WASHINGTON – Last week the U.S. unveiled its plan to produce five new quarters that will feature a range of diverse women who had a marked impact on the culture and the nation.
🥁 We are pleased to announce the designs for the 2022 coins in the American Women Quarters™ Program, honoring the achievements of Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong: https://t.co/D54knKPbvQ #HerQuarter @smithsonian @womenshistory pic.twitter.com/3p7XGM9Ok4
— United States Mint (@usmint) October 6, 2021
Notable American women have been scarce on U.S. currency which has been dominated by the likenesses of prominent men and presidents.
Ironically, the first non-mythical woman to ever appear on printed paper currency was Lucy Holcombe Pickens, “Queen of the Confederacy.” Her image appeared on Confederate $1 bills in 1862 and 1863, and then on $100 bills in 1862 through 1864.
Otherwise, depictions of Pocahontas appeared on the reverse side of the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869 and again on the reverse side of the $20 bill in 1875. Martha Washington’s image appeared on the front of the $1 Silver Certificate in 1886 and 1891 and then with an image of her husband on the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896.
The country is still waiting on the promised currency that would feature Harriet Tubman’s likeness to replace Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill.
When it comes to coin currency, only three women have appeared on minted coins in the U.S.
♦ Susan B. Anthony appeared on the dollar coin from 1979-1981 and then again in 1999.
♦ Sacagawea was featured on the dollar coin from 2000-2001 and
then in from 2009-2011. Additionally, the collector’s edition of
the dollar coin from 2002-2008 bore her image as well as being featured on the dollar
coin that has been issued since 2012.
♦ Helen Keller was featured on the special issue edition of the 2003
Alabama state quarter.
The image of George Washington on the face of the quarter will also be different. American sculptor, Laura Gardin Fraser originally submitted her design for the 1932 quarter celebrating Washington’s 200th birthday, but her submission was ultimately not chosen.
When it comes to the selection of women who will appear on the new quarters, they are ethnically diverse, each represents a distinct thread of the weave that is part of the cultural and social history of America. The coins will become a tangible representation of our ancestors.
Maya Angelou, famed poet and one of only two women to read her poetry at a presidential inauguration, medal of Freedom recipient, a celebrated scholar and an activist for social reform will be one of the five women to be depicted on the new American Women Quarters Program.
Also to be featured in the Mint’s series, astronaut and physicist Dr. Sally Ride, who bears the distinction of being the first American woman and the overall youngest woman to ever go to space until SpaceX’s recent launch. Ride is also recognized as the first LGBTQ person to have gone to space.
The first woman to be elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1987, Wilma Mankiller, is also slated to appear on the new quarters. Mankiller’s accomplishments include how she instituted policies that doubled the tribe’s employment, tripled the number of enrolled tribal members, reduced infant mortality, provided educational programming for children, and built housing. Posthumously, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The fourth woman to be recognized by the Mint is Nina Otero-Warren, the first woman to be superintendent of the Santa Fe, New Mexico public school system. Otero-Warren was a determined advocate for women’s voting rights, and the ratification of the 19th amendment. She also highlighted the importance of including Hispanic women in the fight for the right of women to vote by delivering her message in Spanish as well as English. She was at the forefront of bicultural and inclusive education practices.
Anna May Wong will also be included in the five-coin series. Wong was a Chinese American actress and appeared in more than 60 films and international recognition. She was also the first Asian to play a lead role in an American television series, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong (1951). Wong’s career spanned everything from radio and silent films to the stage and television, and during a period of harsh racial discrimination against Asians.
These five women represent just a fraction of the shoulders of giants that not just modern women but all U.S. citizens regardless of gender stand upon. Collectively, they are all our ancestors enduring much and achieving stunning accomplishments despite gender and racial discrimination.
To have them represented on coins is a small step in the right direction for balancing the gender representation when it comes to currency. Imagine having a pocket full of powerful ancestors to carry around that can help to remind us of what can be accomplished no matter the odds.
We hope someday soon more women will grace so many of the front of coins and paper currency.