Canada has named civil rights activist Viola Desmond, who challenged racial segregation in the 1940s, to appear on the country’s next $10 bill.
The new money is due to enter circulation late next year, and wraps up public consultations that generated 26,300 nominations and 461 candidates that met the official criteria.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the winner Thursday at the Canadian Museum of History just outside of Ottawa.
“Canadians have told us that it was long overdue,” Poloz said in Gatineau, Quebec.
Over Canada’s history, most of the images on bank notes have been men, with the recent exception of Queen Elizabeth. The announcement follows moves in other countries to correct a gender imbalance, with the U.S. Treasury choosing abolitionist Harriet Tubman for a $20 bill and the Bank of England choosing 19th-century novelist Jane Austen.
“I had the very, very difficult choice of finding just one” finalist, Morneau said.
Desmond (1914-1965) challenged racial segregation policies in the eastern province of Nova Scotia in 1946 — years before Rosa Parks helped spark the U.S. civil rights movement by taking a similar fight against separate bus seating.
Desmond was jailed, convicted and fined for sitting in a whites-only section of a New Glasgow movie theater, for attempted fraud over “the one-cent difference between the balcony seats” that segregated blacks and whites, according to an official biography.
Her younger sister was on hand for Thursday’s ceremony. “It’s a real big day to have my big sister on a bank note,” Wanda Robson said.
Robson drew laughs from the crowd for detailing her sister’s scrappy nature, including her schoolteacher’s habit of correcting any bad grammar she overheard. “I really know if Viola were here how she would feel: She would feel so very proud.”
Canada said this new bank note will begin a bigger shift toward diversity on the nation’s currency. The next $5 bill will also feature someone chosen through a similar process, meaning some famous Canadian men are losing their spots.
“Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and our first francophone prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, will be honored on our higher-value bank notes,” instead of the fives and tens more often carried around by Canadians, according to a Bank of Canada statement. “William Lyon Mackenzie King and Sir Robert Borden will no longer be portrayed on bank notes.”