Washington, DC, Jan. 03, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today the United States Mint (Mint) began shipping the first coin in the 2023 American Women’s Quarters (AWQ) program. The Philadelphia and Denver Mint facilities produce these circulating coins in honor of Bessie Coleman.
Bessie Coleman was a pilot, lawyer, and trailblazer who rose to great heights as the first African-American and Native American woman pilot, as well as the first African-American to earn an international pilot’s license. His determination and strength will continue to inspire today.
“The first piece of the American women’s quarters 2023™ The program honors the life and legacy of Bessie Coleman,” said Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson. “The woman known as ‘Brave Bessie’ defied odds and became an aviator. Her tenacious drive and fearless personality helped pave the way for future generations.
The reverse (tails) depicts Bessie Coleman as she dresses to prepare for flight. Her expression reflects her determination to fly, the one place where she has known a freedom she didn’t have on the ground. The inscriptions are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, “QUARTER DOLLAR”, “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, “BESSIE COLEMAN” and “6.15.1921”, the date Coleman received his pilot’s license. The reverse was designed by United States Mint Art Infusion Program designer Chris Costello and sculpted by United States Mint medal-winning artist Eric David Custer.
“In researching the life of Bessie Coleman, I discovered that the extant photographs and illustrations of her were posed and very familiar,” Costello said. “I set myself the challenge of creating an original, unpublished portrait, which is not based on any known photo. My wife and young daughter, who are of African and Native American descent, modeled my drawing which depicts her in a more active posture, readying her glasses as she takes flight. In the background is his Curtiss “Jenny” biplane soaring through the clouds.”
Costello additionally provides a deeper insight into Bessie Coleman’s image.
“This new portrait of Bessie Coleman depicts her fierce determination and unwavering determination to become a licensed pilot at a time of strong opposition to ambitious women of color,” Costello said.
The obverse (heads) depicts a portrait of George Washington originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark George Washington’s 200th birthday. Although his work was a recommended design for the 1932 quarter, then-Treasury Secretary Mellon ultimately chose John Flanagan’s familiar design. Of Fraser, the Gibson manager said, “I am proud that George Washington’s new obverse design is one of the most prolific female sculptors of the early 20th century. The work of Laura Gardin Fraser is hailed in numismatic and artistic circles. Ninety years after she intended to do so, her obverse design has rightly taken its place on the quarter.
The inscriptions on the obverse are “LIBERTY”, “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “2023”. The design is common to all quarters issued in the series.
Coins featuring additional winners will also ship from 2023 to 2025.
See images of the Bessie Coleman neighborhood here.
Each 2023 AWQ winner is a powerful and inspiring example of the breadth and depth of achievement celebrated through this historic coin program.
Besides Bessie Coleman, the four women who will be honored in 2023 are:
- Jovita Idar – Mexican-American journalist, activist, teacher and suffragist. She dedicated her life to fighting against separatist ideologies and sought to create a better future for Mexican-Americans.
- Edith Kanakaʻole – a Native Hawaiian songwriter, singer, dancer, teacher and entertainer. His moʻolelo, or stories, served to rescue aspects of Hawaiian history, customs, and traditions that were disappearing due to the cultural bigotry of the time.
- Eleanor Roosevelt – first lady, author, reformer and leader. As Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where she oversaw the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as Chair of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, she advocated diligently for civil liberties and the needs of the poor, minorities and underprivileged.
- Maria Tallchief – America’s first prima ballerina, broke down barriers as a Native American ballerina who demonstrated strength and resilience both on and off stage.
The range of accomplishments and experiences of these extraordinary women speaks to the contribution that women have always made to the history of our country. Coleman was a trailblazer who paved the way for many. Idar and Roosevelt were social justice advocates who were both ahead of their time with their ideas and ideals, and Kanakaʻole and Tallchief championed and represented Indigenous women in their respective cultures.
Authorized by Public Law 116-330, the American Women Quarters Program features pieces with inverted designs (tails) emblematic of the achievements and contributions of American women. Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the Mint issues five quarters in each of these years. The ethnically, racially and geographically diverse group of individuals honored under this program reflects a wide range of achievements and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space and the arts.
Please check with your local banks regarding the availability of Bessie Coleman Honor AWQ program quarters in late January and early February.
We invite you to learn more and enroll in the American Women Quarters program today. Limited quantities will be produced, so register to ensure you receive a complete collection of numismatic products from the American Women Quarters Program.
About the United States Mint
Congress created the United States Mint in 1792, and the Mint became part of the Treasury Department in 1873. As the only domestic manufacturer of legal tender coins, the Mint is responsible for the production of coins of currency in circulation so that the Nation can conduct its trade and commerce. . The Mint also produces numismatic products, including proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins; Congressional Gold Medals; silver and bronze medals; and silver and gold bullion coins. Its numismatic programs are self-contained and operate at no cost to taxpayers.
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United States Mint – Connecting America Through Coins
Coin from the American Women Quarters™ program honoring Bessie Coleman