The U.S. Mint has announced the first two women to be honored on coins issued under the “American Women Quarters Program.” The late, illustrious writer Maya Angelou and trailblazing astronaut Dr. Sally Ride will be the first distinguished American “sheroes” to be celebrated on the quarter. Circulation is slated to begin in 2022.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the “Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020” in the House along with Senate colleagues. The Congresswoman told ESSENCE the idea for the legislation dates back several years. She credits the early efforts of Rosie Rios, the nation’s 43rd U.S. Treasurer under the Obama Administration. After a series of bipartisan revisions, the measure was signed into law by former president Donald Trump on January 13, 2021.
“This has been a long time coming and it was a heavy lift,” Lee said during a phone interview. “For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color,” said Lee. “I am pleased to see that the first women to be recognized under my bill are outstanding individuals in the fields of science and literature: Dr. Sally Ride and Dr. Maya Angelou paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy.”
Lee knew and admired Dr. Angelou, and noted that the poet’s adult son, Guy Bailey Johnson, was a constituent who lives in her California district. “I’m glad both of these phenomenal women are among the first of many to be recognized,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”
The law directs the Treasury Department, through the U.S. Mint, “to mint and issue quarter-dollar coins in commemoration of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote. The design on the reverse of each coin shall be emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of a prominent woman who was a resident of a state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory.”
The “heads” side of the coins will continue to feature a likeness of George Washington. The women will be on the “tails” side of the quarter to distinguish from the current image.
The public is invited to submit recommendations for women to be honored. Officials said contributions may come from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.
The women honored will come from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds. As the Public Law requires that no living person be featured in the coin designs, all of the women honored must be deceased. The Mint will annually issue up to five different reverse designs over the four-year period beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025.
For more info: visit the web portal established by the National Women’s History Museum: https://forms.gle/3BgR3BLbFfJ69XdYA.