It has been reported that the image of one of the most influential and loved poets of the 20th century, Dr. Maya Angelou, will appear on the U.S. quarter in January 2022. Dr. Angelou, who died in 2014, is a part of a series of commemorative quarters from the US Mint’s American Women Quarters Program. She and astronaut Sally Ride will be placed on the back of the U.S. quarter in a continued effort to represent women on U.S. currency.
This program is a long time coming and was brought into legislation within the senate by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Deb Fische. Congresswoman Barbara Lee was responsible for passing it through the House of Representatives. Lee expressed in a statement, “For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color.” She continues, saying both women “paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy. Our goal in working on this legislation was to honor phenomenal women like Dr. Maya Angelou and Dr. Sally Ride. I’m glad they are among the first of many to be recognized.”
An American icon, who rose from a painful childhood that included sexual assault to the upper echelon of world leaders, read a poem at former president Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, and in 2011 was given the Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.
She will be the first among 20 other women to be placed on coins through 2025 “from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts,” said a statement from the U.S. Mint. The statement continues, revealing that the women chosen will be from “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”
The U.S. Mint has requested that the public share suggestions of women they would like to see on quarters going forward. The women must no longer be living in order to appear on the coins, which is a regulation of the law.
The New York Times reports “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen—the first woman to hold that position—will select the featured women after consulting with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus,” the Mint said. Ms. Yellen will also approve the final designs for the coins.”
Dr. Angelou is not the first woman to be depicted on U.S. currency. The first woman was Queen Isabella of Spain who appeared on the quarter in 1893. In 1979, Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to be shown on the silver dollar and the image of Sacagawea, a courageous Native American Shoshone woman, was introduced on the dollar coin in 2000.