Following the conclusion of the America the Beautiful series in early 2021, the United States Mint is launching another quarter series that will feature five new quarter designs for the next four years that will honor prominent American women and their roles in shaping the nation.
Most U.S. coins -- apart from commemorative and collector issues such as the First Spouse $10 gold coins -- depict either male presidents or Lady Liberty – a symbolic representation of the nation as a female. Almost none feature real American women. The only currently produced circulating coin series with a real female is the Native American $1 coin whose obverse features Sacagawea, the famous Shoshone woman who at 16 accompanied Lewis and Clark during their famous expedition in the early 19th century.
That is about to change starting in January 2022 with new quarter designs depicting American women and their accomplishments that are part of the American Women Quarters Program authorized by Public Law 116-330, the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act. Under this program, five new quarters will be issued per year for four years for a total of twenty new quarters.
The American Women Quarters Program will be the third program of quarter dollars with different designs on each coin following the 50 State quarters and America the Beautiful quarter series, which ran from 1999 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2021, respectively. The ATB series ended in early 2021 with the Tuskegee Airmen National Reserve coin. This year also saw the release of the one-year-only Washington Crossing the Delaware quarter.
The new quarter legislation's sponsor Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), sees the program as an opportunity to address what she sees as a troubling lack of female representation on our coinage and to encourage Americans to learn more about women who made significant contributions to the nation.
The legislation specifies that the women selected to appear on these quarters may come from a wide range of fields that includes but is not limited to suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, space, and the arts, and that the women should come from a diverse background.
U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder said the program is a "unique opportunity to honor a broad and diverse group of women whose achievements, triumphs and legacies reflect the strength and resilience of our Nation."
In addition, the obverse of the new quarters will continue to feature an image of our first president George Washington but in a way that distinguishes it from the one that currently appears on quarters.
Also, as with any coin depicting a real person, they must be deceased to appear on our coinage.
The five women to be featured on the 2022 quarters have been selected and are astronaut Sally Ride, poet Maya Angelou, Native American and women's rights activist Wilma Mankiller, New Mexico suffrage and Hispanic culture activist Adelina Otero-Warren, and Chinese American film star May Wong.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made the final selections after consulting with the Smithsonian's Women's History Initiative, the National Women's History Museum, and the bipartisan Women's Caucus.
During meetings in April of the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) and in May of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), both entities recommended the same bust of Washington created in 1931 by Laura Gardin Fraser, which was considered for the 1932 quarter dollar for the American Women quarter obverse, to appear from 2022 to 2025. The design is a right-facing portrait that previously appeared in 1999 on the obverse of the gold $5 commemorative for the 200th anniversary of Washington's death after having been passed over in the 1930s. If Secretary Yellen signs off on this design, it will mean the obverse of the American Women quarters will be a design by a female artist, which seems fitting.
In 2026 entirely new designs will be featured on each circulating coin to honor the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States, and in 2027 another design of Washington that is different from the other ones that have been used, will appear as required by the legislation.
The first two new quarters in 2022 will be those with Dr. Sally Ride and former poet laureate Maya Angelou.
The design that both panels recommended for the Ride coin shows her next to a space shuttle window with the earth depicted and above it the inscription "E PLURIBUS UNUM." Around them are inscribed "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "QUARTER DOLLAR," and DR. SALLY RIDE."
Ride was a physicist who joined NASA in 1978 and in 1983 became the first American woman in space as a crew member of the space shuttle. She left NASA in 1987 and later, while serving on the commission that investigated the cause of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, provided vital information on that issue.
The second coin will depict Maya Angelou with her arms uplifted and behind her, a bird in flight and a rising sun, imagery which is inspired by her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She wrote other autobiographies, books of poetry, and plays, movies, and television shows. The inscriptions match those of the Sally Ride coin except for the name.
Treasury Secretary Yellen agreed with the committees' recommendations and recently approved those designs for the first two coins.
For the three other 2022 quarters, the CCAC met in mid-June to consider designs for those coins and made recommendations for each, but those designs have yet to be reviewed by the CFA.
The CCAC recommended a design that shows a right-facing image of her wrapped in a shawl for the Mankiller coin. To her left is the 7-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation. In the middle are inscribed her name and "PRINCIPAL CHIEF" and "CHEROKEE NATION" in Cherokee language plus "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," and "QUARTER DOLLAR."
Mankiller's activism was inspired by a 1969 incident when a group of Native Americans overtook the Alcatraz prison, and in 1985 she was elected as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
For the Otero-Warren coin, the CCAC recommended a waist-up portrait of her with Spanish inscriptions for "VOTES FOR WOMEN" plus the same other inscriptions as the other obverses.
She promoted adult education programs and fought to preserve the study of Hispanic culture.
Finally, for Wong, the CCAC suggested a design with the actress in a dramatic pose with her hands raised, one touching her forehead. The inscriptions are arranged and use fonts that resemble a movie poster and say "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESENTS ANNA MAY WONG" along with the country of issue and the national motto like the other coins.
Wong appeared in silent and sound films, television, stage, and radio. In 1951 became the first Asian-American woman to be featured as the lead in a television series called The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.
The enabling legislation for this program also authorizes the striking of silver versions of each quarter in the same 5-ounce, 3-inch diameter format as the America the Beautiful series and possibly also in fractional silver coins if authorized by Secretary Yellen.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|