U.S. Mint Issues First Series of Quarters Featuring Maya Angelou

by TK Sanders

The U.S. Mint began shipping quarters depicting the image of poet Maya Angelou this week. The Maya Angelou coin is the first release in the new American Women Quarters Program.

The Mint will honor five women this year as part of a four-year special program.

Angelou, an American author, poet, and Civil Rights activist, first gained significant influence in 1969. President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. Angelou died in 2014 at the age of 86.

“Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country — what we value, and how we’ve progressed as a society. I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Secretary Yellen had final approval over all of the choices for the pilot program.

Angelou’s quarter design shows her with outstretched arms before a bird and rising sun. The imagery reflects her poetry, according to the Mint.

How the Mint Made Selections

The selection process for determining the honorees was rigorous. In 2021, the National Women’s History Museum website began accepting names of women that the public would like to see honored. Over 11,000 names were submitted.

Multiple women’s museums, initiatives, and caucuses collaborated on the project. The goal was to honor women who had contributed to a wide variety of fields, including civil rights, government, arts, and others. Women who are still alive were excluded from the selection process.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, the Senate sponsor of the legislation directing the mint to issue the coins, praised the selection of Angelou for the first coin.

“This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women,” Sen. Masto said in a statement.

Other Upcoming Quarter Honorees

Additional honorees in 2022 will be Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong. However, the “heads” side of the quarter will continue to portray George Washington. Here are some details about each upcoming woman.

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. In 1983, she rode on the space shuttle Challenger for its six-day mission. At just 32-years-old, she was also the youngest American ever in space at the time. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted herself to STEM education and writing.

Wilma Mankiller was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was elected chief in 1987. Then she left office in 1995. Moreover, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Nina Otero-Warren spearheaded efforts in New Mexico for women’s suffrage. Furthermore, she insisted that literature be published in both English and Spanish. Also, she served as Santa Fe public school superintendent from 1918 to 1929.

Anna May Wong broke through as the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood. Wong starred in more than 60 movies, including one of the first films in Technicolor.