Jan 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

U.S. Mint begins circulating Maya Angelou quarters

Photo of Maya Angelou wearing a black dress and smiling
Maya Angelou addresses the Democratic National Convention in 2004 in Boston. Photo: Hector Mata/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Mint announced Monday that it has begun shipping quarters honoring the late writer and activist Maya Angelou.

Why it matters: The series kicks off the American Women Quarters Program (AWQ), which was signed into law last year to recognize notable women throughout U.S. history.

  • It's part of an effort to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which ratified women's right to vote.

Details: The AWQ Program will feature coins designed to recognize trailblazing women from 2022 through 2025, with five quarters issued per year.

  • The first coin depicts Angelou on its reverse side with her arms uplifted. Behind her are a bird in flight and the rising sun, as inspired by her work and life. She is the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter, according to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who sponsored the bill for the program.
  • Angelou rose to prominence with the publication of her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." She published over 30 bestselling titles during her lifetime.
  • In 1992 at President Clinton's inauguration, she became the first African American woman to write and present a poem at a presidential inauguration. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

What they're saying: "As a leader in the civil rights movement, poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress, dancer, and the first female African American cable car conductor in San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s brilliance and artistry inspired generations of Americans," Lee said in a statement.

  • "I am proud to have led this effort to honor these phenomenal women, who more often than not are overlooked in our country’s telling of history," she added.
  • "If you find yourself holding a Maya Angelou quarter, may you be reminded of her words, 'be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.'"
  • Interested parties should consult with local banks on the availability of Angelou quarters in late January and early February.

The big picture: The other women to be honored on quarters in 2022 are ...

  • Sally Ride, a physicist and the first female astronaut.
  • Wilma Mankiller, an activist and the first woman elected as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
  • Nina Otero-Warren, a suffragist and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe, New Mexico, public schools.
  • Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
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