toronto history

The faces of women are appearing in vacant storefronts in Toronto

Usually when you see womens' faces on the sides of buildings in Toronto, it's to advertise some sort of product, but now you'll see some faces appearing around town for a totally different reason.

Vacant storefronts are serving a noble purpose in the city right now, with five of them along one particular strip paying homage to trailblazing women and their historical contributions.

Throughout April, you'll be able see the faces of E. Pauline Johnson, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Verna Johnston, Jean Lumb and Salome Bey where normally you'd just see unoccupied properties.

"We are thrilled to be putting these spaces to good use – celebrating the stories of great women," says Downtown Yonge chief operating officer and executive director Mark Garner. "Of course we are eager for all of these properties to return to active retail use as we recover."

Called HerStory, the campaign is a partnership between Toronto History Museums and the Downtown Yonge BIA.

Jean Lumb was the first Chinese Canadian woman and first restaurateur inducted into the Order of Canada, and has a lane named after her in Toronto. Verna Johnston was an Anishnabe author, activist, mother, grandmother, and mentor, and sheltered Indigenous youth in boarding houses.

Salome Bey was an award-winning, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and actor, and although she was born in New Jersey the multidisciplinary artist settled in Toronto. E. Pauline Johnson was a Mohawk artist, entertainer and poet who lived in the 19th century.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary was an educator, abolitionist and the first female Black publisher in North America, and it's actually not the first time her face has been on the side of a building in Toronto.

You can find out more about all of these amazing historical women by visiting the banner installations at 312, 401, 431 and 475 Yonge St., and there's even more inspiring information available online.

Lead photo by


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