The U.S. Mint will begin striking and putting into circulation next year quarters that will depict prominent American women. A total of 20 women will be individually honored on quarters put into circulation through the year 2025.
The process for selecting which 20 women will appear on these coins will be 1) the three organizations specified in the enabling legislation (Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative, National Women’s History Museum, and Bipartisan Women’s Caucus) will jointly create a preliminary list to submit to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, 2) this list will be published in the Federal Register to allow the public to comment on which women deserve to appear on these coins, then 3) Treasury Secretary Yellen will identify the 20 women who will appear on these coins.
The requirements for women to be considered for these quarters are that they be American and that they are not living at the time the coins are issued. But, since the names of all 20 will need to be pinned down within the next few months, the practical result is that potential candidates should already be deceased.
In making the final decision, the enabling law states, “the design on the reverse of each quarter dollar issued under this subsection shall be emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of one prominent woman of the United States, and may include contributions to the United States in a wide spectrum of accomplishments and fields, including but not limited to suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and arts, and should honor women from ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”
The selection process will be difficult, as there are literally thousands of women who deserve consideration to be featured on these coins. It would not surprise me if the U.S. Mint were later directed to again strike coins to honor more women.
To spur public interest in numismatics, the company where I work has this month solicited public suggestions of which women may deserve to be recognized on these coins. At the beginning of April, we will forward the suggestions we have received to the organizations noted above.
In response to our efforts, we have received hundreds of suggestions, many duplicating those we obtained from others. We have also received many suggestions of women who may merit consideration except they are ineligible because they are still alive.
If you take the time to review the biographies of the 46 eligible women whose names we have received thus far, you can understand why one or more person urged their consideration. Without going in great detail (and some merit multiple paragraphs just to list their “accomplishments and contributions”), here are the names so far that we will be passing along:
Jane Addams, social reformer, peace activist, winner of 1931 Nobel Peace Prize
*Marian Anderson, singer who performed before 75,000 from the Lincoln Memorial
*Susan B. Anthony, anti-slavery advocate, civil rights advocate, women’s suffrage advocate
Clara Barton, nurse, “Angel of the Battlefield,” founder and long-time president of American Red Cross
Isabella Baumfree (Sojourner Truth), anti-slavery, civil rights, and women’s rights advocate
Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of what is now Bethune-Cookman University, civil rights advocate
Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman to earn U.S. medical degree, advocate for poor and women’s education
Sarah Breedlove (Madame C.J. Walker), first self-made female millionaire, philanthropist
*Annie Jump Cannon, perfected universal system of stellar classification
*Willa Sibert Cather, novelist of frontier and pioneer experience, Pulitzer Prize winner
Bessie Coleman, first African American female aviator, challenged segregationist policies
Emily Dickinson, prominent American poet
Dorothea Dix, advocate for humane treatment of “mentally ill”
Amelia Earhart, first female pilot to fly across Atlantic Ocean, many other female pilot firsts
Mary Lillian Ellison (The Fabulous Moolah), eight-time world wrestling champion, last at age 76
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (Sara Winnemucca), first known autobiography by Native American female
Grace Hopper, mathematics and computer pioneer, first female promoted to Rear Admiral in U.S. Navy
Julia Ward Howe, wrote Battle Hymn of the Republic, women’s rights, suffrage and peace advocate
Mary G. Harris Jones (Mother Jones), labor organizer and advocate for working people
Creola Katherine Johnson (Katherine Johnson), calculated orbital mechanics for NASA, Hidden Figures
*Helen Keller, overcame the challenges of deaf, non-verbal and blind to advocate for disabled people
Rose Wilder Lane, highly paid journalist, travel writer, political theorist, inspiration to libertarians
Juliette Gordon Lowe, formed first American Girl Guides, which became the Girl Scouts
Wilma Mankiller, first female elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation
*Dolley Todd Madison, saved George Washington portrait from 1814 White House fire, First Lady
Mary Elize Mahoney, first African American to graduate from American nursing school
*Sharon Christa McAuliffe (Christa McAuliffe), teacher and astronaut, died in 1986 Challenger disaster
Margaret Mead, trail-blazing cultural anthropologist, author and speaker
Maria Mitchell, first person to discover a comet using a telescope, first faculty member of Vassar College
Phoebe Ann Mosey (Annie Oakley), sharpshooter, member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show
Theodora Nathalia Nathan (Tonie Nathan), first woman to receive electoral vote (1972 Libertarian VP)
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, “first lady of civil rights,” “mother of the freedom movement”
Loretta Pleasant (Henrietta Lacks), her cells are source of HeLa cell line still used in medical research
Jeanette Rankin, U.S. Congresswoman who voted against U.S. entry into World War I and World War II
Sally Kristen Ride, first female American Astronaut, youngest American to travel in space
*Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (Eleanor Roosevelt), first U.S. delegate to UN General Assembly, First Lady
Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand), bestselling author and screenwriter, founded Objectivism
Araminta Ross (Harriet Tubman), escaped slave who later rescued 70 enslaved people over 13 missions
Elizabeth Griscom Ross (Betsy Ross), reputed (not documented) as having made first American flag
*Sacagawea, Shoshone interpreter for Lewis & Clark Expedition
Gladys Marie Smith (Mary Pickford), actress and producer, co-founder of United Artists and AMPAS
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, first American Catholic saint, began Catholic parochial school system in U.S.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a main organizer of the first convention focused on women’s rights
Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, second bestselling book of 19th century
Chien-Shiung Wu, physicist, first female president of American Physical Society
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, three track/field medals 1932 Olympics, six-time AP female athlete of year
Out of these 46, nine have already appeared or been named (Cannon) on a previously-issued U.S. coin or U.S. American Arts Medallion. In fact, Dolley Madison has appeared on two different coins.
Considering that the audience my company reaches tends to have a disproportionately high percentage of numismatists, I’m somewhat surprised that we have not yet been asked to include sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser to this list. She was the sole or co-designer of five U.S. coins during her lifetime (1921 Alabama Centennial half dollar, 1922 Ulysses Grant Memorial half dollar and gold dollar, 1925 Fort Vancouver Centennial half dollar, and the Oregon Trail Memorial half dollars struck from 1926-1939). She was also the winner of the design competition for the forthcoming 1932 Washington quarter, but this design was rejected by then-Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon (who instead used the design submitted by John Flanagan). Fraser’s rejected design was later used for the 1999 George Washington Death Bicentennial $5 gold commemorative. Along with her significant works of sculpture, she may be as deserving as any American female artist to appear on one of these quarters.
It is not yet known if the preliminary list of women’s names that will be published in the Federal Register will be limited to 20 names, or if there may be many more candidates. Look for further developments in a few months.
Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award, 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award and 2008 Presidential Award. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2020), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at www.1320wils.com).