PETER FROST takes a close look at his last feminist fiver.

No doubt prompted by the posh boys in the Cabinet Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, has announced Winston Churchill will replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry as the face of £5 notes.

This means that, other than the Queen, there will be no women featuring on our English bank notes. Perhaps we should thank our lucky stars it was not Maggie Thatcher.

What a terrible message that all-male line-up on our banknotes will send, particularly to young women trying to make their way in a male world. It tells them loud and clears that no woman has done anything important enough to be features on our currency.

What dangerous nonsense. Thousands of women are leading figures in their fields. Thousands more have played key roles in the history of our country. Not just that but they have done so against the historic odds stacked against them.

This decision by the Bank of England is yet another example how women’s considerable achievements are so often hidden from history.

It is also another example of how the establishment undervalues the contributions of women in so many fields.

Now with our new Bank of England male-only notes the message that women do not belong in public life, they never have, and they never will, will be rammed home every time we spend our hard earned cash.

Caroline Criado-Perez has started an on-line petition. She commented “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.”

Even one of the Chancellor’s close aides has intervened to demand that women now be considered for other bank notes. Tory MP Amber Rudd, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Osborne said “It would be a mistake not to feature women on any banknote”.

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, Elizabeth Fry was introduced on the £5 note.

In Frosty’s wallet.

Here is Frosty’s short list for women to appear on the notes in his thin wallet. If you have other nominations leave a comment on the blog.

Jayaben Desai 

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Leader of the strikers in the epic Grunwick dispute in London” in 1976.

Ellen Wilkinson

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Labour Party MP. One of Britain’s first women MPs. Founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Marched to London with Jarrow Hunger Marchers.

Rosalind Franklin

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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 win their Nobel prize.

Mary Jane Seacole


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.

Emily Wilding Davidson


This militant Suffragette died under the hooves of the Kings Horse in a protest at the Derby exactly one hundred years ago.

Doreen Lawrencence

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Mother of Stephen Lawrence Black British murdered British teenager who was killed by racists. She is a leading campaigner against racism and injustice.

Better in Scotland

As so often they do things better in Scotland. There are two women pictured on Scottish Banknotes today.

The Clydesdale £50 note features Elsie Maud Inglis who, in 1894, built a maternity hospital in Edinburgh for poor women, staffed entirely by women. She also campaigned for votes and rights for women.

The Scottish £20 note has a picture of an anonymous female chemist. A decade after the notes first appeared the press tracked her down. She is Janet Mullen a mother of three and a chemist still working in the water industry.

Just don’t try to spend either of these Scottish notes in an English Pub.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star in 2013


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