It’s official – Jane Austen will appear on England’s ten-pound note.
The possibility was originally brought up by departing governor of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King, who mentioned that Austen was just “waiting in the wings” to take her place on currency. Mark Carney, the new governor, recently confirmed that Austen would appear on the ten-pound note.
“Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes Carney said in a statement. “Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognized as one of the greatest writers in English literature.”
Controversy had erupted after it was announced that Elizabeth Fry, who worked for reform in the country’s prisons, was being taken off the five-pound note in favor of Winston Churchill. A historical figure being cycled out is nothing unusual – famous people usually appear on British currency for 10 to 20 years – but Fry is the only woman currently appearing on the country’s money other than the queen. Florence Nightingale had been featured in the past, but was the only other woman ever to have been so honored.
Caroline Criado-Perez, a crusader for feminist issues, had said she was considering suing the bank for not upholding the country’s Equality Act and she started a petition on Change.org asking that a woman be represented on the country’s bills which was signed by more than 35,000 people.
Carney said Austen would most likely appear for the first time in 2017 and added that the process by which historical figures are chosen for money would be reviewed.
“We want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity,” he said in a statement.
Criado-Perez told the Guardian she was very happy to hear the news.
“Without this campaign, without the 35,000 people who signed our Change.org petition, the Bank of England would have unthinkingly airbrushed women out of history,” she said. “We warmly welcome this move from the Bank and thank them for listening to us and taking such positive and emphatic steps to address our concerns. To hear Jane Austen confirmed is fantastic, but to hear the process will be comprehensively reviewed is even better.”
The picture of Austen that will appear on the bill is a sketch of the writer done by her sister Cassandra. However, the quote from Austen’s works that will appear on the bill, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!,” has drawn objections from some. The quote is uttered by Miss Caroline Bingley, eventual sister-in-law to heroine Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Jane and someone with whom Elizabeth was not on good terms. Guardian writer John Mullan called it a “major blunder.”
“Has the Bank of England governor actually read Pride and Prejudice?” he asked. “These words are spoken by one of Austen's most deceitful characters, a woman who has no interest in books at all.”
Meanwhile, Washington Post writer Manuel Roig-Franzia said the UK’s new diverse money highlighted the lack of women on US banknotes.
“No women,” he wrote of the bills that are most commonly used. “No minorities. All white guys. (Yes, there is a Susan B. Anthony coin. But when’s the last time you used one of those?)”