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First American Women Quarters Coin Issued

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The United States Mint has begun shipping the first issue of coins in the American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program, authorized by the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020. The first honoree is Maya Angelou—noted writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher, whose autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings brought her to international prominence.

Quarters bearing Angelou’s likeness are being manufactured at both the Philadelphia and Denver U.S. Mint facilities. Coins featuring four other honorees will go into circulation in 2022, with five additional coins per year through 2025.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Mint has begun minting the first of 20 quarters honoring selected American women over the next four years.
  • Noted author and poet Maya Angelou has been chosen as the first honoree.
  • Angelou rose to prominence with the release of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
  • Others to be honored with their likeness on a circulating quarter in 2022 include astronaut Sally Ride; first female Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s women’s suffrage movement; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
  • An additional five women per year will be announced and honored in 2023, 2024, and 2025.
  • Enrollment in the AWQ Program is open now on the U.S. Mint website.

Maya Angelou

Honoree, Maya Angelou, whose coins are being shipped to the Federal Reserve this month, published more than two dozen best-selling works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in her lifetime. 

In 1993, Angelou became the first African American and woman to recite poetry at a presidential inauguration when she read “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. She received more than 30 honorary degrees and was inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame for Writers.

In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also the 2013 recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.

Dr. Sally Ride

Quarters featuring the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, are expected to begin circulating in February 2022. 

In 1983, Ride was aboard the shuttle Challenger for its six-day mission in space, making her the first woman and, at 32, the youngest American in space at the time. She and Tam O’Shaughnessy wrote six science books for young people. One, The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space, won the 1995 American Institute of Physics’ Children’s Science Writing Award.

Ride, who received many honors during her life, including induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, National Women’s Hall of Fame, and Aviation Hall of Fame, died in 2012 of cancer.

Wilma Mankiller

Quarters honoring the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and women’s rights activist Wilma Mankiller will go into circulation sometime in the spring of 2022. 

Mankiller was born in the Cherokee Nation in 1945 and moved to California with her family in the 1950s, where she experienced both poverty and racism. Returning to the Cherokee Nation in 1977, she founded the Community Development Department for the Cherokee Nation.

She led the creation of community water systems and rehabilitation of houses during the administration of Principal Chief Ross Swimmer. In 1987 after Swimmer left office, Mankiller was elected chief. She tripled her tribe’s enrollment, doubled employment, and build new housing, health centers, and children’s programs. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

Nina Otero-Warren

Nina Otero-Warren quarters are expected to be distributed this coming summer. 

Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s women’s suffrage movement, spearheaded efforts for the state to ratify the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote. She also emphasized the necessity of using the Spanish language during suffrage in order to reach Hispanic women.

Otero-Warren worked to improve education for all New Mexicans, emphasizing the advancement of bicultural education and the preservation of cultural practices among the state’s Hispanic and Native American communities.

Anna May Wong

The final quarter for 2022 honors Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood. Wong appeared in more than 60 movies, including one of the first films made in Technicolor. In 1951, she was the first Asian American lead in a U.S. television show, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.

In addition to her roles in silent films, television, and stage, Wong landed a role in one of the first movies made in Technicolor. She achieved international success despite racism and discrimination and left a legacy for women in the film industry.

Future Honorees

Over the next four years, the mint will continue to choose honorees. Several steps are required before final recommendations are sent to the Treasury Secretary for approval.

The legislation creating the program in commemoration of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee of California in 2019 and passed in 2020. It was signed into law in January 2021.

While each of the five quarters this year will honor a prominent American woman, the “heads” sides of the coins will continue to feature a portrait of President George Washington originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser for the 1932 quarter to mark Washington’s 200th birthday. Then-Treasury Secretary Mellon rejected Fraser’s work that year in favor of a design by John Flannigan.

This will be the second time Fraser’s design has been used on a U.S. coin since the Mint used her George Washington design on a 1999 gold commemorative coin marking the 200th anniversary of Washington’s death.

How to Enroll in the AWQ Program

The American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program is set to mint a total of 20 coins honoring the historic contributions of American women. Pioneers in women’s suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, and the arts will be chosen and honored.

Enrollment in the program is open on the American Women Quarters website at the U.S. Mint. According to the Mint, 2022 enrollment prices are expected to start at $18.50 per unit for the American Women Quarters Proof Set™ and $60.00 per unit for the American Women Quarters Silver Proof Set™.

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