Today marks a great leap for women where the new $10 bill drops, featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond. According to CBC News’ article, Desmond is the first black person and the first non-royal woman to be on a regularly circulated Canadian bank note.
In light of International Women’s Day, we’d like to highlight 5 of Canada’s most incredible women as a tribute to every Canadian woman out there; starting with Viola Desmond.
Viola Desmond (1914-1965)
Desmond was an entrepreneur and a community leader who founded a beauty school, The Desmond School of Beauty Culture, where training was provided to young black women to support them and help with their chances of employment. In 1946, long before the civil rights movement in the United States and nine years before Rosa Parks’ non-conformity to segregation, Viola Desmond challenged the unofficial racism black people faced in Canada. At the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia, Desmond was denied a ticket to the main floor and was given a balcony ticket instead, which was designated for non-white customers only. When denied sitting in the main floor by the ticket taker, Desmond spoke to the cashier, thinking that a mistake was made, only to be informed that the cashier is “not permitted to sell downstairs tickets to you people”, realizing he was referring to her skin colour. In protest of the way she was treated, Desmond decides to sit in the main floor anyway. Desmond was then removed from the theatre and jailed. Desmond’s incident shocked the black population and was a motivator for taking action. In 1954, segregation officially and legally ended in Nova Scotia.
Nahnebahwequay, Catherine Sutton (1824-1865)
Nahnebahwequay was a proud Ojibwa woman who fought for Indigenous rights. She was a Christian missionary and a spokesperson who fought for First Nations people to be able to buy land. She travelled to England to present her case where she met Queen Victoria. The British intervention allowed Catherine Sutton and her husband to buy land. Despite her being able to buy back the land, nothing changed for other First Nations people and that’s why Sutton never stopped advocating for the political and legal rights they were entitled to.
Nellie McClung (1873-1951)
McClung was a novelist and a journalist, a suffragist, a reformer, a legislator, an author, and a human rights activist who took women’s issues, including the right to vote, to heart. Thanks to McClung’s efforts, women were granted the right to vote for the first time in Manitoba in 1916, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Barbara Frum (1937-1992)
Barbara Frum was a pioneering radio and TV journalist and former co-host of CBC’s As It Happens. Frum was an exceptional interviewer, who was unique at doing thought-provoking, sharp-witted interviews. She later became the host of CBC’s The Journal, in which Frum interviewed former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela. Frum won many awards in journalism and was named in the Order of Canada in 1979.
Harriet Brooks (1876-1933)
Brooks is considered one of the founding minds of nuclear science. She was Canada’s first female nuclear physicist and was considered “the next Marie Curie”, who she later worked with. She also worked with Nobel Prize winner Ernest Rutherford. Brooks was also the first woman to earn a Master’s degree from McGill University. Harriet Brooks was the discoverer of Radon and was the pioneer in attempting to determine its atomic mass.
Read about even more of Canada’s incredible women here.
May the ladies of Canada and the world continue to break a leg!