Civil Rights Activist Viola Desmond Will Be the First Woman on the Canadian $10 Bill

Viola Desmond (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Viola Desmond (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Canada has always been on the progressive side of things, and now it’s extended to their money. The country has elected to put a black woman on one of their bills.

Desmond will be featured on the Canadian $10 bill:

According to the Bank of Canada, there are 132 million $10 bills in circulation right now. The number of new banknotes printed annually fluctuates from year to year.

Said woman Viola Desmond was a civil rights activist. In Dec. 1946, she bought a floor seat in the main house of a movie theater. The main house was reserved for whites, whereas Black movie-goers were supposed to sit upstairs in the balcony. Desmond was arrested and jailed, on account of not paying the tax difference between the two seats. The tax difference was…one cent. One. Cent.

In 1947, Desmond tried to appeal the charge and lost. She dies in 1965 at age 50, and was granted a public pardon and apology in 2010.

It’s important to note that Desmond’s act came nine years before Rosa Parks gave up her bus seat in the United States, setting off the U.S.’s civil rights movement.

As Ryerson’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Staffer Darrell Bowden puts it:

“Viola was not the Rosa Parks of Canada. Rosa Parks was the Viola Desmond of America.”

Until this point, the only woman on Canadian money has been Queen Elizabeth of England. But Desmond is the first Canadian woman who will be on Canadian money. She’s also the first one who won’t be part of a group: Canada’s Famous Five suffragettes graved the $50 bill from 2004 until 2011.

Desmond beat out 26K+ submissions from the public. The bill with her face will go into circulation in 2018.

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