woman on the next banknote crowd waving flags canada

Choose the Woman on the Next Banknote

In Business and Currency by Kyle RammlerLeave a Comment

Earlier this month the Bank of Canada announced that it would put a woman on the next series of banknotes to be released in 2018. The identity of that woman, however, is yet to be determined and will be left to the Canadian people through a nomination process which closes on April 15th.

Which Women are Eligible?

According to the Bank of Canada’s official website (http://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknoteable/) there are only three nomination criteria:

  1. She must be “a Canadian (by birth or naturalization) who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, achievement or distinction in any field, benefiting the people of Canada, or in the service of Canada”
  2. She must not be a fictional character
  3. She must have been deceased for at least 25 years (meaning died prior to April 15, 1991)

Continental Currency Exchange and theCurrent urges all Canadians to get involved in this historic process, and to help nominate the woman or women they feel most deserving of this great honour. Although the list of potential nominees is long (reflecting the number of women who have made great contributions to Canadian society), here are a few that we would like to highlight:

Agnes Macphail (1890-1954)

agnes macphail black and white school

Agnes Macphail with family and supporters. Image courtesy of: http://images.ourontario.ca/Macphail/23495/image/57424

Despite her name Agnes was anything but a MacFailure, indeed she was a MacSucces by any standard. Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons where she battled for prison reform, old-age pensions and was the first woman to be sent to represent Canada at the League of Nations. She also fought for equal pay for women and helped found the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada which worked with vulnerable women and girls.

Laura Secord (1775-1868)

laura secord painting british war 1812 canada

Laura Secord warning the British of an American attack in 1813

Known for her heroics during the War of 1812 when Canada successfully repelled an American invasion, Laura walked 20 miles through American occupied territory to alert the British of the Yankee advance. Although she gained little recognition for her valour in her own time, Laura Secord was posthumously the subject of many books, plays and poems and has been honoured through monuments, museums, ships, coins and stamps. Were it not for her valiant actions, and warning the British that “the Americans are coming” we might very well all be spelling colour without a ‘u’.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942)

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Lucy Maud Montgomery. Image courtesy of: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/watchwords-writing-realistic-dialogue-is-a-challenge-for-novelists

Known mostly as LM Montgomery, this Canadian literary icon penned Anne of Green Gables in 1908, followed by 20 novels, and over 1000 short stories, poems and essays. Prince Edward Island served as the setting for most of her novels, and thanks to her works many locations on the island have become meccas for literary enthusiasts. Made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1935, LM Montgomery is one of Canada’s most well known cultural exports.

Emily Carr (1871-1945)

emily carr painting france autumn

‘Autumn in France’ by Emily Carr, 1911

Emily Carr, was a writer and artist who combined a modernist and post-impressionist style with insertions from the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Like LM Montgomery, Carr was also a prolific writer, focussing on life in British Columbia, where she gained little fanfare until late in her life. One account described Carr working as an art teacher in Vancouver at the Ladies Art Club, a post she was quickly relieved of due to her constant smoking and cursing. Emily Carr has since been heralded as one of Canada’s greatest artists and is considered to be a Canadian Icon.

Viola Desmond (1914-1965)

viola desmond birth death portrait

Viola Desmond. Image courtesy of: https://heritageday.novascotia.ca/content/2015-honouree

Viola was a civil rights pioneer for refusing to leave a whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946. She was subsequently jailed overnight, convicted of a minor tax violation which was used to enforce segregation. Her case became the most famous case of racial discrimination in Canada, 9 years before Rosa Parks in the US. Viola was eventually posthumously pardoned, and has been celebrated as a hero through scholarships, documentaries, books, and songs.

Jennie Trout (1841-1921)

jennie trout portrait black white woman

Jennie Kidd Trout. Image courtesy of: http://blog.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/blog/posts/historic-canadian-women-jennie-trout/

Originally born in Scotland, Jennie moved with her parents to Stratford, Ontario in 1847. Along with Emily Jennings Stowe, Trout was the first woman admitted to the Toronto School of Medicine. Stowe refused to write her exams in protest of the treatment the women received, and Stout later transferred to the Women’s Medical College in Pennsylvania where she earned her medical degree in 1875, becoming the first licensed female Canadian doctor. She remained the only licensed female doctor in Canada until 1880 when Stowe finally completed her qualifications.

The Famous Five

famous five honor award women canada

Awarding a plaque commemorating the Famous Five years later (Nellie McClung only one pictured, front right)

In 1927 Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards launched a petition to demand that the government answer one simple question: “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” This led to the case of Edwards v. Canada, which the women lost. Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that if the question was “understood to mean ‘Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada,’ the question is answered in the negative.” The judgment was eventually overturned in 1929. Four months after the ruling Cairine Reay Wilson became the first female Senator. The Famous Five appeared in the Journey Series of the Canadian $50 bill from 2004 to 2012.

For more on the government’s decision to put a woman on the next banknote, check out our previous post HERE.

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