Bank of England Sees Sense (and Sensibility)

The Bank of England has announced that British novelist Jane Austen will be replacing naturalist Charles Darwin on the £10 note ($15.36). This news comes after people were outraged at the announcement in April that social reformer Elizabeth Fry would be replaced by former prime minister Winston Churchill on the £5 note, causing a total absence of women’s faces on English currency (apart from the Queen, who is not there through merit).

A mock-up of the note was revealed on Wednesday at Chawton House, a former home of Austen herself. The design includes a portrait of Austen adapted from a sketch by her sister, along with the quote “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” from Pride and Prejudice. The notes are likely to come into circulation in 2017, the same year that Elizabeth Fry will be phased out.

Journalist Caroline Criado-Perez organized the protests that ultimately led to this decision, including an online petition that gained more than 35,000 signatures. Unfortunately, Criado-Perez faced deplorable Twitter abuse due to the success of her campaign; a sign that misogyny must continue to be tirelessly combated. Despite this, Criado-Perez has said that she is “absolutely delighted” with the decision; a victory for English women (maybe it’s time American bills also had a revamp?).

Mark Carney, new head of the Bank of England, has played quite the Darcy-esque hero in his announcement of the change, his pledge to review the note-choosing process and in his statement that he “want(s) people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity.” But Austen will only be the third woman to have graced the face of the English bank notes, along with Fry and nurse Florence Nightingale. (This is just one woman less than has ever served on the bank’s policy committee, which has had 31 members since its creation in 1997.) An 18th century white middle-class woman who approved patriarchal traditions in her novels is not everyone’s idea of diversity, but Carney is undoubtedly making ripples and only time will tell if he will make a splash (Colin Firth-style or not).

Picture from Twitter user dna 


Natasha Turner is a freelance journalist and editor based in London and a former Ms. editorial intern.