The United States Mint stated last year that it will begin producing quarters honoring women “have made important contributions to the Nation.” In January, the first quarter, honoring novelist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, went on sale. The second one, starring pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, has now joined it in the wallets of Americans. Dr. Sally Ride was the third woman in space and the first American woman. She joined NASA in 1978 and flew in orbit twice, once in 1983 and again in 1984, on Space Shuttle missions. She was in command of the Shuttle’s robotic arm, which was used to launch satellites into orbit.
Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. Tam O’Shaughnessy, with whom she co-founded the teaching enterprise Sally Ride Science, was her partner. She was the first person known to have been a member of the LGBTQ+ community to travel to space. On one side of the coin is a Laura Gardin Fraser image of George Washington. This was created in 1932 to commemorate George Washington’s 200th birthday. Elana Hagler created the Sally Ride side, which was sculpted by Phebe Hemphill.
The currency was released into circulation on March 21. The quarters honoring Angelou and Ride are part of the US Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, a four-year initiative to honor women’s achievements, which have been largely ignored over the Mint’s 230-year history. From now through 2025, the initiative will release five new reverse designs each year. The Sacagawea dollar, Susan B. Anthony dollar, and Helen Keller Alabama State Quarter are the two quarters issued so far for 2022, bringing the total number of US denominations of coins regarded as legal money with women on them to five.
Over 11,000 women have been nominated to be honored by the program. The Mint has revealed that the next three quarters would show Wilma Mankiller (the Cherokee Nation’s first female senior chief), Nina Otero-Warren (a pioneer in the suffrage struggle in New Mexico), and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.