One indication of how a nation feels about its exceptional women is whether or not it depicts them on its currency. In fact, a number of nations on every continent have honored their prominent female citizens, recent and ancient alike, by putting their likenesses on their money.
To compile a list of women who have appeared on currency around the world, 24/7 Tempo has gleaned information from sources such as Banknote World, Visual Capitalist, the National Museum of American History, and Mintage World, as well as several encyclopedia sites. The list is limited to paper currency and may include women who appeared on bank notes that are no longer in circulation, such as Germany’s Deutsche Mark and Italy’s lira, both supplanted by the euro.
In a reflection of the reach of the British Commonwealth, for instance, that Queen Elizabeth II, Great Britain’s longest-serving sovereign, appears on banknotes in 19 different currencies. (She first was seen on paper money in 1935 at age 8 on the Canadian dollar.) Images of other queens appear on currency as well, among them Kurmanjan Datka of Kyrgyzstan, Dido of Carthage, and Teuta of Illyria, who thumbed her nose at ancient Rome. Other political leaders honored on bank notes included Golda Meir of Israel and Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines, the first female heads of state in their respective countries. (These are the most famous female leaders in history.)
It’s not only women in political leadership roles who appear on paper money, of course. The rich Latin American poetic tradition is represented by Juana de Ibarbourou (Uruguay), Salomé Ureña (Dominican Republic), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (Mexico). Opera singers have been honored on banknotes, too, among them Birgit Nilsson (Denmark), Emmy Destinn (Czech Republic), and Jenny Lind (Sweden).
As you might expect, suffragettes have been immortalized on currency as have social activists and reformers of various kinds – some of whom paid for their commitment to liberty with their lives. (Here are 25 women lawmakers you should know.)
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