Beginning in January 2022, likenesses of Maya Angelou and Sally Ride will be found on the tails side of a series of quarters. And though they're not the first women to be featured on a U.S. coin (Queen Isabella of Spain, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacagawea came before), they are the first to be recognized in the U.S. Mint's new American Women Quarters Program.
The venture was introduced into legislation in the Senate by Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, with U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee taking it to the House.
It will see a total of 20 women represented, with their respective coin designs released through 2025.
"Contributions may come from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts," The U.S. Mint said in a news release last month. "The women honored will come from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds."
In accordance with Public Law, all the honorees must be deceased. Angelou, a nationally acclaimed poet and literary icon, and Ride, the first American woman in space, were fitting choices seeing as both were pioneers in their fields. And though the public is welcome to submit their own recommendations for future quarters via this web portal, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will pick the remainder of the women in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution's American Women's History Initiative.
"For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country's history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color," Lee said in a statement. "[Angelou and Ride] 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."
With this development, you may be wondering about reports that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Though the decision to feature the abolitionist dates back to the 2016 Treasury, former President Trump and his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, opposed and delayed Tubman's addition. According to "The New York Times", the Biden administration resumed the effort in January and is looking into ways to jumpstart the process.