Mark Carney has been Governor of the Bank of England for less than a month but he has already solved one of the bank’s toughest challenges; putting a woman on British banknotes.
The Bank of England announced Wednesday that author Jane Austen will replace Charles Darwin on the country’s £10 note by 2017. The new note will feature a portrait of Ms. Austen as well as a passage from her novel Pride and Prejudice: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”
“Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes,” Mr. Carney said in a press release. “Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognized as one of the greatest writers in English literature.” He added that the bank will also review how it selects historical figures for future notes.
The decision ends a growing controversy in Britain over the lack of women on the country’s paper currency. There is no formal process for selecting who goes on banknotes, which have featured historical figures since 1970, and the selection has been left largely to the governor of the bank.
The £10 note is among the largest in circulation, with roughly 750 million currently in use. That compares to about 308 million £5 notes.
In April Mr. Carney’s predecessor, Sir Mervyn King, announced that Winston Churchill would replace 19th century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note in 2016, leaving no women on banknotes other than the Queen. The portraits on the other bills include Mr. Darwin on the £10, Adam Smith the £20, steam engine inventors Matthew Boulton and James Watt on a new £50; and the central bank’s first governor, John Houblon, who is on an older version of the £50 note released in 1994 to celebrate the Bank of England’s 300th anniversary.
The removal of Ms. Fry prompted a storm of criticism as well as an online petition and a legal challenge by university student Caroline Criado-Perez. On Wednesday, Ms. Criado-Perez praised the bank’s decision and gave credit to Mr. Carney, who started as the bank’s governor on July 1 after spending just over five years as Governor of the Bank of Canada.
“I think there is no question that once Carney came in, things changed,” said Ms. Criado-Perez who collected 35,000 names on the petition and raised £13,600, or $21,500, for the legal challenge. The money will now be donated to charity. “This is a brilliant day for women and a fantastic one for people power,” she added.
“Britain has many women in its history of whom we should be proud, and today’s decision is part of creating a culture of expectation that there will be many more in our future too,” said Stella Creasy a Labour Member of Parliament who organized a campaign of MPs to put Ms. Austen on the money.
Mr. Carney said the bank never intended to exclude women from the currency, but he said the selection process will change.
“We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields,” Mr. Carney said. “The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity.”