Viola Desmond

by Aranika Shams from Toronto, Ontario in Canada

Viola Desmond And Who She Is.

Have you ever seen the woman on the 10 dollar bill? If so, you might have wondered “Who is that?” Well, listen closely because I’m going to tell you all about who she is, why she’s on the 10-dollar bill, and why she was an inspiration to Canadian history.

Viola Desmond was a Beautician and a Mentor to young women in Nova Scotia. She was born on July 6 1914 in Halifax. Viola taught at 2 racially-segregated schools for black students. She began a program at the Field Beauty Culture School in Montreal. She quickly became successful and she opened a beauty school, Desmond School of Beauty Culture. Desmond created a line of beauty products, which were sold at many stores and venues.

On November 8, 1946, Viola’s car broke down on her way to a meeting in Nova Scotia. She had to stop at a small community, New Glasgow. The repairs would take several hours, so she booked a hotel room and decided to see a movie to pass the time. She requested a ticket on the main floor, but despite her request, the seller had given Viola a ticket for the balcony instead. The seating in the balcony was generally for non-white customers. When Viola was stopped at the entrance, she went back to the seller only to be told that they couldn’t sell main floor tickets to people of colour. Despite what the seller said, Viola took a seat on the main floor. Soon after, the manager of the theatre argued with Viola, But Viola refused to leave her seat. Then the police were called.`

Viola was jailed and fined for refusing to leave the whites-only theatre. The police forcefully removed her from the theatre, injuring her badly.

Desmond contacted a lawyer in order to reverse the charge, But there was no law against racial discrimination in theatres, hotels and restaurants. Viola tried many times but lost many court cases. Viola and many others fought to be treated like equal human beings.

Unfortunately, due to her experience with the Nova Scotia legal system, her marriage fell apart. She decided to abandon her business and move to Montreal, then NYC. She died on February 7 1965 in New York. 

Decades after her death, Viola’s sister Wanda decided to share Viola’s story to the public. It quickly gained attention

Later in 2010, Lieutenant Governor Mayann issued Viola a free pardon and in 2016 the bank of Canada announced that Viola will be the first woman appearing alone on a banknote, specifically the $10 one. The note was released on November 19 2018.

Now you know all about the woman on the $10 bill, Viola Desmond.


Page created on 4/9/2024 2:45:16 PM

Last edited 4/10/2024 10:44:21 AM

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