22 Jun 2013

Sir Winston or a woman: who should appear on banknote?

A row is brewing about Bank of England plans to replace Elizabeth Fry with Sir Winston Churchill on £5 banknotes. Who would you choose instead (apart from the Queen who is on all banknotes)?

In April the Bank of England unveiled plans to replace nineteenth century philanthropist Elizabeth Fry with Sir Winston Churchill.

The decision means that from 2016 no woman, apart from the Queen, will appear on any British banknote.

Commenting at the time, the Bank’s Governor Sir Mervyn King said: “Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage, eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all.”

It proved to be a controversial move, sparking a petition which has since morphed into a potential legal challenge under the Equality Act.

Caroline Criado-Perez, who is leading the campaign, argues that the Bank failed to follow due process when choosing Sir Winston Churchill.

The BoE has dismissed this accusation and says that the wartime prime minister was picked along with a female “contingency candidate”.

Ms Criado-Perez told Channel 4 News that it was “hugely ironic to replace the last woman on a British banknote with a man who was against votes for women.”

Her first choice to appear on the new £5 banknote is British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, followed by Mary Seacole, who set up a battlefield hospital for the wounded during the Crimean War and writer and women’s activist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Who would you choose?

All banknote candidates have to meet the following criteria: they 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; their name must be broadly recognised.

Campaigners argue that because of the barriers women have faced over the centuries, few would meet this list of criteria.

Men who currently appear on British banknotes include philosopher and economist Adam Smith, scientist Charles Darwin and the first governor of the Bank of England Sir John Houblon (campaigners argue Sir John fails to meet the criteria because his name is not broadly recognised).

We asked Channel 4 News Twitter followers for their suggestions of women who could appear on the £5 banknote. We received dozens of replies ranging from Olympian Jess Ennis to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to model Katie Price. Who would be your first choice? Tweet us @channel4news.