The U.S. Mint has announced five new women who will be circulated on quarters in 2024 as part of the third year of the American Women Quarters Program.
The circulation is an initiative of the U.S. Mint in consultation with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, which was approved by Congress alongside the National Museum of the American Latino in 2020.
The fate of the Latino Museum is up in the air amid a dispute in Congress, but thus far the women’s museum is moving forward and set to be built in the next 10 years — its backers hope on the National Mall.
“The idea for the museum has actually been decades in the making,” Melanie Adams, who is serving as the museum’s interim director following Nancy Yao’s departure from the position, told The Hill.
“This was based on the belief that the country really needs and deserves physical National Museums dedicated to showcasing the historical experiences and impact of women in this country,” Adams added.
For the past two years, quarters have featured prominent women including Maya Angelou, Sally Ride and Eleanor Roosevelt. This year’s quarters represent women who may not feature in history books but were equally impactful in shaping American history.
“We can’t change history, but we can and will change the way history is told,” Penny Pritzker, former commerce secretary and chair of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum’s Advisory Council, said in a statement to The Hill.
The new honorees represent a variety of women, from different states and different backgrounds, time periods, and fields. The 2024 quarters will feature Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Patsy Takemoto Mink, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Celia Cruz and Zitkala-Ša.
Murray was a poet, writer, activist, lawyer, and the first African American woman in the United States to become an Episcopal priest. Among their many achievements, Murray challenged Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” clause, an argument that formed the basis for the legal challenge behind Brown v. Board of Education.
Murray also actively questioned their gender and sex but was repeatedly denied gender-affirming medical care.
Mink was also a woman of firsts, becoming the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress, and the first Asian American woman to run for President.
While representing her home state of Hawaii, Mink helped author and pass Title IX, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program receiving federal funding. The law was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act following her death in 2002.
Edwards Walker remains the only woman with a Medal of Honor for her work as the first female U.S. Army surgeon during the Civil War, after she was repeatedly denied the position because she was a woman. Walker was also an outspoken women’s rights activist who advocated for “dress reform” and was repeatedly arrested for wearing men’s clothing.
Cruz, popularly known as the “Queen of Salsa,” was the lead singer for the Afro-Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera and was exiled from Cuba for renouncing Fidel Castro’s socialist regime in 1960. Over her career and with various artists, she produced 75 records, 23 of which went gold and received four Grammy awards, three Latin Grammy wins and a posthumous Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
She will be accompanied on the coin by her trademark phrase “¡Azúcar!” — or sugar — which started out as a response to a waiter asking if she would like sugar in her coffee but came to serve as a remembrance of enslaved Africans who worked on Cuban sugar plantations.
Zitkala-Ša, a member of the Yankton Sioux (or Dakota) Nation, was an author and activist for Indigenous rights. Following her experience both attending and teaching in Indian Boarding Schools, she realized that the schools were designed to erase Indigenous culture and turned to writing and advocacy to critique federal policy involving Native Americans.
Her work paid off with the passage of both the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. She continued advocating for Native rights, suffrage, and self-governance until her death in 1938.
The U.S. Mint said they will produce about 600 million quarters per honoree for 10 weeks each, after which they will be discontinued.
At 10 years old, Adams recalls her excitement at seeing Susan B. Anthony on the dollar coin. She is hoping that these quarters will bring that same excitement to others and prompt them to want to learn more about the women looking back at them.
“One of the reasons why this is such a wonderful program is… the longevity of it. These quarters will be in circulation for decades,” Adams said. “Our hope is really that the public, especially younger generations, will really be empowered by seeing these quarters and seeing themselves represented.”