Bank notesRui Vieira/PA Wire

Campaigners dressed as inspirational women from history will converge on the Bank of England today to deliver a 30,000-strong petition calling for better female representation on banknotes.

The petition follows a row over the choice of Sir Winston Churchill to appear on £5 notes in place of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry - one of only two women selected since historical figures were introduced in 1970.


Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Middlemarch novelist George Eliot and Boudicca, the warrior queen who led a major uprising against occupying Roman forces, will be among the historic characters represented at the celebration of women.

Freelance journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, 29, posted the petition on the website Change.org, calling for women's achievements to continue to be represented on the notes. Ms Criado-Perez has raised £13,000 from well-wishers to mount a legal challenge to the Bank under equality laws and said she has been in discussions with lawyers.
New Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who took up his role on Monday, has promised to review the lack of female representation and plans to make an announcement before the end of the month, after discussing with colleagues how best to "celebrate the diversity of great British historical figures".

Mr Carney's predecessor Sir Mervyn King recently revealed that Pride And Prejudice novelist Jane Austen is the leading candidate to replace Charles Darwin on the £10 note, as and when it is changed.

The Bank has also come under pressure from politicians who have argued that while Churchill is a good choice for a banknote, the achievements of historic women should also be reflected on currency, alongside the Queen.

The petition says: "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."

Ms Criado-Perez said the event will be a "positive celebration" of women's achievements. She said of the campaign: "This isn't a difficult ask. There is an embarrassment of women to choose from. The difficulty is choosing between them, not trying to find them."

People who cannot attend are being invited to upload pictures of themselves dressed as historic characters on Twitter, using #WomenonBanknotes.

© 2013 Press Association