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5 Women Honored by U.S. Mint

Celia Cruz is the first Afro-Latina to appear on U.S. currency

spinner image queen of salsa celia cruz
KIM D. JOHNSON/AP

Five renowned and multifaceted women will appear on the new 25-cent coins in 2024. The honorees in the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program are Celia Cruz and four others in various fields, who played a key role in the country’s history and culture.

“By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket,” Ventris C. Gibson, director of the institution, said in a statement.

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The four-year program began in 2022 and will wrap up in 2025. These are the honorees:

spinner image queen of salsa celia cruz
Celia Cruz, seen here at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2002, was a pioneer of Afro-Cuban music.​
KIM D. JOHNSON/AP

Celia Cruz

“The Queen of Salsa” was a cultural icon and pioneer of Afro-Cuban music, expressing the African elements of her identity through rhythms, lyrics and outfits when it was not popular to do so. From the 1950s until her death on July 16, 2003, Cruz recorded an impressive catalog of tropical genres with the best musicians and arrangers in Latin music. Born in Cuba in 1924 or 1925, she found stardom as the lead singer for La Sonora Matancera, Cuba’s lead musical group in the 1950s. She went into exile in the 1960s, not knowing if she would ever return to Cuba. In the U.S., she continued her musical rise to fame, earning three Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, four Latin Grammys and a National Medal of the Arts, among other awards. Almost 20 years after her death, she makes history again, becoming the first Afro-Latina to appear on a U.S. coin.

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From left, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Gwendolyn Mink, daughter of Rep. Patsy Mink, and former tennis player Billie Jean King attend the 2022 unveiling of a portrait of the late Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii). The representative was the first Asian American woman in Congress.​
BRANDON BELL/GETTY IMAGES

Patsy Takemoto Mink

After Hawaii became a state in 1959, lawyer and politician Patsy Mink launched her candidacy for public office. She became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 and was the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress. Later, she became the first Asian American woman to run for president. In Congress, Mink fought relentlessly for gender and racial equality, affordable child care and bilingual education. She was key in the passing of Title IX which, after her death, was named the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. She was born in Paia, Hawaii, in 1927 and died in Honolulu in 2002.

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Dr. Mary Edwards Walker received the Congressional Medal of Honor for her work during the Civil War. She’s the only woman to receive the medal.​
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Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Walker is the first — and only — woman in U.S. history to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. She was awarded the medal in 1865 for her work during the Civil War. The honor was rescinded in 1917 due to a reassessment of eligibility requirements, only to be reinstated in 1977. Walker was the first female surgeon of the U.S. Army during the Civil War, an abolitionist and a great defender of women’s rights. To treat the wounded, she was not afraid of crossing battle lines. She was captured by Confederate troops, accused of espionage and imprisoned for four months. She was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York, and died in the same city in 1919.

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Pauli Murray, seen here in 1970, was the first African American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest.​
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Pauli Murray

Poet, activist and lawyer, Murray graduated first in her class at Howard University School of Law, where she was the only woman. She was the first African American woman to receive a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale Law School, and the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Along with Betty Friedan and other activists, she cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW). She later abandoned the group, disillusioned by the organization’s disregard for racial injustice. Anna Pauline Murray was born in 1910 in Baltimore and was raised in North Carolina and New York after the death of her parents. After graduating from Hunter College in 1928, Murray shortened her name to Pauli to reflect a more androgynous identity. She died of cancer in 1985.

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Zitkala-Ša fought for the preservation of the cultures of the country’s Indigenous nations.​
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Zitkala-Ša

Also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, Zitkala-Ša, which in Lakota means red bird, became interested in education and fought hard for the preservation of the cultures of the country’s Indigenous nations. She was an educator, composer and writer, as well as an activist for the rights of Native people. She was born in 1876 in the Yankton reservation in South Dakota and left home at 8 to attend a boarding school of European missionaries. At school, the traditions of the Native Americans were forbidden, something that marked the course of her life. Until her death in 1938, Zitkala-Ša did not hesitate in her efforts to improve education, access to health care and civil rights for Indigenous people. She died in Washington and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband, a U.S. Army captain and activist. Her tombstone reads, “His wife / Gertrude Simmons Bonnin / Zitkala-Ša of the Sioux Indians /1876-1938.”

Previous honorees

2022

Maya Angelou — celebrated writer, performer and social activist

Sally Ride — physicist, astronaut, educator and first American woman in space

Wilma Mankiller — first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation

Nina Otero-Warren — suffrage leader and the first woman superintendent of Santa Fe, New Mexico, public schools

Anna May Wong — first Chinese American film star in Hollywood

2023

Bessie Coleman — first African American and Native American woman pilot

Edith Kanakaʻole — Indigenous Hawaiian composer, custodian of Native culture and traditions

Eleanor Roosevelt — first lady, author and civil liberties advocate

Jovita Idar — Mexican American journalist, activist, teacher and suffragist

Maria Tallchief — Native American and America’s first prima ballerina

Source: United States Mint

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