Listen to Article
The quarter dollar is both the most commonly-used coin in the American currency and the most unique. Since 1999, the coin's reverse, or "tails," side has showcased all 50 US states, as well as the breathtaking beauty of the country's national parks. Now, the US Mint plans to use the silver canvas to celebrate female leaders who have played a crucial part in shaping the nation's history.
The American Women's Quarter Program, which was unveiled on April 12, 2021, will last four years. According to the US Mint, it will feature 20 women “from a wide spectrum of fields" including, but not limited to, "suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts." The leaders will come from “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.” While the quarter's front, or "obverse," side, will continue to feature a likeness of the nation's first president, George Washington, the design will be different from those used during previous iterations.
“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,” Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who co-sponsored the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act (CCRA) that authorized the initiative, told the 19th News. “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.”
The first batch of the coin series, expected to enter circulation in January 2022, will feature poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and America's first female astronaut in space, Sally Ride. The seven Angelou quarter designs all reference her critically-acclaimed autobiography, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." Ride's five designs focus on her achievements as an astronaut and an educator.
To select the next honorees, the US Mint is seeking help from the American public. Since federal laws prohibit featuring a living person on currency, the only criterion is that the nominee is deceased. The winners will be decided by Janet Yellen — the nation's first female Treasury Secretary — in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus. Be sure to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see your favorite female hero on American currency by filling out this form on the National Women's History Museum website.
Resources: USMint.gov, Smithsonianmag.com