The U.S. Mint will feature two queer women as part of the inaugural batch of coins for its American Women Quarters Program in 2022: astronaut Sally Ride and activist Nina Otero-Warren. They are set to be the first LGBTQ+ people ever depicted on U.S. currency.
The first LGBTQ+ person and the first woman to go to space, Ride was a crew member on Space Shuttle Challenger for NASA’s seventh space shuttle mission in 1983. A year later, she went to space with Challenger a second time but was not on board the spacecraft during the 1986 explosion, which killed all seven passengers during takeoff.
After her astronaut career ended in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging children to study science. In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, a youth-focused nonprofit operated by the University of California, San Diego, where she taught physics until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2012. She also authored six children’s books, including Mission: Planet Earth and The Mystery of Mars, with her business partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy.
Although she was famously private, it was revealed after Ride’s death that she had been in a relationship with O’Shaughnessy, a woman, for 27 years. O’Shaughnessy said Ride had given her blessing to include their relationship in her obituary.
“I made it clear that she and I were a couple for 27 years and I’m being left behind,” O’Shaughnessy told NPR in an interview at the time. “And that just took off when she passed away because most people didn’t know she was ill. Very few people in general knew that she was gay. So it was really Sally telling me to do what I thought was best and then my friends helping me realize that I needed to be true to myself. And it changed my life, and I wish Sally could experience that, though.”
According to a press release from the U.S. Mint, Ride’s quarter will depict her staring through a space shuttle window as Earth looms in the distance. The design is inspired by her famous quotation: “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.”
The other queer woman who will be honored on the upcoming quarters series is Nina Otero-Warren, who was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. She was the leader of the New Mexico chapter of the Congressional Union, which fought to ratify an amendment that would allow women to vote, and was also the first Hispanic woman to run for Congress.
Otero-Warren will be the first Hispanic American on U.S. currency, according to the National Parks Service.
Although there remain some questions regarding whether Otero-Warren was LGBTQ+, she established a homestead just outside of Santa Fe in the 1930s with Mamie Meadors, the woman many believe to have been her partner. Otero-Warren and Meadors called the ranch “Las Dos,” which means “the two women.” The National Parks Service added that the two pair lived and worked together for over two decades but confirmed that details of their relationship are “unknown.”
Otero-Warren’s coin will include a portrait of herself with three yucca plants, the state flower of New Mexico. In addition to the commonplace quarter inscriptions, one dedication will read, “Voto Para la Mujer,” the Spanish version of suffragette slogan “Votes For Women.”
Other women featured on the quarters will be poet and activist Maya Angelou, Cherokee activist Wilma Mankiller, and pioneering actress Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American star (who is rumored to have had a relationship with fellow Golden Age of Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich). The coins won’t be on sale until 2022 and dates will be announced here.
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