Numismatists Of Wisconsin

In defense of the American Women's Quarters

[By Evan J. Pretzer #2499]

Coin collecting is a hobby that can be challenging, chaotic, and often confusing to a newcomer. Those who have not been in the space for as long as members of this organization or similar ones may not get where some of our opinions come from and, recently, I found myself on the casual side of the fence when it comes to the latest round of circulating commemorative quarters to have come out of the mint.

Specifically, I just don’t understand why some collectors have such vitriol for the program honoring a wide range of American women set to conclude (unless Congress makes some changes) in 2025. Go on to any coin collector forum and you’ll see people joking about a series for American sandwiches next, one person actually complaining the women are not showing enough cleavage, and others commenting about how Eleanor Roosevelt looks like Jimmy Carter crossdressing.

To be fair, the Roosevelt and Carter quip does at least have some merit if you look closely at the coin and images of the two and there is something to be said about the frustrating pace of endless releases instead of general redesigns across the board for Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Kennedy’s denominations. The second is a debate for another day, however, and, for me, this series is cool for looking at the lesser-known and righting a historical wrong.

In defense of the American Women's Quarters | Member-Written NOW Articles
The Eleanor Roosevelt Quarter this writer found in circulation. Supplied photo.

It is objectively great Laura Gardin Fraser’s sculpture of Washington is finally on a circulating coin in the United States. For those who do not know where the image of George on these pieces is rooted, Gardin Fraser (who was the wife of Buffalo Nickel designer James Earle Fraser) initially won the design contest for the Washington Quarter many came to know and love in 1931 ahead of its release in 1932. Her work was described by the United States Commission of Fine Arts as “the most authentic likeness of Washington,” and yet United States Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon passed her over for the Flanagan style we all know well.

She died in 1966 and, while she leaves behind a lot of cool commemorative art like the Oregon Trail Memorial Half Dollars and her design was used for a commemorative in 1999, it is an absolute shame she got cheated and never got the more mainstream credit she deserved. Fixing mistakes is interesting and I would hope even the deepest program critic could find some merit in this pick.

As well, with this series and previous America the Beautiful Quarters, the mint is going back to the historical roots of our nation's money in my own view. Moreso than the quarters for each state, the District of Columbia, and territory, I am reminded with these of what the Educational Series of 1896 did for those who could access paper money and not necessarily afford to go to a museum or grab a book. I did not know who America’s only female winner of the Medal of Honor was before Mary Edwards Walker was announced as one of the 2024 honorees.

Future coins would be as well-served to dig into obscure past and, in an era where so many young Americans have a disinterest in learning, we cannot afford not to.

So, if you have not given them a chance, I hope you do. Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, Anna May Wong, Bessie Coleman, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar, and Maria Tallchief certainly seem like they would have shown interest to men given similar honors, and, if you cannot do the same, you just might be more than a little bit stiff and slightly lame.

Did You Know: At one point, the American Women Quarters program was set to have 56 quarters and one woman from each state and territory, but, the coming 250th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence in 2026 and a coin program planned for this run of festivities forced those in Congress to trim their plans.

Have an interesting numismatic topic youd like to share with your fellow NOW members?

Send your article to today!!!