Astronaut Sally Ride and Maya Angelou To Be First Women Honored On US Quarters


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMay 25 2021, 11:23 UTC
Two designs being considered for the coins. Image Credit: U.S. Mint

Two designs being considered for the coins honoring Dr Sally Ride and Maya Angelou. Images courtesy of the US Mint/IFLScience

Astronaut Sally Ride and poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou have been announced as the first two women to be commemorated on US legal tender quarters, the US Mint has announced. They are the first individuals honored as part of the US Mint's 4-year American Women Quarters Program that will celebrate the accomplishments of women "who made significant contributions to the Nation".

The quarters showing Dr Ride and Angelou will be distributed from early 2022, and though the designs haven't been finalized, there are a few possible designs being considered, which can be seen here for Ride and here for Angelou. The US mint expects to have 20 new quarters recognizing women between next year and 2025, getting up to five new coins every 12 months.


Dr Sally Ride was an American astronaut and physicist. She was the first American woman in space and the third woman overall. She joined NASA in 1978 and flew to space twice on the space shuttle missions in 1983 and 1984, in charge of operating the shuttle's robotic arm, deploying satellites into space. She died in 2012. 

Maya Angelou was an author, poet, and civil rights activist famous for her autobiographical book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings amongst many other writings. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s she worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X and was one of the most influential voices for human rights and Black rights in America right up to her death in 2014. She was the first African American and first woman to recite a poem at the inauguration of a US President in 1993 for President Bill Clinton. 

Two designs being considered for the coins. Images courtesy of the US Mint/IFLScience

In the US currently, only three denominations of coins accepted as legal tender have women on them: the Sacagawea dollar, the Susan B. Anthony dollar, and the Helen Keller Alabama State Quarter. These new coins will be the first nationwide legal tender quarters to feature women. The US Mint was set up in 1792.

“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 women honored will come from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds,” the US Mint said. The only stipulation to feature on a coin is that the person must be dead.


Members of the public can submit recommendations through this Google Form for the other honorees. The Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, will select the 18 other women to honor on these coins based on the suggestions and following consultation with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus.

The contribution by women to STEM fields in the US is immense and has too often been overlooked, but there are plenty of names we would like to throw into the mix. Mathematician Katherine Johnson, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, public health advocate and physician Rebecca Cole, and computer scientist Grace Hopper are all great places to start if you are thinking of submitting a recommendation. 


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