Have you ever wanted to see more American female figures on the face of the U.S. quarter? That day is finally here: Some of our most influential women are getting a special honor thanks to the United States Mint. This year, the Mint launched a series dubbed the American Women Quarters Program to celebrate women’s achievements and contributions to our country. The first coin in the series? The Maya Angelou quarter!
Angelou, who died in 2014 after an illustrious life and career, is the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter (which was shipped out this week). The coin features the poet with her arms uplifted in front of a bird, mimicking its wings. Sun rays extend around her and the bird in a symbol of hope and greatness. In fact, the imagery is inspired by Angelou’s poetry and revered words: Her most famous works include her poetry book And Still I Rise and her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Who else will The Mint honor on the U.S. quarter?
In addition to Angelou, the women honored on this year’s coins include astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Joining them are Nina Otero-Warren, a New Mexico women’s suffragist and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools, and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood. Along with these five trailblazers, an additional 15 influential women will appear on special quarters. The Mint plans to release each novel coin through 2025.
“Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift,” said Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson in a press release.
The Maya Angelou quarter features a new George Washington.
Another special detail of Angelou’s coin is a new depiction of President George Washington on the front of the coin. This new image was first sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser in honor of the Founding Father’s 200th birthday. Why would The Mint honor her sculpture now? Gardin Fraser’s work was the top pick for a coin feature in 1932, but was passed over. So, the new line of coins brings her artistry to national circulation 90 years later.
“I am proud that the new obverse design of George Washington is by one of the most prolific female sculptors of the early 20th century,” Director Gibson said. “Laura Gardin Fraser was the first woman to design a U.S. commemorative coin, and her work is lauded in both numismatic and artistic circles. Ninety years after she intended for it to do so, her obverse design will fittingly take its place on the quarter.”
Look out for this special Maya Angelou quarter — and the rest in the series — in your pocket change!