Maria Tallchief Quarter
Maria Tallchief is someone who fought for equality by going far beyond the expectations people had of her. Thus, it should be no surprise that the United States Mint has honored Maria and all her achievements by creating the Maria Tallchief Quarter.
The Maria Tallchief Quarter was added to the American Women Quarters Program and released in 2023. Adding the Maria Tallchief Quarter to the growing collection of limited-edition coins that the United States Mint is releasing is significant as Maria Tallchief has broken far beyond the “glass ceiling” in many ways.
American Women Quarters Program
United States Mint released an exclusive and limited-edition coin set in their American Women Quarters Program. This 2023 quarters coin set comprised historical females who reshaped America into what it is today and broke down the walls to allow for more inclusivity in various fields. The 2023 Quarters Program honored the following five awe-inspiring women:
- Bessie Coleman: Bessie Coleman was the first female biracial licensed pilot to fly in America, descending from Native American and African American roots. As such, her triumph in aeronautics is nothing short of legendary.
- Edith Kanaka’ole: Edith was a composer well known for her work as a Hawaiian composer and for being a true representative of her native traditions and culture.
- Eleanor Roosevelt: The First Lady who made terrific strides in fighting for women and civil rights and was a leading figure in her humanitarian works.
- Jovita Idar: Jovita dared to be a voice for the people. She was on the front lines and changed people’s thoughts by educating them and later bringing to light serious issues often overlooked in minority communities.
- Maria Tallchief: The epitome of grace and perseverance, Maria Tallchief was the first Prima Ballerina to come from America. She maintained a powerful and highly hard-working ethic and never lost touch with her roots. She became one of the most recognizable dancers in the Native American community.
These 2023 quarters allow people to delve deeper and learn the story of those who fought for the freedoms they now enjoy. To be able to walk into previously barred rooms is a significant and lasting impact that all five candidates have achieved in their lifetimes. Looking behind the curtain, let’s look closer at who Maria Tallchief was.
Maria Tallchief, The Woman
As an athlete, traditional woman, and person of color, Maria Tallchief embodies perseverance and strength. By introducing the Maria Tallchief Quarter, the United States Mint allows its audience to pay tribute to an important figure in American history. Paying homage to Maria Tallchief by creating a coin as beautiful as she was is a fantastic way to bring people together through the connection of shared experiences.
Maria Tallchief paved the way for an entire collection of people that still exists today, from dancers to traditional Native American groups. Maria’s presence is still prevalent today in dance and her culture alike. She stood firm in her love for her rich heritage and culture and did not allow anyone to sway her in her decision to represent her Osage tribe in every facet of her life.
The Revolutionary Dancer
Born to a mother of Scottish/Irish descent and a father of Native American descent, she faced many struggles growing up. As a young child, Maria Tallchief faced discrimination in many different forms, from the cruel taunts of children to the outright hatred of the adults who refused to teach her how to dance due to her race.
Even after Maria learned in earnest how to become a ballerina, she faced much scrutiny. She was often told to remove her name and take on a more pleasing name or a name more native to other cultures. One of many instances is when Maria was urged to change her last name from Tallchief to a Russian or German-sounding name, as that would be more appropriate for auditions.
Maria stood firm despite all this cruelty and the intentional misspelling of her last name. She refused to hide her roots and fought to have the right to audition fairly. Her firm resolve paid off as she became the first Prima Ballerina to ever come from America and the first of only five Native Americans to hold the title of Prima Ballerina.
The Wonderful Life of Maria
At 17, Maria dared to move to New York City and pursue her dream of dancing for a big ballet company. She would eventually go on to win a spot with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and it was during her five-year tenure with the company that she met her husband.
Maria’s husband was George Balanchine, a renowned ballet choreographer. The two would continue to create living works of art, which critics claimed no ballerina could recreate with as much grace as Maria. When Balanchine later left the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and helped to co-found the New York City Ballet, Maria joined him and became the company’s first star.
With skill, grace, and a relentless drive to push harder and perform better, Maria’s passion and talent on the stage left crowds speechless. Her dance moves are still awe-inspiring, leaving Maria with an almost unheard-of legacy in the ballet world.
A Brilliant Ending to a Beautiful Life
Maria’s determination to face all of the discrimination, hatred, and cruelty head-on and without wavering once changed the ballet world forever. She opened the door for others who did not fit the more traditional mold to pursue careers in ballet. Thus, Maria opened the door for a variety of dancers. It is precisely because of her pushing forward in the face of adversity that more and more people from different cultures and heritages have come forward to pursue their love of dance.
Maria never stopped her involvement with the dancing world, and she served as a ballet director for the Lyric Opera of Chicago once she retired. With constant participation in her tribe, Maria broke down ethnic barriers and allowed the world to see the passion of dance beyond race.
After an extraordinary career in ballet and a life full of laughter and love, Maria passed on in 2013 after suffering complications from her broken hip injury.
The Design Concept
When designing the Maria Tallchief Quarter, the United States Mint chose to embody the very essence of who Maria Tallchief was and sculpt it onto a quarter. The concept for the quarter itself was to ensure that both sides of the coin were expressive and truthfully representative of the infamous people it represented.
The Obverse Side
On the obverse (heads) side of the coin was the standard picture of George Washington. Sometimes, nothing can beat a genuinely classical feature, and in this quarter, the portrait was created and later sculpted in honor of George Washington’s 200th birthday.
The obverse side of the quarter has the following inscriptions:
- “IN GOD WE TRUST”
Laura Gardin was the artist who designed and sculpted the depicted image of George Washington on the obverse side of the coin. Her work intended to highlight the features of the previous president, and she did such an impeccable job that her design is still being used!
The Reverse Side
The reverse side (tails) of the Maria Tallchief Quarter was a collaborative design that depicts Maria Tallchief as she executed one of her difficult ballerina poses mid-air. The coin shines a spotlight on her dancing, as it can translate the effortless way Maria Tallchief completed the incredibly challenging dance positions and made it look easy.
Maria Tallchief was proud of her Native American heritage and her Osage name (her tribal name), which, when translated, means “Two Standards” and is written in the Osage orthography on the coin.
The reverse side of the coin has the following inscriptions:
- “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”
- “E PLURIBUS UNUM”
- “QUARTER DOLLAR”
- “MARIA TALLCHIEF”
- MARIA’S NAME THAT IS WRITTEN IN OSAGE ORTHOGRAPHY
The design of the reverse side was a collaborative result of the work of medallic artist Joseph Menna, who sculpted the drawing onto the coin, combined with the design work of Benjamin Sowards, a member of the Artistic Infusion Program.
It is important to note that the American Women Quarters Program coins will contain a mint mark to signify where the coin was produced. The Maria Tallchief Quarter was minted in Denver and Philadelphia, respectively. Quarters produced in Denver will carry the “D” mint mark to signify where they were made, and similarly, quarters made in Philadelphia will have the “P” mint mark.
History is always told from different perspectives, but the impact people make remains the same. United States Mint aims to help further recognize the struggles and triumphs that the women of America have experienced by creating their American Women Quarters Program. The Maria Tallchief Quarter pays homage to her status as the first Prima Ballerina and honors how she embraced her culture and traditional heritage.
Maria Tallchief took pride in every facet of her heritage and proudly displayed where she came from- even in the face of adversity. United States Mint provides history with a way to be carried forward by creating the Maria Tallchief Quarter, connecting the past with the future, as her image on the 2023 quarters serves as a reminder that hard work and perseverance can be the mitigating factor for change.
Quarter Obverse Inscriptions
In God We Trust
Quarter Reverse Inscriptions
United States of America
E Pluribus Unum
Her name written in Osage orthography
Mint & Quarter Mint Marks
Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco (P, D & S)
Mintage (as of 12-1-23)
Available Quarter Mint Strikes
Business & Proof
American Women Quarter Specifications
Composition in Proof & Business Strike: 91.67% Copper & 8.33% Nickel
Composition in Silver Proof: 99.9 Fine Silver
Clad Weight: 5.670 grams
Silver Weight: 5.641 grams
Edge: Reeded & Number of Reeds: 119
American Women Quarter Artist Information
Obverse Design: Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966)
Reverse Design: Sculptor Joseph Menna, Medallic Artist
Designer: Benjamin Sowards, Artistic Infusion Program
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