Paper Money

Paper money portraits of women just 8 percent of worldwide total

Author Jane Austin will be depicted on the Bank of England’s £10 note starting in 2017, increasing the number of women depicted on paper money by one. Shown is a concept design.

Image courtesy of Bank of England.

The story never ends. It is not unexpected that the plan to place the image of a woman on United States paper currency has attracted more than its fair share of domestic attention. The fact that it has attracted international comment is a bit surprising. 

By way of the Huffington Post, an Israeli social activist, Shir Nosatzki, took notice of the American $10 note and assumed the role of assessor of the worldwide situation vis-a-vis women on paper currency. Her research of online databases discovered hundreds of bills used in nearly 200 countries and found that, of 609 people depicted on paper currency, only 51 of them, or 8 percent, are women.

Nosatzki is a journalist, editor, and social organizer who in 2011 was responsible for encouraging more than a million Israelis to take to the streets of Tel Aviv in equality and social-economic justice rallies, and who also monitors the representation of women on public panels in Israel. After her currency discovery, she is calling for an international end to the status quo, calling it “a reflection of the discrimination against women throughout history.”

She says this is a “double glass ceiling,” meaning that even if a woman in the past has been deserving, “visual segregation” occurs when men choose their own cultural heroes and render the contribution of women irrelevant. Her provocative solution: completely equal representation; all new bills should depict women until 50 percent representation is reached. Her ideal is the current Australian system that has Queen Elizabeth on one of its $5 notes, with all other Australian issues having a man on one side and a woman on the other. 

And what of those countries who claim they cannot find qualified women? That, she says, is “just their problem.”

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