When was the last time you actually had a look at the change in your wallet? Unless you’re an avid coin collector, it was probably too long ago to even remember. But a new series of quarters might just give you a reason to pay closer attention. In 2022, the American Women Quarters Program—a four-year initiative set out by the United States Mint—will begin issuing quarters featuring the likenesses of inspiring American women. The first coin to be released will spotlight celebrated writer, performer, and social activist Maya Angelou.
In an effort to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions that women have made in America throughout its history, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new designs each year until 2025. The familiar image of George Washington will remain on the face of the coin, while the new designs will occupy the backside. Among the other women slated to appear on the new quarters in 2022 are Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Nina Otero-Waren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
The forthcoming Maya Angelou design will feature an image of the remarkable poet looking out into the distance with her arms uplifted. Behind her graceful and powerful figure, a bird is in flight and soaring in front of the rays of the rising sun. The dynamic imagery was inspired by her poetry and is also meant to be symbolic of how she lived her life.
Angelou’s rise to prominence occurred after her impactful autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969. Since then, she published many more beloved works that include more than 30 bestselling titles. She was later invited to write and present a poem at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1992. Her reading of On the Pulse of Morning marked the first time an African American woman performed as the inaugural poet. Almost 20 years later in 2010, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barak Obama.
Representing more than her accomplishments alone, Angelou’s inspiring life served to lift the voices of Black Americans—especially African American women—everywhere. Amongst the many other accolades she received during her lifetime, her image on the newly minted 2022 American Women quarters will be another reminder of her cherished legacy. So, be sure to keep an eye on your coin purse to catch one when they finally start circulating.
Maya Angelou will be the first woman to be featured in the U.S. Mint's new American Women Quarters Program.