Mint Names First 5 Women to Feature on U.S. Quarters

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Oct. 7, 2021

The U.S. Mint has completed its list of women who will appear in the first year of the American Women Quarters Program. They are Maya Angelou, Wilma Mankiller, Sally Ride, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong.

Depictions of the women will appear on the reverse of the 25-cent coins, to be released during a five-year program that begins in 2022.

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–made the initial announcement in May, naming Angelou and Ride and asking the public for suggestions for other women to include on future quarter issues. First women on Quarters

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.

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.

Mankiller was the first woman to be elected head of the Cherokee Nation, a position that she had for a decade. She was also an activist for women's rights and Native American rights. She lived much of her life in Oklahoma and was a successful grant writer and director of community projects. One of her projects won a Certificate of National Merit from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She also lived in San Francisco for a time and was involved in the 1964 occupation of the Alcatraz prison by Native Americans. One of her well-known projects was an autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, published in 1993.

Otero-Warren was the first woman to be superintendent of the public school system in Santa Fe (and was in that role for 11 years, from 1918 to 1929) and was also a leader in the suffrage movement in New Mexico. As well, she was the first Latina to run for Congress, winning the Republican Party's nomination in 1922 for the state's at-large district but losing the general election fo the Democratic nominee, John Morrow. She later served as state director of the Civilian Conservation Corps and then, after retiring from public service, as a real estate agent.

Wong was Hollywood's first Chinese-American film star. She appeared in a number of silent movies, alongside such big names as Douglas Fairbanks. She lived in Europe for a time, making movies in the United Kingdom and starring in a play with a young Laurence Olivier. Returning to Hollywood, she had roles in "talking" pictures, including with Marlene Dietrich in the Oscar-winning Shanghai Express.

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.

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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