Forget the gender pay gap: the latest feminist concern is the gender money gap. If the Bank of England sticks to the plan it announced on Friday, Winston Churchill will oust the social reformer Elizabeth Fry as the “face” of the £5 note, leaving the Queen as the only woman to feature on the UK’s currency.
Politicians and feminists are among those already campaigning for the Bank to reverse its decision. Online petitions are underway and one of the Chancellor’s close aides intervened on Sunday to demand that women now be considered for other bank notes.
Amber Rudd MP, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Osborne, and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sex Equality, said: “It would be a mistake not to feature women on any banknote, so let’s find a space on another banknote.”
Ceri Goddard, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “It’s disappointing that another female face wasn’t added to the banknote roll call but it beggars belief to actually remove the only one we had. Despite the odds being stacked against them there is happily no shortage of exceptional women they could have picked.”
Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner who started the Change.org petition, said: “It’s yet another example of how the country we live in just doesn’t seem to value women’s contribution. The note being replaced isn’t even the oldest one – that was Darwin – which is why it seems completely unnecessary.”
There have been 16 historical figures featured on banknotes since the portraits were introduced in 1970 – including only two women: Florence Nightingale was on the £10 note from 1975 to 1994, and in 2002, Fry was introduced on the £5 note.
The Bank of England would not comment, but a spokeswoman pointed out that the proposed Churchill notes would not be introduced until 2016, and that a final decision had not yet been made.
'Indisputable contribution': notable contenders
Octavia Hill, social reformer
Hill ensured a female hand in the shaping of Britain’s social housing. With the backing of John Ruskin she bought up properties in London and rented them to low-income workers.
Frances buss, educator
At a time when needlework was considered enough education for girls, she fought for more. A teacher at 14, she attended lectures at Queen’s College in Harley Street before founding the Camden School for Girls in 1871.
Mary Jane Seacole, pioneer nurse
After being turned down by the War Office, the mixed-race, Jamaican-born nurse made her own way to the Crimean front line, where she tended to wounded British soldiers.
Tanni Grey-Thompson, athlete
One of the most successful Paralympians, winning 16 Paralympic medals, she is also a disability rights campaigner, a presenter and a parliamentarian. Made Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe in 2010.
Rosalind Franklin, scientist
The unsung hero of DNA, Franklin’s X-ray images of the double helix provided the data that Francis Crick and James Watson used to build their hypothesis. She died four years before the Nobel prize was awarded.
Millicent Garrett Fawcett, suffragist
Fawcett led the constitutional faction of the universal suffrage movement and advocated a more peaceful means of winning the vote than some of her contemporaries.