Each woman will be honored on the reverse, or tails, side of the coins, which will enter circulation in January as part of the American Women Quarters Program. The heads side of the coin will feature a new design of George Washington. Maya is honored alongside Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space.
Billie Jean King, the trailblazing tennis champion, hailed the announcement as; “a richly deserved honor for both.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who introduced legislation in the House of Representatives directing the Treasury Department to create the program, said in a statement that; “for too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color.”
Ride and Maya Angelou, who died at 86 in 2014; “paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy,” Lee said.
Angelou’s landmark 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ”; was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century Black woman to reach a wide general readership. She recited a poem at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993; and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.
The American Women Quarters Program will feature as many as 20 women; “from a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts,” the U.S. Mint said in a statement; adding that the women would be from “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”
The U.S. Mint has asked the public to submit suggestions for women to be honored on future quarters. Each design will celebrate; “the accomplishments and contributions” of a prominent American woman. The law says that no living person will be depicted in the coin designs.