After a three month campaign to keep women on Britain’s banknotes, the Bank of England says Jane Austen will be the face of the next £10 notes – and its selection process is under review.
Concept design of new Bank of England banknotes.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that men rule Britannia’s banknotes. But not for much longer.
The Bank of England is reviewing its policy for selecting the historical figures on bank notes so that “diversity of characters” is taken into consideration – starting with Jane Austen. The 19th century novelist will become the next face of the £10 note, along with a quote from her most popular novel Pride and Prejudice:
“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”
To hear Jane Austen confirmed is fantastic, but to hear the process will be comprehensively reviewed is even better – Caroline Criado-Perez, campaigner
The decision follows a three month campaign to keep women (aside from the Queen) on the face of Britain’s banknotes after the announcement in April that Elizabeth Fry will be replaced by Sir Winston Churchill on £5 notes.
The campaign secured the support of over 35,000 people on the online petition site Change.org and £13,000 was raised to challenge the decision in court under equality legislation.
The legal challenge forced a deadline on the Bank of England to come to a decision. But the money left over will now go to a number of women’s charities.
Read more: Who do you think should appear on Britain’s banknotes?
The new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney lost no time in addressing campaigners’ concerns and replied to a letter from Tory MP Mary Macleod about the issuewithin three days in the job saying a decision would be made by the end of July.
Commenting on the Bank of England’s decision, he said: “We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The bank is committed to that objective.”
Jane Austen will join the Scottish economist Adam Smith, the inventors Boulton and Watt (and their steam-engine) and from 2016, Sir Winston Churchill, to appear on Britain’s four banknotes.
Caroline Criado-Perez, the feminist campaigner who led the campaign, said that Austen was a “fantastic choice”.
“She’s an incredible writer: subversive, satirical – and she was a feminist. She wrote about how women are written out of history, which is incredibly relevant,” she toldChannel 4 News.
With regard to the Bank of England’s decision to review its process of selection, Ms Criado-Perez said she had “really positive signals” after meeting with the Bank of England.
“We warmly welcome this move from the Bank and thank them for listening to us and taking such positive and emphatic steps to address our concerns; to hear Jane Austen confirmed is fantastic, but to hear the process will be comprehensively reviewed is even better.”
Picture: Campaigners dressed as famous historical women deliver a petition to the Bank of England in London on July 5, 2013
Aside from prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, who will be replaced by Sir Winston Churchill from 2016, the only other woman to feature on a British banknote has been Florence Nightingale.
Other women suggested by the campaign include Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Seacole or Rosalind Franklin.
Under the current criteria, all banknote candidates must be uncontroversial; there must be suitable artwork on which to base a pictorial representation; they must have made a universally recognised contribution with enduring benefits; and their name must be broadly recognised.
But campaigners argued that because of the barriers women have faced over the centuries, few would meet this list of criteria.
In a statement, the Bank of England a review of the current policy will “refine the criteria for character selection” and establish “whether it can take further steps to operate within the spirit of the public sector equality duty when deciding on future characters”.
The money raised for legal action against the Bank of England will now go to the Fawcett Society, Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid.