Will the British be asking their friends to lend them a Jane Austen?
According to Sir Mervyn King, who is retiring as governor of the Bank of England, the famous author is merely “waiting in the wings” to appear on the country’s currency and could be the new face to grace the 10 pound note.
However, King’s replacement Mark Carney will have the final word on the decision. Carney takes up the post July 1.
Some commentators suggest that the idea of featuring Austen on bank notes is being floated in an attempt to placate Brits unhappy with the decision to take Elizabeth Fry, a prison reformer, off the five pound note and replace her with Winston Churchill in 2015. Apart from Queen Elizabeth II, Fry is the only woman currently appearing on the country’s money. (Fry was one of two women who had ever appeared on currency apart from the Queen, the other being Florence Nightingale).
Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking that a woman besides the Queen appear on bank notes and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez has threatened to sue the Bank for not upholding the country’s 2010 Equality Act.
Famous British citizens appear for 10 to 20 years on money before being cycled out in favor of another historical figure.
The possibility of Austen appearing on money (if she appeared on the 10 pound note, she would edge out current face Charles Darwin) has been received mostly positively.
“It is not the question of whether she is a woman or not, but she seems to me the greatest English writer apart from Shakespeare,” John Mullan, an English professor at University College London, told the Guardian.
However, Daily Mirror writer Susie Boniface was not impressed by the idea.
“If ever there were a reason to abandon money altogether it is [this],” she wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with Austen – she wrote perfectly good books, was a woman trapped by her class and found a voice that still resonates. Good on her, but she didn’t change the world.” Boniface suggested scientist Rosalind Franklin, writer Mary Wollstonecraft, or mathematician Ada Lovelace as possible substitutes.
But Victoria McNally, a writer for the website Geekosystem, was so won over by the Austen money idea that she asked when “the U.S. [is] gonna step up its game?”
“Between this and Canada’s dinosaur coins, why is everybody else’s money so much cooler than ours?” she asked. “Come on, USA, get with the times!”