International Women’s Day! Remarkable Women Celebrated on UK Coins…

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

To celebrate, we’re taking a closer look at just some of the incredible women who have been commemorated on our UK coins!

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, making her Britain’s longest reigning monarch and the fourth longest reigning monarch in worldwide history. During her reign, not only did the Queen appear on the obverse of every UK and British Isles coin issued, but she also featured on the reverse several commemorative coins, such as the first ever Royal 50p issued to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee.

The first coin issued since her sad passing in September 2022 was the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Memorial 50p, which paid tribute to the much-loved monarch’s life and reign.

Mary Seacole

Nurse and ‘war hero’, Mary Seacole put herself at risk to care for sick and injured soldiers during the Crimean War.

From the age of 12, Seacole helped her mother, a nurse who specialised in traditional Jamaican medicine. Inspired by her mother and following the death of her husband, she focussed on caring for the sick. Her medical expertise was invaluable during the Crimean War, where, along with Thomas Day, she opened a ‘British Hotel’ near the battlefields. She devoted her time and resources to caring for sick and injured soldiers, even riding on horseback into the battlefields under fire to help men from both sides of the conflict.

The Mary Seacole £5 was issued in 2023 in collaboration with ‘The Mary Seacole Trust’ to pay tribute to her dedication to helping others.

The reverse design by Sandra Deiana is based on a genuine photograph of Seacole. The photograph was taken around 1870 and is now held at Winchester College.

Florence Nightingale

Named after the Italian city in which she was born in 1820Florence Nightingale is famous for her work in the military hospitals during the Crimean War where she tended to wounded soldiers.

In 1860 she laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ proved to be influential in changing the way hospitals were run and the role of nurses within them.

2010 Florence Nightingale £2

Released in 2010 to commemorate 150 years of nursing, the Florence Nightingale £2 features a design by Gordon Summers of a nurse taking the pulse of a patient.

Dame Vera Lynn

Coined as the ‘Forces Sweetheart’, singer Dame Vera Lynn rose to fame in 1940 with her wartime songs, White Cliffs of Dover, and We’ll Meet Again. She spent time travelling the world, singing to soldiers who were fighting on front lines, risking her life to inspire others.

Sadly, in 2020, we received the news that Dame Vera Lynn had passed away, and in 2022, she was celebrated on a UK £2 coin. Her life and achievements touched so many lives, and the Queen even sent a private message of condolence to Dame Vera’s family.

The Dame Vera Lynn £2 features a portrait of the famous singer with her signature victory rolls hairstyle on the reverse along with the years of her life 1917-2020, the perfect tribute to one of the UK’s most inspirational women.

Mary Anning

Mary Anning was one of Britain’s greatest fossil hunters and her discoveries were some of the most important geological finds of all time.

Her discoveries of spectacular marine reptiles prompted the scientific community to begin further investigation into explanations for changes in the natural world.

In 2021, a 3-coin series was issued by The Royal Mint to commemorate Anning and her discoveries. These 50p coins, issued in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, feature designs of the Temnodontosaurus, Plesiosaurus and, Dimorphodon – all prehistoric giants discovered by Anning on the Jurassic Coast!

Mary Anning was a truly inspiring woman, who pushed for her passion, making important historic discoveries and changes as a result.

Rosalind Franklin

English chemist, Rosalind Franklin sits right at the very heart of the story of DNA. Her ground-breaking research and inspiring work ethic were central to the discovery of the helical structure of DNA, which was later publicised by Watson and Crick.

Tragically, at the age of just 37, Franklin passed away from ovarian cancer, robbing her of the same awards and recognitions that her colleagues received.

In 2020, to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday, she also became the second scientist to be celebrated in The Royal Mint’s Innovation in Science series.

The reverse design of this coin, by David Knapton, features a depiction of her famous Photograph 51, which enabled her to discover the structure of DNA in her laboratory in Cambridge.

Ada Lovelace

Rosalind Franklin isn’t the only female to feature in the Innovation in Science series…

English mathematician and writer, Ada Lovelace, was commemorated on a UK £2 in 2023 – the 9th coin in the Innovation in Science series.

Lovelace worked closely with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine and saw limitless potential in the computer. She studied the technology meticulously and discovered there was much more to computers than just calculating mathematical equations. This lead to her being referred to as the first computer programmer. Charles Babbage himself even gave her the nickname ‘enchantress of numbers’.

The reverse design of the Ada Lovelace £2 by Osborne Ross takes inspiration from the original input cards used by Lovelace to programme the Analytical Engine, along with the inscription “a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature”. The quote is a self declared statement taken from a letter that Lovelace wrote to her mother.

Agatha Christie

After the end of the First World War, Christie published her first novel The Mysterious Affair at StylesThis incredibly popular story introduced readers to one of Christie’s most famous characters – Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Writing well into her later years, Christie wrote more than 70 detective novels as well as short fiction which have been adapted into films, television, and radio programmes. In 1971, she was made a Dame of the British Empire for her outstanding contribution to Literature.

In 2020, to mark 100 years since her first publication, The Royal Mint celebrated the world’s best-selling novelist with a £2 coin. The design, by David Lawrence, pays homage to Christie’s crime novels, with a piece of a jigsaw slotting into place and her signature at the bottom.

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter truly was a woman ahead of her time. Not only was she an accomplished children’s author and illustrator, she was a passionate and knowledgeable farmer and conservationist – long before it became popular.

However, it’s fair to say her enchanting tales of countryside characters, including Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tiggywinkle, skyrocketed her to stardom. And in 2016, Beatrix Potter’s life was commemorated on a series of 50p coins.

Between 2016 and 2020, The Royal Mint issued 15 50p coins celebrating beloved characters from some of Potter’s most famous works, but the very first coin in the series was dedicated to Beatrix Potter herself.

There really have been some incredible women celebrated on our UK coins, and this is just a small selection.

Is there an influential women you’d like to see on our coins in the future? Let us know in the comments below!

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