Activists dressed as suffragettes rallied outside of the Bank of England today, protesting the bank's recent decision to replace the only woman currently featured on the country's banknotes—social (and prison) reformer Elizabeth Fry—with a man.
A row erupted over the representation of women on banknotes when Carney’s predecessor, Sir Mervyn King, announced as one of his final decisions in the job that Sir Winston Churchill would appear on £5 notes in place of the social reformer [Elizabeth] Fry. She and Florence Nightingale are the only two women, other than the Queen, to have appeared on English banknotes since they started portraying historical figures in 1970. The move has sparked threats of legal action against the bank under the 2010 Equality Act.
In their petition, led by The Women’s Room, the campaigners argue:
“This decision perpetuates the damaging myth that women have contributed nothing to history, and adds to the still persistent sense amongst young women that public life is not for them.”
It's worth noting that in the US, only one woman has appeared on a currency note—and that was well over a century ago. Former first lady Martha Washington's likeness appeared on $1 silver certificates in 1886, 1891, and 1896. (Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea have both appeared on $1 coins, but both coins were immediately denounced as unpopular, mostly because the dipshits designing them crafted them too similar to quarters.)
It's true that most of the faces we see on US currency are former presidents, making it a given that they'd all be old white men, but the presidential thing isn't a hard n' fast rule (see: $10 Alexander Hamiltons, $100 Benjamin Franklins, and the now-defunct $10,000 Salmon Chases. The Treasury also proudly notes that the signatures of five African American men—a full five!—have appeared on our currency). In fact, the only hard n' fast rule seems to be that only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on US currency.
Given that the Treasury has been slowly rolling out new redesigned bills for awhile now, is it too much to ask that they stop humoring us women with chump change and throw a few powerful women on some bills? Like, pull a reverse Bank of England? I mean, Andrew Jackson was kind of a turd and Alexander Hamilton's fit for retirement. How about we bump them for Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the US Cabinet, or Jeannette Rankin, first woman to be elected to the US House of Representatives. Fuck it, how about Edith Wharton, the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction?