At last! Black rights activist Viola Desmond will be the first Canadian woman featured on a Canadian bank note.
The Nova Scotian was jailed for sitting in the “whites only” section of a Nova Scotia film house in 1946. The story goes that Desmond decided to see a movie while her car was getting fixed, but was thrown out of the “whites only” section and sent to jail; black people could only sit in the balcony of the theatre. To add insult to injury, the next morning Desmond was convicted of defrauding the province of a one penny tax, the difference in tax between a downstairs and upstairs ticket. She was released after paying a $20 fine and $6 in court costs and appealed her conviction but lost. Desmond died in 1965 at age 50 and was eventually pardoned after her death.
Bills featuring Desmond’s likeness will start to circulate in 2018. An image of the beautician and businesswoman–she trained at one of Madame CJ Walker’s schools in New York and upon return, opened her own salon– will replace that of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, on the purple banknote.
Desmond was selected from a shortlist of five women, which was whittled down from over 10,000 names submitted from across the country for the coveted and long overdue honour.
Watch this Heritage Minute to know more about Viola Desmond: