10/17/2013 11:53 EDT | Updated 10/17/2013 11:56 EDT

Margaret Atwood Joins Push To Get Women On Canadian Money


After her call to make the national anthem gender-neutral, Margaret Atwood is pushing for a woman other than the Queen to appear on Canada's money.

The author voiced her support for a new petition backing the idea after Alice Munro's Nobel Prize win.

The only women beside the Queen to appear on Canadian bills, albeit in miniature form, were the Famous Five (Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards), along with Thérèse Casgrain, the first female leader of a political party in Canada. But all six were purged from the new $50 bill to make way for — wait for it — the Arctic icebreaker Amundsen.

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The petition criticizes the decision and questions former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney's statement that "Our bank notes belong to all Canadians." It currently has more than 5,000 signatures.

Earlier this year, Carney pledged to put author Jane Austen on the £10 note in his new role as Governor of the Bank of England. The move followed public outcry over Winston Churchill bumping prison reformer Elizabeth Fry from the £5 note. Fry was the only woman on British money, aside from the Queen.

The Canadian petition argues that what was unacceptable for the U.K. is also unacceptable in Canada.

The push for more inclusive currency comes on the eve of the release of the new series of $5 and $10 bills on November 7. The new $100, $50 and $20 bills are already in circulation.

Besides reports of melting, maple syrup smells and controversy over the removal of ethnic-looking people, the recent currency changes have been widely attacked for being part of the Conservative government's push to reshape Canadian culture and history (see War of 1812 and Museum of Civilization, errr, History).

The backs of the new bills focus on "great Canadian accomplishments" while the fronts continue to feature the Queen and former prime ministers (all male). The space program is featured on the back of the $5 bill, a Via train on the $10, the Vimy Ridge memorial in France on the $20, the aforementioned icebreaker on the $50 and a medical researcher on the $100.

That researcher is, notably, a woman, though she is nameless.

Besides women, the new bills also got rid of references to First Nations peoples and a quote from the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights."

There are already suggestions flying around about which famous Canadian woman should grace our money. The National Post has suggested Nellie McClung, Roberta Bondar, Anne Murray, Kim Campbell, Ellen Page and, of course, Margaret Atwood.

Who would you like to see on Canada's money? Share your suggestions in the comments.

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