BUCHAREST, Romania (Reuters) – On Friday, Romania’s central bank unveiled a new banknote honoring World War I lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu, the first-named woman to appear on Romanian currency.
The new 20 lei ($4.56) note, which depicts Teodoroiu, Romania’s first female army officer, will go into circulation in December.
“By honouring her, we are also honouring the Romanian army,” said central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu to reporters.
“It responds to a widely supported legitimate public interest in promoting and consolidating gender equality, as well as the significant role that female characters have played in Romanian history and society.”
Since its introduction in 1867, the Romanian leu has featured a number of unnamed female peasants but no real historical figure.
Teodoroiu, who was born in 1894, began her career as a nurse during World War I before becoming a combatant after her four brothers were killed in action. She rose through the ranks and received commendations for her bravery. She was 23 years old when she died on the front lines in 1917.
Some have questioned Teodoroiu’s selection over more prominent and influential women.
The central bank, which has an all-male board of directors, will host an exhibit dedicated to Teodoroiu beginning December 6, displaying personal items such as her bullet-dented helmet and blood-stained munitions bag.
The concept of depicting women on currency first arose in 2018 when fashion journalist Janina Nectara launched a campaign proposing a list of 100 female figures to choose from, including Teodoroiu, scientists, doctors, artists, and professors.
“Throughout history… hundreds of notable women have helped Romania move forward,” Nectara told Reuters, “but none of their names has been honoured on one of the strongest national symbols, banknotes, since the birth of the Romanian leu.”
“We require a permanent reminder that women, too, have made history. It is critical to give equal weight.”
(1 dollar = 4.3814 lei)