*Last month, it was announced that poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and NASA astronaut Sally Ride will be the first two women featured on the tail of quarters as part of the American Women Quarters program (see video above). The US Mint has released a first look at the coins, and Angelou’s will come in seven different designs to honor her contribution to American history.
Each tail design includes a visual interpretation of Angelou’s autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” along with the inscription of her name. The designs include a depiction of Angelou with a bird cage in one hand and a blackbird in another, a dove landing on an open book, as well as an ink quill fashioned to look like a bird.
Twenty women will be featured on quarters through 2025, with up to five women saluted per year as a result of the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020. The honored women will come from all fields including suffrage, civil rights, government, science, space and more.
It’s against the law to depict a living person on a coin design, so each of the women are historical figures and, according to law, will be depicted on the tail side of the coin since the head must remain the likeness of George Washington.
The US Mint will oversee the design of the coins, but final approval will come from the secretary of the treasury. After final approval, the public can expect to see Angelou and Ride’s coins in January 2022.
Angelou and Dr. Sally Ride, the NASA astronaut who in 1983 became the first American woman to fly into space, were chosen by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen 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 US Mint is expected to announce more women as a part of the American Women Quarters program in the coming months.