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90 Years Later

Ninety years ago, in 1932, Laura Gradin Fraser, the first woman credited with designing a U.S. coin, won a design competition for the obverse side (heads side) of a U.S. quarter--a right facing profile of George Washington. However, then Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon substituted the left-facing profile designed by a man, John Flanagan, that is still on a quarter. Did gender have anything to do with Mellon's decision? We can only speculate.

But, I like to think that gender-awareness was a factor for decision-makers at the U. S. Mint who put Fraser's design on the obverse side of the new American Women's Quarters that, beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, will issue a quarter honoring a woman on the reverse (tails side): Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Adelina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong. (The image is of the Angelou quarter, issued in January 2022.)

Curious about Laura Gradin Fraser, I discovered that she also won the competition for the dual equestrian statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson that for years stood in Wyman Park Dell, Baltimore, MD. On August 6, 2017, those statues were removed. On March 10, 2018, the site was renamed the Harriet Tubman Grove that is on my "To Visit" list. In the meanwhile, I read the text online and was intrigued by provocative questions not typically found on historic markers: "which of her roles: navigator, healer, fighter, fugitive or activist, do you identify with?" and "this site has been used to honor combatants from both sides of the Civil War--what do different sides view as "worth remembering?"


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