Queen Elizabeth II of England was featured on more banknotes than any other woman by a long stretch. After her death, however, she might gradually disappear from world currencies. Australia announced last week that the late queen will not be included on new banknote issues. While British territories or Commonwealth countries could begin to feature the new British monarch, King Charles III, others - like Australia - will move away from royal motives.
Women on banknotes still remain rare around the world and a phase-out of Elizabeth could be expected to decrease their appearances on currency even more. But an analysis of global banknotes shows that countries which begin to feature women are likely to continue doing so. Between 2016 and 2023, the number of independent countries that had women on their banknotes rose only by a handful to 46 as of February 2023. At the same time, eight countries that had already placed women on currency started to feature more of them.
Among the countries upping the number of women on their bills are nations that could soon stop printing banknote evergreen Elizabeth. Canada started to feature anti-segregationist Viola Desmond in 2018, while the Bank of England added author Jane Austen in 2017. Australia has actually featured four women other than Elizabeth since the 1990s, while New Zealand and the Bahamas have banknotes depicting both Elizabeth II and a local female honorary.
More examples of women following women onto banknotes can be found in Latin America. Among the four countries in the region that feature at least three women on their bills is Mexico. In the 1970, the nun and writer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz began to grace the country's currency. In 2010, artist Frida Kahlo was added and feminist Hermila Galindo as well as revolutionary Carmen Serdán followed in 2019. In much the same vein, Peru also started out with a religious figure, saint Rose of Lima, on their new Sol currency in the 1990s before historian María Rostworowski was added in 2021 together with two more women, Japanese-Peruvian painter Tilsa Tsuchiya and singer Chabuca Granda, showing how the scope of which women were featured gradually widened.
Elizabeth II's death could be bringing the biggest changes to the Caribbean, where seven Commonwealth countries currently feature her on all of their bills. (Six share the same currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar.) The practice of British nations, dependencies and territories being able to mint their own currency has caused quite a few more of Elizabeth's effigies to be scattered around the globe - from the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Gibraltar to St. Helena, the Falkland Islands and the Cayman Islands. Instead of featuring Elizabeth or Charles, nations could in the future go the way of another British territory, Bermuda, which has already all but done away with the seminal queen on their currency. The island has opted for depicting plants, animals and landscapes instead of notable figures - an approach inherently more neutral in gender questions. Currencies devoid of famous faces - male or female - also exist in the Eurozone countries, Denmark, Brazil and Fiji, among others.