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Will Jane Austen appear on British currency?

Posting in Technology

Jane Austen, one of Britain's greatest, most enduring writers, could be the next historical figure to grace Britain's 10-pound note.

According to the retiring governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, Austen is "quietly waiting in the wings" to become the next face of the £10 paper note. Though the final decision rests with King's successor, Mark Carney, and there's no time frame for when the change could be made, Austen would replace Charles Darwin on the note.

The other figures on British notes are Adam Smith on the 20-pound note, Matthew Boulton and James Watt on the "new style" 50-pound note, and Sir John Houblon on the "old-style" 50-pound note.

The announcement by King is likely in response to controversy King sparked when he announced earlier this year that Winston Churchill will replace prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on the 5-pound note in 2016. Other than Queen Elizabeth II, who appears on all British paper money, paper notes would feature men, if not for Austen. A petition against the all-male money lineup garnered nearly 30,000 supporters and 46 female members of Parliament wrote letters to the Prime Minister and the Bank of England’s Court of Directors to advocate for women to be represented on British currency.

Though, compared to U.S. currency, Britain's notes seem downright egalitarian. Only two women have ever appeared on U.S. paper currency, Mary Washington on a $1 note in 1886 and Pocahontas on a $10 bank note in 1869 and a $20 demand note in 1865. Other women, like Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea, have appeared more recently on coins.

How do other countries compare when it comes to gender diversity on their currency? Canada is one of the best, with more women on their notes than men. Here's a good infographic looking at the ratio of women to men on various currencies.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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— By on June 25, 2013, 2:59 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure