep women on English banknotes.
Announcing the campaign, Criado-Perez said: "An all-male line-up on our banknotes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear. This is patently untrue.
"Not only have numerous women emerged as leading figures in their fields, they have done so against the historic odds stacked against them which denied women a public voice and relegated them to the private sphere - making their emergence into public life all the more impressive and worthy of celebration."
Now the Guardian reports that Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austin could be the face of the new £10 note.
Sir Mervyn King told the Treasury select committee that the author is "quietly waiting in the wings", although a final decision will be taken by his successor, Mark Carney, who takes up the post on 1 July.
Increasing pressure looks set to influence Carney's decision to choose a female face. Members of the public can put forward suggestions for who should appear on banknotes, although the governor of the Bank has the final decision.
According to the BBC, the Bank only considers figures that meet four key criteria. They must have made a lasting contribution to society, have a widely recognised name, not be controversial, and there must be good artwork on which a design can be based.
MP Stella Creasy has been leading a campaign on the issue in Westminster, and has co-written a letter to the bank, along with 45 other MPs.
The letter suggests four more women as potential candidates. Mary Seacole, who created a hotel to aid wounded soldiers during the Crimean war, women's rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft, biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, who contributed to the discovery of DNA, and another suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
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