The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 44, November 3, 2019, Article 29


There was been much discussion in recent years over the lack of representation of women on paper money around the world, including the controversial (to some) plan for placing Harriet Tubman on a U.S. banknote. A spokesman for the London-headquartered firm Stenn passed along this summary of the company's recent study of world banknotes. Thank you. -Editor

The recent announcements of JMW Turner as the new face of the £20 note, and Alan Turing being featured on the new £50, have reignited the debate about gender representation on banknotes.

Cross-border trade finance provider Stenn has conducted some research into the presence of women on banknotes around the world at

We found that:

  • 117 of the 180 legal tender currencies around the world feature people
  • 88% of these people are men
  • When excluding Queen Elizabeth, this figure rises to 91%
  • 69 of the 177 currencies are 100% male, including the US dollar, Chinese yuan, and Indian rupee
  • Only 3 currencies have a gender balance less than 50% male when excluding the Queen – the Danish krone, Swedish krona, and Australian dollar
  • To readdress this imbalance, we replaced men with women on some of the world's major banknotes. We chose women with the most Wikipedia pageviews in the 18 months between January 2018 and June 2019. Living women and royalty were excluded.
Bank of England Five Pounds Boudicca fantasy note

For the UK, Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill is replaced on the £5 note by anti-imperialist and rebel Boudicca. And on the £20 note, the mother of computer programs Ada Lovelace (who was perhaps unlucky not to be chosen for the new £50) replaces Adam Smith, the father of economics. The £10 already shows a woman in Jane Austen, while it seemed unfair to remove Alan Turing from the £50 so soon after his announcement.

We've also replaced men with women on US dollar bills, Chinese yuan and Japanese yen, as well as adding women to the Russian rouble and the euro.

Great concept. Here are a few that particularly caught my eye. See the complete article for more. -Editor

£20 – Ada Lovelace

Ada-Lovelace-ú20 Fantasy note

The only legitimate daughter of the poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was raised by her mother to love mathematics and logic. In 1833 she was introduced to the famous mathematician Charles Babbage, and the pair became close friends.

Babbage was working on plans for an Analytical Engine, a machine that is considered one of the earliest computers. Lovelace wrote the first published computer programs to accompany an article that she had translated about the Analytical Engine. As such, she is known as one of the first computer programmers.

Lovelace was able to see the capabilities of computers beyond mere calculations, which was a rarity for her time. Unfortunately, she died of cancer at only 36, before her undoubtably huge potential could be fully realised. Shortlisted for the new £50 note, she was perhaps unlucky not to be chosen.

Germany: €10 – Marlene Dietrich

Marlene-Dietrich-10-Euro Fantasy note

As an actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich's career spanned 70 years. In Weimar Berlin she acted on the stage and in silent films, before moving to Hollywood to make films in the 1930s.

Dietrich was approached by Nazi Party officials and offered a lucrative contract to return to Germany and make films for the Nazis. She declined due to her strong political convictions. In the late 1930s she created a fund with several other German exiles to help Jews and dissidents escape the Nazi regime.

In 1939 Dietrich renounced her German citizenship and became a US citizen. During the Second World War she performed for Allied troops and helped sell war bonds. She received the Medal of Freedom in 1947 for her wartime work.

After the war she worked mainly as a cabaret artist and singer, performing live around the world up until her 75th birthday. She died aged 90 as an enduring icon of stage and screen.

Japan: ¥1000 – Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe-Gozen-1000-Yen Fantasy note

Tomoe Gozen was a female samurai considered the first general of Japan. She served in the war that led to the establishment of the first shogunate in Japan. Although details about her personal life are contested, the details about her skill as a warrior are well recognised.

At the Battle of Yokotagawara Tomoe defeated and beheaded seven samurai, at a time when collecting heads was the ultimate sign of military prowess. In 1184 she led 300 outnumbered samurai in battle against 6,000 cavalry troops in the Battle of Awazu. Although she fought bravely, her troops were defeated, with Tomoe one of only five survivors.

She was ordered to desert the battlefield by her commander, which was considered an extreme disgrace. To redeem her honour, Tomoe beheaded one final warrior. What happened to her after her last battle is unknown. There are differing accounts saying she was either forced to become a concubine, continued to avenge her fallen comrades or that she even became a Buddhist nun.

Whatever her fate, her legacy as a warrior worth a thousand lives on through the epic Tale of the Heike, which is still read today.

Highlighting accomplished women on banknotes is a perennial topic. Money artist J.S.G. Boggs created his Women's Series of fantasy U.S. notes beginning in the 1990s with his famous $100 Harriet Tubman note. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Dollar Diversity: Replacing Men on Banknotes with Women (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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