Caroline Criado-Perez led the recent campaign to place a woman's portrait on Britain's banknotes. In this article she tells how
he leveraged social media to get the word out and spur the Bank of England to action. -Editor
Until I saw reports about Winston Churchill being introduced as the new face of the five pound note, I’d never given bank notes much
thought. But on reading that he’d be replacing the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry I realised this meant that, other than the Queen, there
wouldn’t be any women on sterling at all.
It was only a few months since I’d set up the Women’s Room, which explores female representation, and I was acutely aware of how often
women have been excised from our history in the past. I didn’t think there was any Machiavellian intent in the Bank of England’s decision
but the oversight made me angry and I wanted to make a stand.
I started tweeting about it and set up a petition on Change.org. Then the media picked up on the story and I started getting requests to
do press and TV interviews. A lawyer contacted me saying she thought the bank’s decision breached the Public Sector Equality Duty and put
me in touch with a solicitor, Louise Whitfield, who helped me draft a letter of complaint. The Bank was surprisingly quick to respond, but
its letter was very dismissive. It said women had been considered in the selection process, and seemed to imply that was enough.
Pre-internet, that might have been it – I can imagine a situation where I’d have been very disheartened by that response and not known
what to do next. Instead, I was able to post a screenshot of the letter and publicly mock it. This added fuel to my campaign – as the
letter was reposted across the internet, the number of petition signatories rocketed and we presented over 30,000 signatures to the
We made a request on Twitter for people to attend the presentation
dressed as historical female figures. I remember being really nervous because it could just have ended up being me dressed as Rosalind
Franklin, with my dog, but I needn’t have worried – the response was phenomenal. We had Mary Sewell, Emmeline Pankhurst, Amy Johnson,
George Eliot, Boudica – an amazing turnout.
The Bank seemed reluctant to back down, and maintained there were no grounds for a legal challenge. Nevertheless, I set up a
crowd-funding page to raise money to potentially take them to court and the response was incredible – within two weeks, we’d raised up to
Then I had a request from the bank for a meeting. I think this coincided with Mark Carney taking over from Mervyn King as governor –
it’s possible he came in on his first day and said, “I don’t want to be worrying about the bloody faces on bank notes. Get all this off my
I maintained a poker face when I was called back in and told Jane Austen would be the new face of the £10 note, but I was overjoyed.
To read the complete article, see:
social media helped me get Jane Austen on to £10 notes
THE BOOK BAZARRE
PHOTOGRAPHERS: SHOW US WHAT YOU GOT!
Prizes in the Whitman Publishing “Share Your Hobby” Photo Contest include books and
shopping sprees up to $500 in value. Deadline is July 4, 2015. For contest rules, visit www.Whitman.com/ShareYourHobby
Wayne Homren, Editor
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