In April of this year, the Department of the Treasury announced long-term plans to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and former slave best known for her prominent role in facilitating the Underground Railroad. The plans also call for smaller portraits of women to be added to the backs of other bills — Jackson, for his part, will remain on the backside of the $20.
It was great news considering the only money in the U.S. that currently honors women is the $1 coin, which features Sacagawea; she replaced another woman, suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony, in 2000. But, the Department of the Treasury will be taking their time — final designs of the new bills aren’t due until 2020, and it could take until 2030 for all of the new bills to enter circulation.
Canada is acting with a bit more haste. Granted, Canada is a bit more accustomed to having women featured on prominent banknotes — Queen Elizabeth II remains on the $20 banknote. But, with the queen being a symbol of Canada’s colonial past, there was a lack of representation of women who played key roles in Canada’s national history.
That’s what prompted the Bank of Canada to launch their BankNOTEable campaign earlier this year on March 8 (International Women’s Day) to find a Canadian woman to put on the $10. Late last week, Viola Desmond was chosen — Desmond was an anti-segregation activist who notably refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theater in Nova Scotia, similar to what Rosa Parks would do in the United States in 1955. There were four other nominees, one of whom was Elsie MacGill, known for being the first woman to graduate with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
Desmond, who passed away in 1965 and was not pardoned for tax evasion charges over the one cent extra she didn’t pay for a whites-only ticket until 2010, will start appearing on the Canadian $10 bill in 2018. The current occupant of the $10 bill, Sir John A. Macdonald (the first prime minister of Canada), will move to either the $50 or the $100. A new face (yet to be determined) will also appear on the $5 bill; the two men featured on the $50 and $100 bills will no longer be featured on Canadian currency. The design of the Viola Desmond $10 bill has not been finalized.