This January, the United States Mint released a special new quarter featuring on the reverse (the ‘tail’ or back of the coin) author and activist Maya Angelou. The coin is part of the ‘American Women Quarters Program’ that celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution which gave women the right to vote. Five new coins will be released each year from 2022 to 2025. Each coin will feature an important American woman. The Mint will choose these twenty women for their contributions in fields such as “suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and arts.” The first five selected by the Mint are Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong.
Angelou: writer and activist
Angelou is the first African American woman to appear on a US coin. She was a performer, a teacher, an actress, (she was even a streetcar conductor in San Francisco), but she is mostly remembered as a writer and social activist. She wrote autobiographies, poems, essays, plays, and films. Her most famous book is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography in which she describes how she fought against racism and became a strong, determined woman. In the 1960s she was a social activist in the Civil Rights Movement, working with Martin Luther King and Malcom X. “All my work, my life,” wrote Angelou, “is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.”
An astronaut and a Native American Chief
Sally Ride is the second woman to appear on the special quarters series. Ride was an astronaut. When she flew on the Space Shuttle in 1983, she became the first American woman – and at 32, the youngest American – in space. After her career as an astronaut, she founded Sally Ride Science, a nonprofit company that promotes programmes to inspire students – especially girls – to take an interest in science and technology. After her death it was revealed that she was a lesbian. This makes Ride the first lesbian astronaut, and the first known LGBT person to be featured on an American coin. The third woman in the special quarters series is Wilma Mankiller, a Native American. She became the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. During her time as Chief, she increased employment and improved the housing, health, and educational levels of her tribe. Before and after her job as Chief, she worked as an activist, fighting both for Native American and for women’s rights.
A suffrage activist and a film star
Nina Otero-Warren, of Hispanic origin, was another social activist. She was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement, and she worked to improve public health and education, especially among minorities. She also worked to preserve the culture of Hispanic and Native Americans. The fifth woman in the special quarters series is Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood star, mostly active in the 1920s and 30s. She portrayed Chinese Americans in a positive light during a period when they were victims of racism and discrimination.
The power of positivity and altruism
All these women celebrated by the US Mint contributed positively to society, and they set an example with their resilient and positive mindset. They worked tirelessly and bravely against discrimination and for the well-being of others. As Wilma Mankiller once said: “The happiest people I’ve ever met […] are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves.”
1) Here is the official webpage for the American Women Quarters Program: the page contains the links to the biographies of the first 5 American women celebrated by the programme: Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong
2) You can also read about Maya Angelou on Simple English Wikipedia:
3) Watch this short video on Sally Ride:
4) Watch this short video on Wilma Mankiller:
5) Watch this overview of the American Women Quarters Program describing the first five women in the series:
1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct alternative.
1. One hundred years ago
Maya Angelou was born.
the American Women Quarters Program was launched.
women were given the right to vote.
2. The women celebrated by the American Women Quarters Program
are five in number.
helped make America a better place.
fought for the right of women to vote.
3. Mary Angelou
did many jobs in her life.
was a writer and a suffrage activist.
mostly wrote fiction.
4. In her work Maya Angelou wants to send the message that
one must never give up.
it’s important to survive.
life is awful.
5. Sally Ride wanted
to be the first LGBT astronaut.
to be the first woman in space.
to get girls interested in scientific subjects.
6. Wilma Mankiller
fought only for the rights of Native Americans.
was the leader of a Native American nation.
is the fifth woman to appear on the special quarters series.
7. Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong were
respectively of Chinese and Hispanic origin.
a social activist and a Hollywood star.
social activists involved in the Civil Rights movement.
8. One of the characteristics of the women of the American Women Quarters Program is
2) Watch the video “American Women on Coins” by the US Mint and complete the sentences with the correct alternative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQGQSAPaBbY
1. The Mint says that a coin should represent
famous American people.
2. The first woman represented on a US coin was
a real woman.
a symbol of freedom.
a US female president.
3. Until recently, American coins mostly featured
4. The first coin with a real woman on it was produced
200 years ago.
at the beginning of the 20th century.
5. The reverse of the American Women Quarters Program features
several important American women.
3) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.
to feature * reverse * to plod * grace * chief * mindset * bravely * wellbeing * fulfilled * to stand for
1. Social activists like Maya Angelou and Nina Otero-Warren ..…......…......……. the rights of minorities against injustice and discrimination.
2. The Toll of the Sea is a 1922 film that ..…......…......……. Anna May Wong.
3. A coin has two sides, obverse and ..…......…......……., also called head and tail.
4. That dancer is full of ..…......…......…….: she dances with beauty and elegance.
5. Try yoga! It will improve your physical and mental ..…......…......……..
6. I don’t like this film. It ..…......…......……. on and on – it’s really boring and slow!
7. He wanted a family. Now that he’s married and has a daughter and a son he feels ..…......…......……..
8. A ..…......…......……. is a way of thinking, a mental attitude.
9. A synonym of ..…......…......……. is ‘courageously’.
10. A ..…......…......……. is the leader of a tribe, but you can use this word also as an adjective that means ‘principal’ or main’.
GRAMMAR – Irregular verbs
4) Complete the sentences with the correct past tense of the verbs in brackets.
1.He ..…......…......……. (to write) me a long letter, telling me about his holiday.
2. For my birthday, she ..…......…......……. (to give) me a bunch of flowers.
3. I ..…......…......……. (to become) a teacher because I like working with children.
4. He ..…......…......…….(to meet) your brother last night.
5. Why ..…......…......……. (to be) you late for school today?
6. Yesterday, I ..…......…......……. (to take) the bus home.
7. When the teacher called her name, she ..…......…......……. (to stand) up.
8. I did the math test yesterday, and I ..…......…......……. (to get) the results this morning.
9. I ..…......…......……. (to choose) to study Spanish because it’s a beautiful language.
10. We ..…......…......……. (to fly) to New York for the holidays.
5) Is there a woman you look up to? Who is she and why do you consider her a role model? (60-80 words)
6) Reread the quote by Wilma Mankiller: “The happiest people I’ve ever met […] are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves.” Do you agree? Who are the happiest people you know and why are they so happy? (60-80 words)
7) Pair up with one of your classmates and look at the proposition below; one of you will argue in favour of it and one of you against it.
Proposition: Italian Euro coins should feature important Italian men and women, not buildings and works of art.
(Image credits: Pixabay)