Canada’s new $10 bills will soon feature the face of a fierce female icon.
Viola Desmond will be the first woman (well, other than the queen) to be celebrated on the face of a Canadian banknote, and will grace the front of the $10 bill when the next series goes into circulation in 2018.
For those in need of a little refresher, Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks because she chose to sit in a whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre back in 1946.
“Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery,” said Finance Minister Bill Morneau in a news conference this morning in Gatineau, Que., according to The Canadian Press.
“She represents courage, strength and determination –qualities we should all aspire to every day,” he said.
The Bank of Canada’s independent advisory was looking for nominees who overcame barriers, inspired others or left a lasting legacy – a “bill” Desmond clearly fits (sorry, had to).
A determined entrepreneur, Desmond built a business as a beautician and, through her beauty school, became a powerful mentor to young black women in Nova Scotia.
After breaking the rules and sitting in the whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theatre 70 years ago, she was arrested and fined.
Her bold actions and subsequent activism, however, inspired future generations of black people in Nova Scotia and the rest of the country for years to come.
A public call for nominations earlier this year resulted in more than 26,000 submissions, which was later cut down to 461 eligible nominees who had Canadian citizenship and had been dead for at least 25 years. Other considerations included poet E. Pauline Johnson; Elsie MacGill, who received an electrical engineering degree from the University of Toronto in 1927; Quebec suffragette Idola Saint-Jean; and 1928 Olympic medallist Fanny Rosenfeld, a track and field athlete.
While these females are undoubtedly deserving of the honour, as The Canadian Press reports, many Canadians thought that Nellie McClung should have at least made the shortlist.
Of course, McClung is a Famous Five activist who fought in the 1920s for women to be legally recognized as persons in Canada (but you knew that, right?).
Other important females who didn’t make the list included “Anne of Green Gables” author Lucy Maud Montgomery, B.C. artist Emily Carr, and Manitoba author Gabrielle Roy.