Special Bank of Canada survey, Update #3: the ultimate paradox, Lotta’s name isn’t well known

Lotta Hitschmanova on a Canadian bank noteFor me, one of the more surprising results of the Bank of Canada’s survey on 12 “bank-notable” women was how few people (29%) recognized Lotta Hitschmanova’s name.

Ironically, of those women who ranked higher than Lotta (34% to 73%) in name recognition – in descending order, Emily Carr, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Gabrielle Roy, Nellie McClung, Thérèse Casgrain, Elsie MacGill, Pauline Johnson and Viola Desmond – only Elsie MacGill ranked higher than Lotta in “core values” and “deserving to be on a bank note.”

The reason for this apparent paradox stems from the survey methodology itself, as most of the questions posed to respondents did not identify the 12 bank note nominees by name, but rather by their profile or biography, with no name attached to it.

I’ll re-insert Lotta’s profile here, to illustrate for you how survey respondents could somehow not recognize Lotta’s name, and yet still rank her so high as a bank note candidate:

“Humanitarian. She came to Canada as a Czech refugee during the Second World War. In 1945, she founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada (USC Canada) to help those suffering in the aftermath of the war, especially children. Her compassion struck a chord with Canadians. Thousands gave food, clothing and money, making USC Canada one of the first international development agencies in our country. She dedicated her life to relief work. For 36 years, she spoke, wrote, travelled and raised funds for the needy. The work of USC Canada continues today.”

A final thought, based on my cross-country travels over the years with USC Canada. I often met people of a certain age at public events and I asked them if they remembered Lotta Hitschmanova. Many said yes, but many also said no. I would then show them a photo of Lotta, with her uniform, and many more would say yes, but others would still say no. My final pitch was to say to them, with my attempted Czech accent, the quote that I have used on the www.lotta56sparks.ca home page:

“This is Lotta Hitschmanova of the Unitarian Service Committee, 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa 4.”

At that point, many would have their “Eureka” moment: “Oh, yeah, I remember her. We used to see her on the TV all the time.”

All this to say that though I think the survey did a good job overall, for this one element of “name recognition”, it does seem to me that, especially for Lotta’s case, adding a third or fourth dimension to her profile (i.e. her photo and/or her voice) would likely have brought significantly different survey results.

What do you think? I invite your comments below.

David Rain

PS  To view the detailed Bank of Canada survey results, click here.

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