Should more women be on our banknotes?

Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Middlemarch novelist George Eliot and warrior queen Boudicca should be among the historic characters represented on banknotes, campaigners say.

A row has started to brew since The Bank of England announced in April that Sir Winston Churchill will appear on the next £5 note, to be issued in 2016.

The great wartime leader will replace prison reformer Elizabeth Fry - one of only two women selected since historical figures were introduced in 1970.

Now a 30,000-strong petition calling for better female representation on banknotes is to be delivered to the Bank of England.

Freelance journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, 29, posted the petition on the website

She has raised £13,000 from well-wishers to mount a legal challenge to the Bank under equality laws and said she has been in discussions with lawyers.

The petition says: "An all-male line-up on our banknotes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear. This is patently untrue.

"Not only have numerous women emerged as leading figures in their fields, they have done so against the historic odds stacked against them which denied women a public voice and relegated them to the private sphere - making their emergence into public life all the more impressive and worthy of celebration."

Ms Criado-Perez said of the campaign: "This isn't a difficult ask. There is an embarrassment of women to choose from. The difficulty is choosing between them, not trying to find them."

[Britain to honour Winston Churchill on new banknote]

New Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who took up his role on Monday, has promised to review the lack of female representation and plans to make an announcement before the end of the month, after discussing with colleagues how best to "celebrate the diversity of great British historical figures".

Mr Carney's predecessor Sir Mervyn King recently revealed that Pride And Prejudice novelist Jane Austen is the leading candidate to replace Charles Darwin on the £10 note, as and when it is changed.

[International Women's Day 2013]

The Bank has also come under pressure from politicians who have argued that while Churchill is a good choice for a banknote, the achievements of historic women should also be reflected on currency, alongside the Queen.

Ms Criado-Perez said she was encouraged by Mr Carney's commitment to look into the matter and would prefer to give the money raised for a legal challenge to women's charities instead, depending on what the Bank decides.

She said: "It's definitely a shift in rhetoric, although there aren't any guarantees."

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