black history month Viola Desmond Canadian women

Viola Desmond

A Girl Like None Other

Her 1946 criminal prosecution for daring to violate racial segregation in a Nova Scotia theatre marked a watershed moment for civil rights and social justice in the province and in Canada

A toast to the game-changers, the culture makers, the stereo-type smashers and the boy club crashers.

Canada has a rich history of remarkable women whose achievements have brought about positive change both at home and internationally. These trailblazers are an inspiration to be yourself; hold true to your vision; and embrace who you are. 
Viola Desmond: 
Desmond’s car broke down during a business trip; she had to kill time while it was being repaired and decided to watch a movie. Roseland Theatre was a segregated cinema that reserved floor seats for white people and the balcony for black visitors. However, Desmond was nearsighted so she tried to buy a floor seat. When they refused her because she was black, she purchased a balcony seat which was a penny cheaper but sat in the whites only section anyway. After the police came and arrested her, she spent 12 hours in jail and was charged and convicted of tax evasion over the one penny difference between the two movie tickets. In 2010, she was given a posthumous pardon.

Desmond, a cosmetics pioneer for black women in Atlantic Canada also ran a beauty school and sold her own line of skin and hair products. Because of the business, she never took part in any formal protest movements. Her life mission was to be a hair dresser, to be a beauty consultant for black women, and to teach them what she knew. When Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the choice for the $10 bill, he said Desmond’s “story reminds all of us that big change can start with a moment of dignity and bravery.” He went on to add that “she represents courage, strength and determination — qualities we should all aspire to every day.”
Written by Kelly Campbell Duguid

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