The always au courant Jane Austen

A note for Jane

Even in 2013, Jane Austen’s legacy is a force of reckoning. She’s bumped Winston Churchill to the £5 note, and is displacing Charles Darwin to become the new face of England’s £10 note in 2017.

Sense and bank-ability

Jane Austen is the third female to secure the obverse place on a banknote since the 1970 picture policy was introduced. Queen Elizabeth II occupies the flip side on all currency. Florence Nightingale appeared on the tenner from 1975-94. Besides the Queen, social reformer Elizabeth Fry, on the £5, is the only woman who appears currently. Looking ahead to 2016, when Churchill replaces Fry, the Queen would have been the only female representation.

Intolerable.

Jane Austen, English currency, women and representation, notable women’s campaigns, Bank of England banknotes

More persuasion needed

Thus the furor began. In April when it was announced that Churchill would replace Fry, an online petition to put a woman on the note – started by Caroline Criado-Perez – gathered strength. It was signed by thousands of people (sadly, Criado-Perez’s efforts garnered death threats via Twitter, but that’s a different story.) Happily though, her campaign proved successful – Jane Austen topped Churchill for the important spot.

Pride and no prejudice

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said that they would now carry out a review of historical figures who appear on banknotes: “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, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity.”

Campaigners cheered, hailing the Bank’s decision as “a brilliant day for women and a fantastic one for people power.”

Perhaps the next woman chosen can occupy the £20 or £50 notes – something to shoot for, working our way up.

Austen is having a banner year: 2013 marked the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, the issue of a set of Jane Austen commemorative stamps, and now this honor. Celebrating pride and fighting prejudice. Jane Austen, I think, would be delighted.

Design and animation: © 2013 Janet Giampietro // Currency images: Up to 1961, public domain; thereafter the Bank of England

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