Historic, heroic women to grace U.S. currency

Beginning+this+year%2C+the+U.S.+Mint+is+releasing+quarters+featuring+prominent+women+in+American+history.

Beginning this year, the U.S. Mint is releasing quarters featuring prominent women in American history.

Da'Niary Johnson, Staff Writer

For the first time in U.S history, an African-American woman will be sharing the quarter with George Washington. These quarters put into circulation around January 10, are part of the American Women Quarters™ Program. This initiative was kicked off with famed poet, author, actor, and civil rights advocate, Maya Angelou (1928-2014).

“I think that this is an amazing step in the right direction for people of color and I’m super excited,” said senior Destiny Pierre. “This is very empowering.”

In 1969, Angelou published her first novel, an autobiography titled I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing at the age of 41. In the years following, she wrote 8 autobiographies, 3 personal essays, 2 cookbooks, 4 children’s books, 7 plays, and a plethora of poems, and now, she’s on countless quarters.

Prior to this program, US money has mostly been white, male historical figures, but this initiative hopes to change that by recognizing influential women. 

Maya Angelou, also the inaugural poet for former President Bill Clinton, is the third woman to appear on a coin after Sacagawea, the Lemhi Shoshone Native American who led the famous explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark through the Louisiana Territory, and Susan B. Anthony, the suffragette that led the movement to allow women to vote. Angelou is also the first African-American to appear on American money. 

Students at Palm Beach Central High School are very excited to see this change.

“I think that it is very good that black people are being represented in a better light,” said senior Mackenzie Thompson. “This allows other black men, women, and children to dream big and set their minds to anything rather than being confined to stereotypes created for them.”  

In a news release from the US Mint, deputy director Ventris C. Gibson stated, “It is my honor to present our Nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history. 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.”

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. introduced a bill for the coin program under former President Barack Obama. Lee, along with U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska drafted the Circulation Collectible Coin Redesign Act in 2017 because, according to Lee, “the phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long — especially women of color.” The act became a law in 2020. The public was then able to select possible influential women that they wanted to see on the quarter. 

Other women who have been chosen to appear are Wilma Mankiller (Native American activist and first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation), Sally Ride (the first woman in space), Nina Otero-Warren (a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools), and Anna May Wong (the first Chinese American Hollywood actress). These women have all been rewarded for their outstanding contributions by being on American money. The coins are expected to be shipped through the year 2025.