Paying Tribute to Women and Coins in March

NGC has selected 31 coins showing women's impact on coinage throughout history.

March is Women's History Month, and NGC celebrated the occasion with 31 coins and medals showing the impact of women on coinage throughout history. Here is the complete list:

 

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March 31
The coin: 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Bronze Medal
The woman: Coretta Scott King
The story: Coretta Scott King, an Alabama native, married Martin Luther King Jr. in 1953, the year before he became full-time pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. With her husband, she was active in the Civil Rights Movement, and became a target with him: Their home was shot at and bombed. When her husband was assassinated in Tennessee in 1968, she balanced the tasks of receiving condolences, meeting dignitaries, leading a march her husband had intended to carry out, and caring for their four children during the funeral services. She went on to create the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and helped secure her husband’s birthday in January as an annual federal holiday.
Further reading: US Mint: 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Bronze Medal

 

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March 30
The coin: 1999-W Washington $5 gold proof
The woman: Laura Gardin Fraser
The story: Laura Gardin Fraser was the first woman to design a coin for the US Treasury: the 1921 Alabama Centennial Half Dollar. She went on to design others, including the 1922 Grant Half Dollar and Dollar, as well as the obverse of the 1937 Oregon Trail Silver Half Dollar (while her husband, Buffalo nickel designer James Earle Fraser, designed the reverse). But her biggest brush with fame in American coinage came in 1931, when she submitted the winning design for the new Washington quarter. Though a panel of judges recommended her design, the Treasury secretary chose another design, which is still in use today. When a coin was authorized to mark the bicentennial of Washington’s death, her winning design was finally given a place of honor.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: 1999-W Washington $5 gold proof

 

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March 29
The coin: Byzantine Empire Gold Tetarteron Nomisma (11th Century A.D.)
The woman: Mary, mother of Jesus
The story: In its millennium of existence until A.D. 1453, the Byzantine Empire had Christianity as its official religion, and Christian symbolism is common on its coinage. Depicted on the obverse of this coin is Mary, whose life was intertwined with that of her Son, from his birth in Bethlehem to his death at Calvary. She is specifically linked to the Wedding at Cana early in Jesus’ ministry, in which she prompts him to turn water into wine, according to the account in the Gospel of John. Early in Christianity, Mary was revered as “Theotokos” (Mother of God). She also has an elevated position in Islam as the only woman mentioned by name in the Qu’ran.
Further reading: Byzantine Rulers You Can Collect

 

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March 28
The coin: The 1893 Isabella Quarter
The woman: Queen Isabella of Spain
The story: The marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand set the stage of the unification of Spain, and their sponsorship of Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492 laid the groundwork for the Spanish Empire. In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago celebrated Columbus’ achievement four centuries earlier. Mrs. Potter Palmer, a member of the Board of Lady Managers of the Exposition, pushed for a commemorative coin with a female motif, and Queen Isabella was chosen for a quarter dollar. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed at the time by the Columbus half dollar (both were sold for a dollar), but as a result, the Isabella commemorative is rarer today, and consequently more prized by collectors.
Further reading: Coin Explorer: 1893 Isabella Quarter

 

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March 27
The coin: 1994-W Women’s Veterans Commemorative Silver Dollar
The woman: Female veterans of World War II
The story: Though women today can enroll for combat roles in United States armed forces, that was not the case during World War II. Still, hundreds of thousands of U.S. women served in the armed forces, many in nursing roles. A civilian organization, Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), provided female pilots for essential noncombat roles; for their achievements, they were awarded veteran status in 1977. The obverse of this particular coin recognizes women’s contributions during World War II in service to what became all five branches of the US military; the reverse features the design for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Further reading: US Mint: 1994-W Women’s Veterans Commemorative Silver Dollar

 

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March 26
The coin: 1795 Draped Bust Dollar
The woman: Ann Willing Bingham
The story: The Draped Bust design debuted on the US dollar in 1795, and by 1796 also appeared on the half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar. The basis of the matronly portrait on the obverse is believed to be Ann Willing Bingham, a socialite in Philadelphia (then the fledgling nation’s capital). Her father was Thomas Willing, the president of the First Bank of the United States. She was not only regarded as one of the most beautiful women of that time, but she also had a keen intellect, corresponding with Thomas Jefferson about how to ensure individual freedoms.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: Early Dollars

 

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March 25
The coin: 2016 Macedonia Mother Teresa silver 100 dinar
The woman: Mother Teresa
The story: Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born in modern-day Macedonia in 1910 and left home at age 18 to pursue life as a missionary. In 1929, she arrived in India and took her solemn vows as a nun in 1937. Feeling a calling to focus her ministry on serving the poor, in 1950 she founded the Missionaries of Charity, an organization that today includes thousands of nuns. She was given the Nobel Peace Prize In 1979. Following her canonization in 2016, she is now regarded by Catholics as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
Further reading: Nobel Prize profile of Mother Teresa

 

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March 24
The coin: 1992 Wu Zetian Series IX Gold 100 Yuan
The woman: Wu Zetian
The story: Wu Zetian (also known as Empress Wu) holds the distinction of being the only empress regnant of China. Starting in A.D. 660, she wielded considerable power after her husband, Emperor Gaozong, suffered a stroke. She is remembered for expanding China’s territory while aggressively guarding her own political power. In 1690, she established the short-lived Zhou Dynasty, which lasted from 690 to 705, when she was forced to abdicate; several months later she died at the age of 80 or 81.

 

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March 23
The coin: 2014-W Eleanor Roosevelt Gold $10 Proof
The woman: Phebe Hemphill
The story: Phebe Hemphill has been a sculptor-engraver for the US Mint since 2006. Her sculpting credits include several First Spouse obverses, including Eleanor Roosevelt (2014), Jacqueline Kennedy (2015) and suffragette Alice Paul (who was given the spot reserved for the spouse of Chester A. Arthur, a widower president). Hemphill’s work is also seen on everyday American currency, including designing and sculpting the reverses of America the Beautiful quarters for Arizona, New Hampshire, Oregon and Virginia, as well as sculpting the America the Beautiful reverses for California, Delaware, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
Further reading: Phebe Hemphill

 

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March 22
The coin: Roman Empire Gold Aureus (1st Century A.D.)
The woman: Livia, wife of Roman Emperor Augustus
The story: Livia is shown on the reverse of this Roman coin issued by her son, the Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14 to 37). She appears as the embodiment of Pax, meaning peace. She lived from 58 BC to A.D. 29, and in 38 B.C. married Octavius, the man who a decade later would assume the name Augustus and become Rome’s first emperor. Like Octavius, Livia had been previously married, and she brought into new marriage a three-year-old son, Tiberius, and her yet-unborn son, Nero Claudius Drusus. She and Augustus were married more than half a century, during which time he granted Livia considerable power. Upon his death in A.D. 14, he gave her the title Augusta (empress). This allowed her to maintain influence even as her son Tiberius, the next emperor, grew weary of her involvement.

 

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March 21
The coin: 1985B India 20 Rupees Proof
The woman: Indira Gandhi
The story: Indira Gandhi was the daughter (and only child) of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She held that position herself from 1966 to 1977, and again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. One of the world’s first elected female leaders, she led the world’s second-most-populous nation, which at the time had over half a billion people. Initially seen as a puppet for others, she eventually achieved a commanding presence within India’s political world.

 

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March 20
The coin: 1983 Russia Rouble
The woman: Valentina Tereshkova
The story: Though the US won the Space Race by putting a man on the moon in 1969, it was the Russians who claimed some of the early milestones in space exploration. These include putting the first person in space (Yuri Gagarin, April 1961), as well as putting the first woman in space two years later. In June 1963, Valentinina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times over nearly three days in her Vostok 6 capsule. It wasn’t for another 20 years that the first American woman, Sally Ride, went to space on the shuttle Challenger. At age 70, Tereshkova said she would like to go to Mars; today, she is still alive at age 81.

 

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March 19
The coin: 1916-S Mercury Dime
The woman: Elsie Kachel Stevens
The story: Elsie Kachel Stevens was the wife of poet Wallace Stevens, who was honored with the Pulitzer Prize in 1955, near the end of his life. Her claim to fame derives from 1913, when she and her husband were renting an apartment from sculptor Adolph Weinman. Weinman made a bust of her, which later served as the model for the figure on the obverse of the “Mercury” dime. Minted for three decades starting in 1916, the Mercury dime today is one of the American coin series most loved by collectors. Though commonly believed to show the Roman god Mercury, the image on the obverse is actually Liberty wearing a winged cap.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: Mercury Dime

 

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March 18
The coin: 2015 British 5 Pound World War I commemorative
The woman: Edith Cavell
The story: Edith Cavell was a British nurse who worked during World War I in Belgium, which was overrun by German forces in 1914. Cavell worked to treat injured soldiers from both sides, and helped dozens of British and French soldiers reach freedom. She was arrested in August 1915 and tried by German forces. Her execution by firing squad in October 1915 caused international outcry. Today, she is venerated by the Church of England. She also has a memorial in London, with a quote from the night before her execution: “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.”

 

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March 17
The coin: 1997 Argentina 1 Peso
The woman: Eva Duarte de Peron
The story: Eva Duarte de Peron, often referred to as “Evita,” was first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death from cervical cancer in 1952, at age 33. She pushed for women’s suffrage in Argentina, which was granted in 1947 (and celebrated on this coin). She also encouraged women to get involved in politics by establishing the Female Peronist Party. From a modest background herself, she established the Evan Peron Foundation in 1948, which helped the less fortunate. In 1951, she was seriously considered for the vice-presidential candidacy as her husband sought re-election, but she ultimately renounced those ambitions. After her husband was re-inaugurated in June 1952 (and shortly before her death), she was given the title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation.”

 

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March 16
The coin: 2012 Gold 2,000 Yuan Panda
The woman: Chang Huan
The story: As part of our Women and Coins series, we are honoring women who have found success in the traditionally male-dominated field of coin design. Chang Huan, an artist in China, has designed some spectacular coins for that country’s popular Panda series. These include the 2012 Gold 2,000 Panda seen here, featuring a playful example of the animal that serves as a symbol of China. Her work also includes the 2006 1-ounce silver 10 Yuan, and heart-shaped Pandas of recent years.
Further reading: Panda Designers Speak with NGC's Peter Anthony

 

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March 15
The coin: Parthian Kingdom Silver Drachm (2 B.C. to A.D. 4)
The woman: Musa, Queen of Parthia
The story: Musa and her son, the Parthian King Phraataces, are portrayed on this coin. Musa started life as a slave girl in the Roman Empire and was gifted as a concubine to Phraates IV (c.38 to 2 B.C.), ruler of the rival Parthian Kingdom (centered in modern day Iran). Musa eventually gave birth to a son, Phraataces, after which she was hailed queen and the boy designated the king’s royal successor (as his other sons were sent to Rome as hostages). Later, in 2 B.C., Musa and her son poisoned Phraates IV, after which Phraataces became king in his place. Shockingly, Musa married her son, the new king, and their rule lasted about six years until they were overthrown.

 

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March 14
The coin: 2012 US Aung San Suu Kyi Bronze Medal
The woman: Aung San Suu Kyi
The story: In 2012, the US Mint produced bronze medals honoring democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 amid her struggle against the regime in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The medal’s obverse features Suu Kyi’s portrait, while the reverse features a peacock surrounded by the words “Dedicated to Promoting Freedom and Democracy in Burma.” She was kept under house arrest by the military regime for most of the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century. In the past decade, as Myanmar has become increasingly democratic, Suu Kyi has gained political power, and now serves as foreign minister.
Further reading: US Mint: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Bronze Medal

 

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March 13
The coin: 1979 Susan B. Anthony Dollar
The woman: Susan B. Anthony
The story: In 1979, Susan B. Anthony became the first real woman to be featured on a US coin. (Unfortunately, the coin resembled a quarter and not particularly successful.) Anthony co-founded the Women’s Loyal National League in 1863, the country’s first national women’s political group, which collected nearly 400,000 signatures in a successful drive for a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery. Later, Anthony helped lead the effort in the US to give women the right to vote. After being arrested for voting in 1872, she was key in presenting Congress with an amendment to protect the right of women to vote in 1878. This right was enshrined in the Nineteenth Amendment, though it wasn’t approved until 1920, 14 years after Anthony’s death.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: Susan B. Anthony Dollar

 

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March 12
The coin: 1921 US Peace Dollar
The woman: Teresa de Francisci
The story: The successor to the Morgan Dollar was the Peace Dollar, which came into being in 1921 (after the horror of World War I) and was discontinued in 1935. In 1921, a US commission invited a small group of accomplished sculptors to provide designs for a new silver dollar to represent peace. The competition was fierce, and included Victor David Brenner (Lincoln cent), Adolph Weinman (Mercury dime) and John Flanagan (Washington quarter), but the victor was Anthony de Francisci. Because of time constraints, de Francisci turned to his wife, Teresa de Francisci, as the model for Liberty, depicted with a radiant crown and wind-blown hair. They were newlyweds at the time; both arrived in the United States as immigrants from Italy.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: US Peace Dollar

 

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March 11
The coin: 2016 “Joan of Arc” silver 10 Euros, proof
The woman: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc)
The story: A powerful figure in medieval France during the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc was a teenager from a peasant family when she proclaimed that she had received visions from saints directing her to drive the English out. The morale boost she provided to French forces was key to helping break the siege of Orleans in 1429, as well as subsequent victories that paved the way for Charles VII’s rule as king of France until 1461. Joan wasn’t so fortunate: She was captured by the English and burned at the stake as a heretic in 1431, at the age of 19. The Roman Catholic Church canonized her in 1920, and she remains a national heroine of France.

 

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March 10
The coin: 1995-W Silver Dollar Special Olympics Commemorative
The woman: Eunice Kennedy Shriver
The story: The sister of President John F. Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver helped found the Special Olympics in 1968, directing funding to a Chicago event that was the brainchild of Anne Burke. Today, the worldwide organization provides enriching opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities through sport competition. For her lifelong efforts, Shriver received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan in 1984 and a papal knighthood in 2006. Shriver didn’t pass away until 2009, so her appearance on a US coin in 1995 was extraordinary, and generated some controversy. The reverse of the coin features a quote attributed to Shriver: “As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us.”
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: 1995-W Silver Dollar Special Olympics Commemorative

 

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March 9
The coin: 1986-W Liberty $5 Proof (Modern US Commemorative)
The woman: Elizabeth Jones
The story: The rebirth of the commemorative coins in the US had just begun when the US marked the centennial of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty with commemorative coins, including a gold half eagle, which features a well-received design by Jones. From 1981 to 1991, Jones was the 11th chief engraver of the US Mint, the first woman to hold that position. Among her other designs is the 1983 Los Angeles Olympic dollar commemorative.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: 1986-W Liberty $5 Proof

 

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March 8
The coin: Roman Empire AE3 or BI Nummus (4th Century A.D.)
The woman: Helena, mother of Constantine the Great
The story: Helena is portrayed on the obverse of this coin. She is also seen on the reverse, styled as Securitas, the Roman goddess of security and stability. Helena is renowned for her influence on her son, Constantine the Great, who was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. She served as Augusta (or empress) from 325 until her death a few years later. A Christian who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land late in her life, Helena is revered as a saint in Catholic and Orthodox churches. Though Constantine was a pagan most of his life, his reign was marked by increased acceptance of Christianity within the Roman Empire.

 

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March 7
The coin: 1962 Nigeria Shilling
The woman: Queen Elizabeth II
The story: Queen Elizabeth II is world-renowned for leaving her personal stamp of dignity on her 66-year (and counting) reign, the longest of any British monarch. She is 91 years old, and has ruled since her father, King George VI, died when she was 25 years old. In addition to being queen of the United Kingdom, she also serves as the queen of the Commonwealth realms of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a dozen other countries formerly part of the British Empire. Though her power is ceremonial, her likeness remains on many of those countries’ coins to this day. Her likeness can also be found on other coins, such as the 1962 Nigeria Shilling here, minted just after Nigeria attained its independence from British rule, part of the wave of decolonization after World War II.
Further reading: About Her Majesty The Queen

 

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March 6
The coin: France 1984 Marie Curie 100 Francs (the one pictured has ESSAI on the obverse, French for "test")
The woman: Marie Curie
The story: Scientist Marie Curie, who was born in Poland but spent most of her adult years in France, is renowned for her research with radioactive materials. She won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre, and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 as a widow. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. Marie Curie has left her mark on the Periodic Table of Elements: The Curies were the first to isolate radium and polonium, the latter of which is named after her country of birth. A little over a decade after her death (attributed to radiation exposure), she and her husband were honored when the 96th element was named Curium.
Further reading: Nobel Prize Winner Marie Curie

 

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March 5
The coin: 1878-CC US Morgan Dollar
The woman: Anna Willess Williams
The story: The Morgan Dollar is 140 years old this month, and its story is closely tied to Anna Willess Williams, a young woman from Philadelphia whose portrait appeared on the 657 million Morgans that were minted. The Mint director wanted the dollar to feature the head of a woman to represent Liberty (instead of an entire figure). This was a significant change, because the public was accustomed to the Seated Liberty design on silver coinage, from dollars to half dimes, in the decades before the Morgan Dollar was issued. Coin designer George T. Morgan selected Anna Willess Williams, a young woman from Philadelphia, because of her remarkable profile. Williams was promised that her identity would be kept a secret, but her ties to the Morgan Dollar soon became public. Williams spurned the fame, and instead chose to pursue her career as a teacher.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: Morgan Dollars

 

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March 4
The coin: 2001 Silver Gibraltar Crown
The woman: Florence Nightingale
The story: Florence Nightingale, an Englishwoman, led a team of nurses who cared for the wounded during the Crimean War, a conflict in the 1850s that involved Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Russia. After the war, Nightingale established a nursing school in London that raised the profile of the nursing profession and expanded the career opportunities for 19th century women. She is depicted on the coin here holding a lamp (symbolic of the care she provided for wounded servicemen at night). Britain honored her contributions by putting her on banknotes in the late 20th century; she was the first woman on British paper money who was not a monarch.
Further reading: Florence Nightingale Biography

 

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March 3
The coin: 1986 Philippine Gold 2500 Piso Proof (Aquino's Washington Visit)
The woman: Corazon Aquino
The story: Corazon Aquino’s husband, a former senator and critic of the Philippine dictatorship, was assassinated upon returning from exile in 1983. Corazon was the heart of the People Power Movement that toppled this dictatorship in 1986. She became the first female president of an Asian country, serving until 1992. This particular coin celebrates her September 1986 visit to Washington, during which she addressed the US Congress and met with US President Reagan, who is featured on the reverse.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: 1986 Philippines 2500 Piso Proof

 

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March 2
The coin: 2000-P US Sacagawea Dollar
The woman: Glenna Goodacre
The story: Goodacre won a national design contest with her obverse design for the new coin featuring Sacagawea, the Native American woman who assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the western United States. Amid high expectations, more than a billion were minted in 2000, including 767 million in Philadelphia. (No US dollar coin has had a higher mintage than the 2000 Philadelphia issue.) Goodacre also designed the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, located near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Further reading: NGC Coin Explorer: Sacagawea Dollar

 

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March 1
The coin: Ptolemaic Kingdom 80 Drachmae (1st Century B.C.)
The woman: Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt
The story: The last Greek to rule Egypt, Cleopatra, is portrayed on the obverse of this coin. She was remarkably intelligent, and spoke nine languages. She was also opportunistic, first allying herself with the Roman general Julius Caesar and later with Roman general Marc Antony, whom she married. Antony and Cleopatra’s forces suffered a disastrous defeat in 31 B.C. at the Battle of Actium; less than a year later, as their grip on power was failing, Cleopatra killed herself at age 39, just days after Antony had done the same.
Further reading: Famous Romans You Can Collect


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