Panel is unanimous in choice of top five

Stamp of disapproval: Royal Mail runs into storm in choice of century's women of achievement
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The Independent Online
The difficult task of picking five high-flying women to feature in the new set of stamps fell to the Royal Mail's 15-strong Stamp Advisory Committee.

The stamps are one of nine themes for special issues, selected each year by the Royal Mail. The theme of women's achievements is being adopted by postal services in 40 countries this year.

Once a subject has been approved, it rests with the committee to suggest ideas for possible designs for the individual stamps.

The committee's members include children's television presenter Floella Benjamin and Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, alongside a representative from the DTI, four designers, two philatelists and six people from the Royal Mail's marketing and design departments.

They spent 18 months discussing possible candidates.

"There was intense debate over who to choose, although in the end the selections were unanimous," said a Royal Mail source. "But they could not whittle the names down from five to four, so we kept all their ideas and issued a set of five stamps."

Faced with a list of 100 high-achieving British women, the committee quickly decided to narrow the terms of reference to include only women born in the 20th century.

The group decided to nominate figures who were not household names, but to stop short of actively choosing lesser-known people.

The Royal Mail is no stranger to controversy when it comes to choosing who goes on its stamps. Last year, it asked the public to vote on suggestions for a set commemorating British football legends.

Unfortunately, the 10 players shortlisted infuriated Welsh, Scottish and Irish football fans: only one player from each country was named, against seven Englishmen.