The first two women to be honored as part of the US Mint's American Women Quarters Program: Maya Angelou and Sally Ride. The poet and the astronaut will appear on the "tails" side of the coins, entering circulation in January, the New York Times reports. George Washington will still be on the "heads" side, though the Mint will use a new design. As many as 20 women will ultimately be featured on coins issued as part of the program over the next four years, and the public has been asked to submit suggestions. Janet Yellen, the country's first female secretary of the Treasury, will ultimately consult with the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Initiative, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Congressional Bipartisan Women’s Caucus to select the women who will be depicted.
Women on US coins have been in short supply: Queen Isabella of Spain was featured on an 1893 quarter, and Helen Keller appears on the Alabama state quarter, issued in 2003. Susan B. Anthony was the first woman to find herself on a circulating coin, a silver dollar issued in 1979. Sacagawea was honored on a dollar coin produced between 2000 and 2008. The women chosen for the Mint's new program will not be living, as required by law, NBC News reports. They will have "ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds" and will represent "a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts," the Mint says in a statement. (Read more Maya Angelou stories.)