Many say that space is the final frontier, but some places are actually more difficult to travel to than the Earth’s atmosphere. Like the face of an official U.S. coin, for example. Beginning next year, Sally Ride will be one of the very few people to have ever made it to both locations.
Ride’s likeness will be gracing an official U.S. quarter in 2022 as part of the U.S. Mint’s “American Women Quarters” program. She’s displayed on the flip side of the coin next to a window on a space shuttle. The U.S. Mint says the illustration was inspired by a quote attributed to Ride: “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.”
Most coins celebrate men. It’s unfortunate but true. The American Women Quarters program will remedy this off-putting truth by releasing five coins, each with an important female figure, honoring an “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals.”
Ride, Sally Ride — Sally Ride became the subject of media attention early in her career after being chosen as part of NASA’s first class to include women. She was subject to intense sexism because she’d chosen a path no woman in the United States ever had. Reporters frequently asked questions like: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
Ride became the first American woman to fly through space on June 18, 1983, aboard the Challenger. She ended up returning to the shuttle one more time and was meant to fly out again in 1986 — but then the Challenger disaster happened and she ended up assisting with the federal government’s investigation into the explosion instead.
Even after leaving NASA, Ride continued to advocate for gender equality in the U.S. space program. She created Sally Ride Science in the early 2000s to address the gender gap in STEM and wrote six children’s books about science before her death in 2012.
A legendary lineup — Four other women will join Ride in launching the American Women Quarters line next year: Maya Angelou, much-celebrated writer; Wilma Mankiller, the first woman elected principal chief to the Cherokee Nation; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American film star in Hollywood.
The American Quarters program will issue five new quarters featuring important women every year through 2025. If there’s anything holding the program back, it’s that the bust of George Washington (notably a man) is still featured on the coin’s front.