The Bank of Canada announced on Thursday the five women it is considering to put on the next Canadian note.
The list may come as a surprise to some as it did not include some of the most recognizable Canadian female figures who were included on the long list. Notable exceptions include Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery, suffragette Nellie McClung, and Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most famous painters.
The Bank of Canada selected five women from a list of 461 eligible nominees after an open call was launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on International Women’s Day on March 8. Over 26,300 submissions were received.
Women from all walks of life were considered and the list includes a wide range including a poet, an athlete and an engineer.
Here are brief biographies of the five nominees on the short list:
Viola Desmond, Activist (1914-1965)
Desmond was a businesswoman turned civil libertarian. She mentored young black women in Nova Scotia with her beauty school. She is best known for her refusal to accept segregation in a New Glasgow movie theatre by sitting in the section that was deemed “whites-only.” Desmond was arrested and fined for “attempting to defraud the provincial government” of the one-cent difference between the “whites-only” and “blacks-only” section in the balcony.
E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), Poet (1961-1913)
Johnson is best known for her poetry celebrating her indigenous heritage. She was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and English woman. Later in her career, she adopted her indigenous grandfather’s family name Tekhionwake, which means “double wampum.”
Elizabeth (Elise) MacGill, Engineer (1905-1980)
MacGill was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Toronto in 1927 and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1929. Known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes” MacGill was the first woman aircraft designer in the world. Her work on the Hawker Hurricane fighter plans were instrumental in the Battle of Britain during the Second World War.
Fanny (Bobbie) Rosenfeld, Athlete (1904-1969)
Rosenfeld was an accomplished track and field athlete. She held Canadian records in the running and standing broad jump and the discus. In the 1928 Olympics, she won a silver medal in the 100-metre dash and gold in the 4×100 metre relay with a record time of 48.2 seconds. She was also a joint holder of the 11-second, 100-yard world record. In 1950, she was voted Canada’s female athlete of the first half of the 20th century. Five years later in 1955, she was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Rosenfeld was forced into retirement because of arthritis and later became a sports journalist with the Globe and Mail.
Idola Saint-Jean, Suffragette and Activist (1880-1945)
Saint-Jean led the efforts in Quebec for women to have the right to vote in provincial elections and was the first woman from Quebec to run as a candidate for a federal election. She was also an actress, teacher and an author.
The final decision of who will appear on the new note will be announced on Dec. 8.
The short list was selected by an independent Advisory Council.
These five women were who the council believed met the diversity of Canada and met the selection criteria. The Advisory Council members looked for women who had “broken or overcome barriers, made a significant change, left a lasting legacy, and be inspirational.”