The first African-American and first Native-American female licensed pilot, Bessie Coleman, is among five women to appear on U.S. quarters next year, the United States Mint announced last week. The 2023 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program will join previous honorees including trailblazing poet Maya Angelou.
Born in 1892, Coleman gained interest in aviation following the stories she heard and listened to about World War I pilots. But though she was determined to succeed in the field of aviation, two things were then against her; her race and her gender. This made it difficult for her to find any school or individual in the U.S. willing to teach her how to fly.
As a result, Coleman went to France where she earned her license. This was after she was advised by Robert Abbott, the publisher of the then-largest African American newspaper. And it just took Coleman – who was the only Black student – seven months to learn how to fly at the school.
Besides Coleman, the four other women to be honored on the U.S. Quarters next year include journalist and activist Jovita Idár, hula teacher Edith Kanakaʻole, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and ballerina Maria Tallchief, according to CNN.
“The range of accomplishments and experiences of these extraordinary women speak to the contributions women have always made in the history of our country,” deputy director of the US Mint, Ventris C. Gibson, said in a statement. “I am proud that the Mint continues to connect America through coins by honoring these pioneering women and their groundbreaking contributions to our society.”
The 2023 honorees will appear on the backs of exclusive quarters from next year. The front of the coins will have a portrait of George Washington. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen worked 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 2023 honorees, the US Mint stated.
The American Women Quarters Program, which will see five women being honored with five quarters annually, will run until 2025. The first batch of the honorary quarters was released this year.