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Girls & Women

Canada’s New $10 Bill Will Feature a Black Female Civil Rights Activist

Spending money in Canada just became an act of feminism. Well, almost.

Canada announced that beginning in 2018, the new face of the country’s $10 bill will be civil rights activist Viola Desmond. She is the first woman of color to be chosen to appear on Canada’s currency.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his plan to have a woman on the currency on International Women's Day in March of this year.

Desmond fought racial segregation in Canada in a way that has often drawn comparisons to Rosa Parks. In 1946 she chose to sit in the “whites only” section of a movie theater and, when she was asked to move, refused, according to Jezebel.

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The usher of the movie theater told her she could not sit in that section because the seat was more expensive, and she offered to pay the difference. But the usher got a manger, who wound up removing Desmond by force. She then spend the night in jail.

Desmond was charged with “attempting to defraud the provincial government,” for the difference in price in the white seats. She appealed the charge. According to the CBC, Desmond’s appeal marked the first legal challenge against segregation by a black woman in the country.

She ultimately lost the appeal, but became an ardent civil rights advocate following the incident.

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Desmond died at the age of 50 in 1965. Some 45 years later, the government of Nova Scotia acknowledged its wrongdoing and issued an apology and a pardon.

Merna Forster, an author living in British Columbia, led the charge to have Desmond appear on the bill when nominations opened, according to the CBC. She created a website, womenonbanknotes.ca, to campaign for Desmond’s inclusion as well other women on other bills, and allowed users to submit mockups of what the bills could look like.

"Even though some people have never heard of her, she did play a big role in standing up against segregation in Canada," Forster said.

Desmond will replace Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, on the bill. A new image for the $5 note is still being chosen.