Poet Angelou, Astronaut Ride 1st U.S. Women on Quarter Coins

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May 10, 2021

Author Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride will be the first two women featured in the American Women Quarters Program, appearing on the reverse of the 25-cent coins, the U.S. Mint announced.

Maya Angelou on a Quarter

Angelou was a poet and civil rights activist perhaps most well-known for her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She was known for reading the poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton as President (and later won a Grammy Award for a subsequent recording of that poem) and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 from then-President Barack Obama. In earlier years, she was a well-known singer, releasing an album and appearing in off-Broadway productions. The quarters featuring Angelou, who died in 2014, will be of seven different designs, all of which will include her likeness and variations on the theme of birds.

Sally Ride on a Quarter

Ride was the first American woman to fly into space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She flew on that same shuttle the following year, in all logging 14 days and 8 hours in space. The five different designs of Ride's quarter will feature depictions of her as an astronaut as an educator. Ride, who died in 2012, spent a large part of her life encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering, including the foundation of the non-profit Sally Ride Science. She was also the director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego, and a professor of physics at the school.

Those two sets of coins will appear in circulation beginning in 2022. A total of 20 women will similarly appear during the next four years.

Announcing all of this was U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who consulted with the Congressional Bipartisan Women's Caucus, the National Women's History Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution's American Women's History Initiative. Yellen has asked for suggestions for other women to include on future quarter issues.

The 20 will be the first American women to appear on U.S. quarters. The first woman ever featured on a U.S. coin was not an American: Queen Isabella of Spain featured on an 1893 quarter issued in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The first woman featured on a U.S. coin in wide circulation was suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony, who appeared on a dollar in 1979.

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