Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou (Chuck Burton/AP/Shutterstock)

Poet Maya Angelou and Astronaut Sally Ride Among the 20 Influential Female Leaders to Be Honored on US Quarters Over Next 4 Years

The coins you carry in your pocket are about to experience a huge shift in gender equity and representation. A newly announced government initiative will be commemorating up to 20 different women pioneers on the back of U.S. quarters between 2022 and 2025.

Alexa Mikhail of nonprofit newsroom The 19th reported that the move to honor significant women in the nation’s history is a national first, adding that the public will even have a role in deciding which women will be minted on the coins.

Rep. Barbara Lee of California has been working on this legislation to get women’s faces on American coins since 2017.

“I wanted to make sure that women would be honored, and their images and names be lifted up on our coins. I mean, it’s outrageous that we haven’t,” Lee said. “Hopefully, the public really delves into who these women were because these women have made such a contribution to our country in so many ways.” 

Lee drafted the legislation behind the “Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act,” with Rosa Rios, the Treasury official who oversaw the United States Mint under former President Barack Obama. The legislation creating the new program was eventually signed into law in 2020.

“The program will have the United States Mint circulate up to five chosen women on the reverse (tail) side of the quarter-dollar from 2022 to 2025 — allowing for up to 20 women to have their faces on U.S. quarters by the end of 2025,” Mikhail reported. “The Mint selected the first two women to be in circulation by 2022: the civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou and astronaut Dr. Sally Ride.”

Future honorees will be selected by a panel that includes Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and representatives from the American Women’s History Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Women’s History Museum and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus.

In order to qualify for the honor, a nominated woman must be deceased and should be “influential in a myriad of fields and time periods including, but not limited to, civil rights, the women’s suffrage movement, government, the humanities or science.”  The public can nominate candidates for the honor by using this form.

“I think it’s important that the public understands and knows how to weigh in on this. That’s a mammoth kind of effort that we’re mounting, but we’re getting the word out,” Lee said. “I think it is a good organizing tool that communities should use and have children kind of tell stories and do the research and come up with who they think would be the woman that should be submitted. It’s about time that people who exchange currency and coins understand that women deserve things. This is long past due.” 

The last woman to appear on a U.S. coin was Sacagawea, the Indigenous woman who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition explore the Louisiana Purchase territory. She was honored in 2000 when gold $1 Sacagawea coins went into circulation.


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


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