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Who Is Wilma Mankiller On The Quarter?

Congress created the American Women Quarters Program to commemorate the accomplishments of a diverse group of prominent American Women. The Bill – H. R. 1923 – was intended to redesign the circulating collectible coins. The legislation was passed in 2020 (Public Law 116-330) but wasn’t to take effect until 2022, and five coins would be issued each year.

The design on the obverse of the coins would all utilize the design initially created by Laura Gardin Fraser for the 1932 bicentennial of George Washington’s birth. Although Ms. Fraser submitted this design to replace the Standing Liberty Quarter in 1932, her design was not selected by the Secretary of the Treasury Mellon, as he wanted a circulating coin to be designed by a man. So, it was fitting that the US Mint resurrected the design by Ms. Fraser.

The reverses of each coin would honor an accomplished American woman. The first coin in this series featured poet and social activist Maya Angelou, while the second coin commemorated the exploits of astronaut Sally Ride.

The third coin in the series was to honor Wilma Mankiller. She was the first woman ever elected as the principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She believed in and was a staunch activist for Native Americans and Women’s rights.

Mankiller was born in the Cherokee Nation, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 1945. As drought ravaged Oklahoma and the surrounding states in the early 1950s, she moved with her family to California. But off of the reservation, she and her family experienced abject poverty and abundant racism.

Mankiller longed to improve the lives of her tribe. She returned to them in the 1970s. She began working for the Cherokee Nation and she founded the Community Development Department. Early projects included a manufacturing plant in Stillwater, working for defense contractors, and associations with IBM. Mankiller then focused on rehabbing community homes and implementing and improving the water systems that served the Cherokee Nation.

By 1983, she was involved in Native American politics, and she was elected as the first woman Deputy Chief of the Cherokee Nation. When the Principal Chief left office she became the Nation’s first woman Principal Chief as well. Her political career was highly successful, and she significantly increased enrollment in the tribe, doubled Cherokee employment in the state, and improved living conditions overall as infant mortality rates declined while education enrollments significantly increased. She advocated for Native American rights nationwide and worked for social justice for Native peoples, especially women.

In 1993 she gained a national reputation for her selfless dedication to social justice and was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. By 1998, President Clinton invited her to Washington, and at a White House ceremony, he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She was now a national figure for Native American rights and for social justice for all indigenous peoples.

As various American women were considered for the honor of being placed on an American coin, Mankiller was a popular and essential choice.

The legislation called for the obverse to depict the Laura Gardin Fraser depiction of George Washington, facing right and the inscriptions “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and the date “2022.” The reverses of the coins would be where the American Women would be honored.

The reverse of her quarter depicts her facing to the right, wearing a Cherokee shawl, gazing intently at the horizon. There is the seven-pointed star, a symbol of the Cherokee Nation,  with her name, “WILMA MANKILLER,” and “PRINCIPAL CHIEF” below. Below her title is “Cherokee Nation,” written in the Cherokee syllabary. Around the peripheries are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “QUARTER DOLLAR.”

The Obverse of the Wilma Mankiller Quarter (left) and the Reverse (right)

The reverse of this coin was designed by Benjamin Sowards of the Artistic Infusion Program and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, a Medallic Artist for the United States Mint.

The US Mint’s Design Manager, Megan Sullivan stated “We pay close attention to every piece of symbolism to ensure that the tribe is properly represented.”

The coins were struck at all three mint facilities – Philadelphia (P Mintmark), Denver (D Mintmark), and San Francisco (S Mintmark). Coins struck at San Francisco were struck in both Uncirculated and Proof. This was done to provide collectors and the general public with a wide variety of choices for coins honoring these important Americans.

The coins are available singly, in rolls, in 3-roll sets (P-D-S), in Uncirculated 2022 Coin Sets, in 2022 Proof Sets, in Limited Edition Silver Proof Sets, as a 2022 Christmas ornament, and in 100-coin bags to suit collectors and investors alike.

Proof Version of the Wilma Mankiller Quarter – Obverse (left) and Reverse (right)

Wilma Mankiller American Women Quarters sold very well, especially in Oklahoma.

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