By Chris Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
The United States Mint will release a new series of circulating commemorative quarters honoring American women notable for their achievements across a wide range of fields in February 2022. The five women who will be honored on the first five quarters in the program–Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong–were announced earlier this year and the coins’ designs were revealed on October 7.
The first quarter, honoring Maya Angelou, will be released on February 7. The other four will be released over the course of 2022, though the clad and silver Proof sets dedicated to the series will be available on February 10 and 24, respectively. The only other release date for quarters announced on the Mint’s 2022 product schedule is for rolls and bags of the quarter honoring Sally Ride, which will be released on March 22.
Five women will be honored each year from 2022 through 2025, their quarters released at staggered intervals.
Laura Gardin Fraser’s bust of George Washington, originally drafted for use on the Washington quarter when the design was introduced, will be the coins’ common obverse.
The program’s authorizing legislation (Public Law 116-330) gives wide latitude as to who will be honored:
“The design on the reverse side of each quarter dollar issued under this subsection shall be emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of one prominent woman of the United States, and may include contributions to the United States in a wide spectrum of accomplishments and fields, including but not limited to suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and arts, and should honor women from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”
The five women’s achievements cover many of those fields, and their backgrounds reflect the diversity of women’s experience in America that the authorizing legislation sought to capture. The women honored all faced significant, varied adversity and won numerous awards and plaudits, both during their lives and, as is the case with the quarters, posthumously.
The first notable American woman honored on the reverse of a 2022 quarter is Maya Angelou, the legendary poet and author. Her remarkable body of work, which includes poetry, novels, stage productions, and spoken word, has earned her numerous awards and status as one America’s greatest writers.
Angelou’s life took her across the country, from her home state of Arkansas to San Francisco, and the world, from the United States to Ghana. She worked and taught at a number of institutions of higher education, including the University of Ghana and Wake Forest University. Angelou died in 2014 at the age of 86.
The quarter reverse honoring Angelou was designed by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Emily Damstra and sculpted by Mint Medallic Artist Craig Campbell. It depicts Angelou with arms uplifted and a flying bird and rising sun.
Sally Ride will be the second woman honored in the American Women Quarters Program.
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1951, she was the first American woman – and youngest person – to go into space, riding the space shuttle Challenger into orbit on June 18, 1983. She had a successful career at NASA, served on commissions investigating space shuttle disasters, and advocated for both women in STEM fields and improved science education. Ride passed away in 2012 at age 61.
AIP artist Elana Hagler designed the reverse honoring Ride, which was sculpted by Mint Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill. Hagler’s design depicts Ride at left with a view of Earth from space in the background.
The first woman to serve as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, will appear on the third quarter issued in 2022.
Mankiller was born in Oklahoma in 1945, though she lived much of her early life in California where she began a career in social work and political activism. She returned to Oklahoma in the 1970s where she became involved in tribal politics, eventually ascending to the Principal Chief position. Her tenure was widely regarded as successful and many of the initiatives she introduced and/or oversaw significantly benefited the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller died in 2010 at age 64.
The reverse of Mankiller’s quarter was designed by AIP artist Benjamin Sowards and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. Mankiller appears at left, facing right, along with the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation and her title in both English and Cherokee.
Suffrage activist Nina Otero-Warren will appear on the penultimate quarter issued in 2022. Otero-Warren fought for women’s suffrage and served in a number of municipal and federal government positions.
She was born in New Mexico in 1881 and lived in a number of places around the country before settling back in Santa Fe where she became involved in local politics, particularly the women’s suffrage movement. She pushed for bilingual materials advocating for women’s suffrage and served in a number of city and state offices over the course of decades in the early-to-mid 20th century. Otero-Warren died in Santa Fe in 1965 at 83.
Otero-Warren’s quarter was designed by AIP artist Chris Costello and sculpted by Campbell. It depicts Otero-Warren alongside three yucca flowers, New Mexico’s state flower, and the slogan “VOTO PARA LA MUJER” (“votes for women”).
Anna May Wong
2022’s final quarter honors Anna May Wong, an early Chinese-American film star. Wong was born in 1905 and raised in Los Angeles, where her family had emigrated from China in the 1850s. Her career spanned decades in both the United States and Europe and included many prominent roles. She faced racism and discrimination throughout her life but is remembered as a trailblazer for women in the American film industry. Wong died in 1961 at age 56.
Wong’s quarter was designed by Damstra and sculpted by Mint Medallic Artist John P. McGraw. She appears surrounded by marquee lights with her chin resting in her hand.
* * *
Alison Doone, the U.S. Mint’s Acting Director October 1-25, articulated the Mint’s hopes for the new quarters sharing the achievements of the five historic, accomplished women being commemorated in 2022 around the time the designs were announced:
“These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture… Generations to come will look at coins bearing these designs and be reminded of what can be accomplished with vision, determination, and a desire to improve opportunities for all.”
The five women featured on the American Women quarters lived remarkable lives, and while none of the designs can capture the breadth and significance of their achievements, acknowledging them on coins will hopefully allow Americans to learn about these leaders whose stories might not be widely known.