By Office of Corporate Communications
January 25, 2023
The American Women Quarters™ (AWQ) Program is the first circulating coin program dedicated solely to celebrating American women. Representing diverse fields, accomplishments, ethnicities, and races, these pioneering women are brought together by one commonality: their contributions were groundbreaking and left a lasting impact on our society. Collectively, the honorees have shaped our nation’s history throughout the centuries.
In 2022, the first year of the program, each honoree highlights the breadth and depth of accomplishments being honored in this coin program. Maya Angelou was a celebrated author and activist. Dr. Sally Ride was a physicist, astronaut, educator, and the first American woman in space. Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation. Nina Otero-Warren was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement. Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
Take a look back at our 2022 AWQ honorees.
Maya Angelou was a writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher who rose to international prominence as an author after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
- Angelou’s remarkable career encompasses dance, theater, journalism, and social activism. She appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway plays, including “Cabaret for Freedom,” which she wrote with Godfrey Cambridge. She also lived and worked in Cairo and Ghana, first as the associate editor of “The Arab Observer” and then as features editor and writer for “The Ghanaian Times.”
- Angelou’s published works of verse, non-fiction, and fiction include more than 30 bestselling titles.
- Angelou received more than 30 honorary degrees and was inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame for Writers.
- Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at the 1992 inauguration of President Clinton. Angelou’s reading marked the first time an African American woman wrote and presented a poem at a presidential inauguration. She was also only the second poet in history to do so.
- In 2010, President Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, she was the recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.
The reverse design depicts Maya Angelou with her arms uplifted. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun. It was designed by Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by U.S. Mint Medallic Artist Craig Campbell.
“Ultimately, I decided that showing her in an uplifting stance, gesturing expressively, would best convey the passionate way she lived. The bird in flight and the rising sun—imagery that she incorporated in her own writing—are also symbolic of the way she lived,” said Damstra.
Dr. Sally Ride
Dr. Sally Ride was a physicist, pioneer in space exploration, and leader in science education. The first American woman to soar into space, Ride captured the country’s imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to shatter barriers. Her historic flight represented just one aspect of a remarkable and multi-faceted life.
- When she blasted off aboard space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman – and, at 32, the youngest American – in space. During the six days of mission STS-7, she deployed and retrieved a satellite with the shuttle’s robotic arm.
- Ride and Tam O’Shaughnessy began working together to write science books for young people. Their six books included “The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth from Space,” which won the American Institute of Physics’ Children’s Science Writing Award in 1995.
- Ride and O’Shaughnessy shared a concern about the lack of women in science and engineering careers. In 2001, they joined like-minded friends to found Sally Ride Science to inspire young people, especially girls, in science, technology, engineering, and math.
- Ride received many honors during her life, including induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, National Women’s Hall of Fame, and Aviation Hall of Fame. After her death, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, the Navy commissioned a state-of-the-art research vessel named for Ride. The R/V Sally Ride is operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. In 2018, the U.S. Postal Service honored Ride with a Forever Stamp.
The reverse design depicts Dr. Sally Ride next to a window on the space shuttle, inspired by her quote, “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.” It was designed by AIP Designer Elana Hagler and sculpted by Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill. The inscription “E PLURIBUS UNUM” is intentionally positioned over the outline of the U.S., indicating that Ride was the first American woman in space.
“Dr. Ride had an opportunity to view our home, this planet, from a vantage point seen by so very few. All of human existence becomes contained in this marble, this coin, glowing in the vastness of space,” said Hagler. “An astronaut’s profession is so much about technical know-how, but it is also about courage, daring, and such rare moments of transcendent awe.”
Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller’s administration revitalized the Cherokee Nation through extensive community development and made the tribe a national role model. After leaving office, she remained a strong voice worldwide for social justice, native people, and women.
- In 1977, Mankiller founded the Community Development Department for the Cherokee Nation. She led the creation of community water systems and rehabilitation of houses during the administration of Principal Chief Ross Swimmer.
- In 1983, Swimmer named Mankiller his running mate in his bid for re-election. When they won, she became the first woman elected deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation. After Swimmer left office to lead the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, she became principal chief.
- Mankiller was elected chief in 1987, and four years later, re-elected in a landslide. She tripled her tribe’s enrollment, doubled employment, and built new housing, health centers, and children’s programs in northeast Oklahoma. Under her leadership, infant mortality declined and educational levels rose.
- Her leadership on social and financial issues made her tribe a national role model.
- Mankiller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
The reverse design depicts Wilma Mankiller with a resolute gaze to the future. The wind is at her back, and she is wrapped in a traditional shawl. To her left is the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation. It was designed by AIP Designer Benjamin Sowards and sculpted by Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill.
“We pay close attention to every piece of symbolism to ensure the tribe is properly represented,” said Design Manager Megan Sullivan.
“The Wilma Mankiller sculpt was a nice challenge because the viewer’s point of view is below her, and she is looking off into the distance,” said Hemphill. “The process of sculpting is like figuring out a puzzle with severe depth limitations.”
Nina Otero-Warren was an advocate for women, children, and Native American communities. She was the first woman to be superintendent of Santa Fe public schools. She strove to improve education for all New Mexicans and worked to advance bicultural education and preserve cultural practices among Hispanic and Native American communities.
- As a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement, Otero-Warren emphasized the necessity of using the Spanish language to reach Hispanic women. She spearheaded the lobbying effort to ratify the 19th Amendment in New Mexico.
- Otero-Warren advocated for intercultural education as the first woman to be superintendent of instruction in New Mexico. She insisted that the curriculum was taught in Spanish and English and required teachers to learn Spanish culture and language.
- She was the first Hispanic woman to run for Congress. In 1921, Otero-Warren campaigned to be the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Party nominee for New Mexico. She won the Republican primary by a landslide but was defeated in the general election.
The reverse design features an image of Nina Otero-Warren on the left, flanked by three individual Yucca flowers – New Mexico’s state flower. It was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Medallic Artist Craig A. Campbell.
“This quarter dollar design is composed of a portrait of Nina Otero-Warren, a powerful inscription, and a cluster of Yucca blossoms, the state flower of New Mexico. It recognizes Nina Otero-Warren’s influence as a New Mexico politician, educator, and suffragist in support of the ratification of the 19th Amendment,” said Costello, who drew on his background as a graphic designer, illustrator, and type designer to create the quarter design. “The Art Deco typography reflects America’s progressive mood during the early 20th century.
“The inscription, ‘VOTO PARA LA MUJER’ [‘Votes for Women’], is a nod to Otero-Warren’s belief that the use of Spanish was critical in the New Mexico suffrage movement,” said Costello.
Anna May Wong
Anna May Wong left a lasting legacy for Asian American women in the entertainment industry. Her career spanned motion pictures, television, and theater. She appeared in more than 60 movies, including silent films and one of the first films made in Technicolor. Throughout her career, she championed the need for increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors.
- Growing up in Los Angeles, Wong Liu Tsong decided she wanted to become an actress at age nine. By age 11, she created her stage name, Anna May Wong. She was cast in her first role as an extra in the film “The Red Lantern” (1919) at 14 and continued to land small roles as extras until her first leading role in “The Toll of the Sea” (1922).
- In March 1924, she created her own production company, Anna May Wong Productions, so she could make her own films about her culture.
- After facing constant discrimination in Hollywood, Wong traveled to Europe and worked in English, German and French films. Notable film credits include the British film “Picadilly” (1929) and the German and British film “Pavement Butterfly,” which was filmed on location in Nice, France.
- Wong starred alongside Marlene Dietrich in “Shanghai Express” (1932). This film is considered to be Wong’s best-known work.
- She became the first Asian American lead actor in a U.S. television show when she starred in “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong” (1951).
- Wong was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
The reverse design features a close-up image of Anna May Wong with her head resting on her hand, surrounded by the bright lights of a marquee sign. It was designed by AIP Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by Medallic Artist John McGraw.
“Many prominent actors from the ’20s and ’30s saw their names framed by lightbulbs on movie theater marquees, so I thought it made sense to feature Anna May Wong in this way,” said Damstra about her coin design. “Along with the hard work, determination, and skill Anna May Wong brought to the profession of acting, I think it was her face and expressive gestures that really captivated movie audiences, so I included these elements next to her name.”
McGraw commented, “Her forward-facing portrait is reminiscent of a theatrical mask and added to the challenge when sculpting a portrait in such low relief.”
The Mint’s AIP designers and medallic artists worked tirelessly to capture the unique characters and enduring legacies of these five extraordinary women. “It was a great honor to create this sculpture to memorialize an amazing woman, her incredible life, and her work moving humankind towards equality,” said Medallic Artist Craig Campbell of his work on the Nina Otero-Warren Quarter.
All of the 2022 honorees created positive change for new generations of women. The program continues in 2023 with five more inspirational women. Watch for these quarters in your change or buy AWQ products in our online catalog.
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