Women make up a quarter of the candidates for the next bank note. From Beatrix Potter to Elizabeth Siddal or Laura Ashley, 144 women have made the longlist presented by the Bank of England today.
Almost 30,000 nominations have come pouring in to the Bank from members of the public all hoping to get a say in who goes on the new £20 bank note, set for circulation in 2020. Chief cashier Victoria Cleland commented that this is testament to how important banknotes are as a symbol:
The Bank is delighted with the number and breadth of the nominations we have received, and we are very grateful to all those who have engaged with us on this new initiative.
The Bank of England put out a call for ideas two months ago, asking the public who should feature on the note to “celebrate Britain’s achievements in the visual arts”. There are just two other requirements: to be considered candidates must not be “unduly divisive” or, crucially, alive.
This has been a sticking point for campaigners, who argue this limits the likelihood of a woman being selected.
But it turns out it isn’t quite so unlikely after all that we’ll get another woman on a bank note. Today, the Bank revealed its list of nearly 600 still eligible candidates, which is made up of 144 women and 448 men.
The lack of women on bank notes has been a touchy subject before. When the Bank of England removed social reformer Elizabeth Fry - the only woman on a banknote apart from the Queen - from the £5 note in 2013, campaigners objected, successfully petitioning to introduce Jane Austen on the £10 note instead.
The final decision will be announced by the Bank next spring.
Despite the many women on the longlist, odds are the final winner will be a male artist. Ladbrokes placed only one woman - Barbara Hepworth - among the 18 most likely to win.
The top three candidates are William Hogarth, Richard Attenborough and JMW Turner.