Canada’s new $10 bill – this is for all the girls breaking barriers

Daring. Courageous. Risk-taker. These are all words that describe Viola Desmond, who’s featured on a the new Canadian $10 bank note. In 1946, the Nova Scotia business woman refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theater. When it would’ve been easier to sit down and stay quiet, Desmond stood up and spoke out for equality –facing arrest and conviction as a result. Viola is the first Canadian woman to appear on a bank note.

A trailblazer in her time, Desmond is an icon today – and her sister Wanda Robson, who’s mentored countless girls as a longtime member of Girl Guides of Canada, is proudly keeping her legacy alive. Robson joined Guiding when her daughter came home from school asking to be a Brownie. She refers to the day she was asked to join Girl Guides as “my lucky day.” Guiding became such a part of her life that her family refers to it as “one of my other homes.”

Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson

Wanda and Viola at the Hi-Hat Club, Boston, ca. 1950. (via Bank of Canada)

When asked what drew her to join and remain in Guiding, Wanda talks about finding a place that she felt comfortable and accepted. She loves the interaction with the girls, watching them come out of their shells and their sense of achievement when they accomplish something. Reminiscing about her time in Guiding she talks about the way girls throw their arms around each other when they complete a challenge and how the older girls are such role models for younger girls.

“Once you are a member, you are always a member,” Wanda says of her unwavering commitment to Guiding. The value of Guiding to today’s girls is very real, she emphasizes. “The Guiding Movement makes young girls realize who they are, their potential, that they aren’t just in the background. It gives them a foundation of knowing who they are and that ‘I can do that’… I marvel at what Guiding has to offer girls. It gives them such confidence.”

Wanda Robson making the very first purchase with Canada’s new $10 bill, featuring her sister Viola Desmond. (Bank of Canada image)

Guest post by Catherine Miller-Mort, who works in the archives at Girl Guides of Canada’s national office.   

This entry was posted in Opening the Vaults and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply