I Declare After All the Women in History, Jane Austen Isn’t the Best for a Banknote

Is Austen the ideal face to be replacing Darwin on the £10 note? What about the forgotten women of history? My thoughts on providing equal representation on our currency.

Jane Austen is due to replace Charles Darwin as the historical figure on the British £10 note. Whilst I respect Austen’s undeniable talent as an author, I feel the choice of her smacks of tokenism. There are countless other women who have been downtrodden in history who’s achievements have come in fields dominated by men.

I then had a thought – why is there only one variety of each note in circulation? Why couldn’t we have equal representation by having two versions – one with a notable man from history and another with a woman who had similar success in that field, a woman history forgot?

£5 – Elizabeth Fry and John Howard

The £5 is the only British note in circulation to currently depict a woman – Elizabeth Fry. Fry was a driving force behind the introduction of legislation which brought about the humane treatment of prisoners serving custodial sentences.

John Howard similarly fought for the humane treatment of prisoners. He fought for improvements to penal institutions to maintain prisoners’ physical and mental well-being.  He found to ensure prisoners had access to an adequate water supply along with a healthy diet.

Elizabeth Fry is to be replaced by Winston Churchill in 2016 (when Austen will be making her appearance on the £10 note), so really Austen’s appearance will only maintain the current status quo.

£10 – Charles Darwin and Rosalind Franklin

As far as I’m concerned, Darwin’s contribution to scientific advancement cannot be argued with. He introduced the concept of evolution and survival of the fittest to a society still relying on the religious explanation of where the creatures of Earth have come from.

Rosalind Franklin’s contribution to scientific advancement has been largely ignored. She is the unsung hero of the discovery of DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images of the double helix provided the data that Francis Crick and James Watson used to make their hypothesis on its structure. She died of ovarian cancer at 37, just four years before the Nobel prize was claimed by her contemporaries.

£20 – Adam Smith and Joan Robinson

Adam Smith is another unremarkable inclusion on British currency. Although a controversial idea (something I don’t agree with myself), the theory of free market economics has shaped this country to the economic state in which it currently resides. Take it as you will, but his effect on the British economy is undeniable, therefore it is only right that his image be on the currency he has shaped.

Joan Robinson was also an economist who contributed to British economic history. She contributed her name to an economic growth model, and wrote numerous works on economic theory.  Finally, four years before she died, she became the first female fellow at King’s College, Cambridge.

£50 – Matthew Boulton & James Watt and Caroline Haslett & Amy Johnson

Matthew Boulton and James Watt were pioneers in the engineering industry, Watt being the inventor of the of the steam engine with a separate condenser. The business the partnership created also nurtured a lot of engineering talent at the time.

Sadly, there haven’t really been any women who’ve had the same effect on the engineering industry in a partnership as Boulton and Watt. However Caroline Haslett stands out as a female face in an overwhelmingly male field. She was a pioneer of electricity in the home, as she helped women escape from the drudgery of housewifery (obviously it’s not for everyone). An electrical engineer and campaigner, she was the first Secretary of the Women’s Engineering Society as well as first Director of the Electrical Association for Women. Caroline Haslett Trivia – Her dying wish was that she be cremated by electricity.

As there are two faces on the current version of the £50 note, it seems only right that another woman who shone in a predominantly male field join Caroline Haslett. My choice is Amy Johnson. After becoming the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930, the pioneering aviator went on to set a slew of long-distance flying records. She died after going off-course in bad weather while transporting RAF aircraft around the country for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War.

How would you deal with the current imbalance of historical figures depicted on British currency? Do you feel it is a problem?

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Too Young to Comment on Thatcher?

Since when was a politician’s only effects felt when they were in office? When Winston Churchill was no longer prime minister, did the UK go back to war with Germany? When Tony Blair was replaced by Gordon Brown did we automatically pull out of Iraq? The policies and ideologies which Margaret Thatcher implemented during her period as prime minister are largely still with us today, so why can’t I comment on the life of a woman who has affected the world I was born into and have grown up in – just because I wasn’t around when she was in office?

It really is tiring to justify yourself and your opinion to people older than you – so often you are given a patronising pat on the head like “Well done for trying, but you’re too young to understand.” I understand just fine, thank you. Child poverty during Thatcher’s government was the worst in the developed world at the time (the current Conservative government are doing their damnedest to surpass those levels, though – what a goal!). This surely was helped by her government putting countless working class people out of work by closing shipyards and coal mines, to name just two examples.

The fact she was the UK’s first and only female prime minister meant almost nothing for women of her gender – she actively despised feminism and what it stood for, believing that the women’s liberation movement had gone far enough (in the 80s, really?). She actually proclaimed feminism to be “poison”, surrounded herself with powerful men – and certain publications have been trying to portray her as a feminist icon. Give me a break.

Thatcher became an archetypal Conservative by her striving towards privatisation (aside from the NHS and National Rail, which have since been at least partially privatised by different Tory governments). She is the woman who is behind the massive electricity and gas bills you have received in the last few months, hiding it under the banner that prices will go down due to competition.

Her political ideology has been picked up by Southern republican politicians over in the USA, and surely that can’t be seen by a positive thing. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all claim to have been influenced by her politics, further clarifying that all three have been cut from the same cloth – making all three of them unelectable, at least to me.

Thatcherism is still alive and well today, it serves as a driving factor to widen the gap between the richest and poorest in this country. Frankly, it’s disgusting. Surely the only right thing for the current government to do is to provide Thatcher with a funeral/cremation, funded by the private sector. It’s what she would have wanted.

I am bycotting all news sites and TV news until the woman is buried on 17th April. Good riddance to her, it’s just a shame her politics didn’t die with her.