Poet Maya Angelou and Astronaut Sally Ride to be first women honored on series of quarters

The US Mint is honoring 20 trailblazing women on a new series of quarters, starting with Maya Angelou and Dr Sally Ride.

The poet and the NASA astronaut will be the first two women featured on the back of the coins, which are debuting in January and will continue in circulation through 2025 as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

US Rep. Barbara Lee said in a statement that “for too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color.”

She added that Angelou and Ride “paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy.”

Tam O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s life partner and co-founder of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego, previously said in an April statement that Ride, the first American woman in space who died in 2012 at age 61, “would be so moved by this great honor.”

“It’s especially fitting that it comes during the 20th-anniversary celebration for Sally Ride Science,” O’Shaughnessy added. 

Angelou, who died at age of 86 in 2014, gained acclaim for her first book, her 1970 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“Maya is one of those totally steadfast people with a spine made of iron,” writer Jessica Mitford, Angelou’s longtime friend, previously PEOPLE. “She’s a force of nature with so many talents in every direction that the combination comes like an earthquake.”

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