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US Mint begins shipping Bessie Coleman quarter

The U.S. Mint began shipping on January 3 a coin that honors pilot and trailblazer Bessie Coleman as part of its American Women Quarters Program.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

The program, announced in 2022, highlights the contributions and accomplishments of prominent U.S. women. Coleman's is the first 2023 quarter to be issued, to be followed by coins that honor First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; Native American ballerina and first U.S. prima ballerina Maria Tallchief; Mexican American journalist and activist Jovita Idar; and indigenous Hawaiian composer, dancer, and teacher Edith Kanaka'ole. Coleman was the first Black woman and first Native American woman to receive a pilot license.

Coleman's likeness is shown on the reverse side of the quarter. She is depicted adjusting her flight goggles; her Curtiss JN–4 Jenny biplane is shown soaring through the clouds behind her. In addition to her name, the date "6.15.1921," which is the date Coleman received her pilot license, is inscribed on the coin. The obverse side of the coin features a portrait of George Washington originally designed by artist Laura Gardin Fraser for a 1932 quarter; Fraser's design ultimately was not chosen for that year's issue.

U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program Designer Chris Costello said he challenged himself to design a portrait of Coleman that was not based on any known photo. Most known photos show her in a static pose, but Costello said he wanted to depict her in a more active posture.

"This new portrait of Bessie Coleman depicts her fierce determination and unyielding resolve to become a licensed pilot during a time of stiff opposition to ambitious women of color," Costello said in a news release.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: People

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