Friday, March 7, 2014
The Associated Press
LONDON - Jane Austen will become the new face on England's 10-pound notes -- in an attempt to add a little pride and fight the prejudice against women on the country's currency.
Novelist Jane Austen is pictured in the design concept for England’s new 10-pound note.
The Associated Press
The Bank of England chose the chronicler of 18th-century English country life as the new face of the note, bowing to critics who complained that the venerable institution was ignoring women on their currency.
"Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes," the bank's new governor Mark Carney said Wednesday in a statement. "Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognized as one of the greatest writers in English literature."
Carney elevated the creator of Mr. Darcy to the 10-pound (about $15) note within weeks of his taking over the helm of the U.K.'s central bank.
The controversy began earlier this year when the bank announced it would replace the 19th-century social reformer Elizabeth Fry with wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the 5-pound (about $7.50) note. Though Churchill is still revered for his World War II leadership, the change led to protests because no other woman -- besides Queen Elizabeth II -- would be represented on Britain's currency.
Though few quibble with the hard work the monarch has done for Britain, women's rights advocates fiercely argued that counting the head of state among the luminaries sent the wrong message to young women. This, they said, suggested that the only way for women to get ahead was to be born into the right family.
Tens of thousands signed a petition. Lawmakers asked for reflection. Some argued that equality laws might be violated.The outgoing governor, Mervyn King, was forced to reassure lawmakers that Austen was quietly waiting in the wings for her chance to appear.
Austen, whose novels include "Emma" and "Sense and Sensibility," is one of Britain's best-loved authors. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of "Pride and Prejudice."
The Austen note will be issued within a year of the Churchill note, which is targeted for release during 2016. The present face of the 10-pound note, Charles Darwin, will become extinct.
The recognition can't help but be sweet for the legion of fans devoted to an author whose observations on money and fortune remain biting two centuries after they were first published.
However, rather than one of her observations on money on the currency, the bank inexplicably chose the quote "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" from "Pride and Prejudice." It is not clear whether the bank considered, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."