Celebrated poet and author Maya Angelou is among the first group of trailblazing women who will appear in a series of new quarters, the U.S. Mint announced on Oct. 6.
From 2022 through 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters each year for the American Women Quarters Program. astronaut Sally Ride, Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller, women's suffragist Nina Otero-Warren, and actress Anna May Wong join Angelou in the first set.
An image of each woman, which symbolizes their accomplishments, will appear on the tail side of the coin. The head will feature a new design of President George Washington.
“These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture,” U.S. Mint Acting Director Alison L. Doone said, adding that the images will remind future generations “of what can be accomplished with vision, determination and a desire to improve opportunities for all.”
Angelou’s image, designed by Emily Damstra, depicts her with arms lifted up, with a bird in flight and the rising sun behind her. Her poetry and way of life inspired its creation, the Mint said.
The poet’s seminal work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is an American classic that launched a revolution, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Angelou’s 1969 memoir was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and was a New York Times best-seller for two years.
In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She died in 2014 at age 86.
All the women in the inaugural group made amazing contributions. Astronaut Ride, who died in 2012, was the first American woman to fly in space. Mankiller, was the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, as well as an activist for Native American and women’s rights.
Otero-Warren, who passed away in 1965, was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools. Wong, dubbed Hollywood’s first Chinese film star, appeared in silent films, television and the stage.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, introduced the legislation that directed the Treasury Department to create the American Women Quarters Program that led to these landmark coins, according to The New York Times.
“For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color,” Lee stated.