US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for April 4, 2022: Five excellent choices

Of the five honorees selected for the 2023 American Women quarter dollars program, only one, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (shown here with Franklin Roosevelt), is likely to be familiar to a majority of Americans. That is a good thing.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint.

The five 2023 honorees for the American Women quarter dollars program represent a multicultural, multi-ethnic spectrum and, importantly, include names that will probably not be widely familiar to most Americans.

That is the strength of the program.

Of the five women to be honored with quarter dollars in 2023 — Bessie Coleman, Jovita Idár, Edith Kanaka`ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Maria Tallchief — only one, the former first lady from 1933 to 1945, enjoys wide familiarity. I also recognized Bessie Coleman, probably because I have had a long-held interest in aviation history and thus was familiar with her name and her place in history books.

The other three women were new to me and their selection is wonderful.

The American Women quarter dollars series is intended to educate all of us about the many accomplishments and contributions of women through American history. The selection committee could have taken the easy route and selected only women whose names appear in standard classroom history books — Betsy Ross, Pocahontas, Martha Washington, as examples. Fortunately, the panel has done something much better; it has selected a mixture of women widely known like first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and little known like journalist and educator Jovita Idár. That is as it should be.

When I was taught American history while in schools in the 1960s and early 1970s, there was little to no focus on the contributions of women, and certainly practically nothing about the accomplishments of women who were not white. I learned of Pocahontas in school, of course, but not of Harriet Tubman or Bessie Coleman or Edith Kanaka`ole.

American history is the story of millions, not just of a small number of Founding Fathers and Civil War generals and 20th century industrialists, and while it may be unrealistic to expect that modern textbooks teach about all the Jovita Idárs and Maria Tallchiefs, the American Women quarter dollars program offers an opportunity to educate all of us about 20 women (the series runs from 2022 through 2025, with five coins annually) who charted their own courses in American history.


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