Part 2 – The Huntingtonian

The 2023 nominees have been announced; here’s what you need to know about them.

By Melissa Farthing, Editor-in-Chief

A few months ago, I wrote about a new initiative from the United States Mint: The American Women’s Quarters Program. This program, which will run from 2022 to 2025, celebrates the achievements of prolific American women by designing neighborhoods with their portraits on them.

Last year, the first five women featured in the program were revealed: Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong. In April 2022, five additional women who will feature on the coins in 2023 were announced by the US Mint. These women include Bessie Coleman, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idár and Maria Tallchief.

Here are some facts about these inspiring women and their stories:

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926)

Also known as Brave Bessie and Queen Bess, Bessie Coleman was the first African-American and Native American woman pilot. According to the National Women’s History Museum, Coleman was inspired to become a pilot after hearing stories from her brother who served in France during World War I. She learned to speak French so that she could apply to flight schools in France because no flight school in the United States would read her application. Finally, the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation accepted Coleman into its program, and Coleman received his pilot’s license in 1921. Coleman was well known for performing elaborate tricks during his flights. His dream was to one day open his own flight school. In 1923, she suffered serious injuries in a plane crash but made a full recovery. Unfortunately, Coleman suffered another plane crash in 1926; she and the mechanic flying the plane did not survive. She died at age 34.

Edith Kanaka’ole (1913-1979)

Edith Kanaka’ole was a Hawaiian dancer, teacher, singer, and kumu hula, a master hula teacher. Kanaka’ole first learned hula from his mother and later studied hula with famous dancer Akoni Mika. In 1946, Kanaka’ole began composing his own oli, which are Hawaiian songs. These chants were often accompanied by choreographed hula. She founded a hālau, or school, after her mother suffered a stroke in 1993. Two of her daughters, Nalani and Pualani, eventually took over the hālau. Besides hula, kanaka’ole also had a major impact on public schools, forming the first Hawaiian language curriculum for students at Keaukaha School in Hilo. Eleven years after her death, the Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation (EKF) was founded “to maintain and perpetuate the teachings, beliefs, practices, philosophies, and traditions of the late Luka and Edith Kanaka’ole,” according to the site. Organization website. Today, EKF provides services such as Hawaiian cultural education and scholarships to Native Hawaiian students.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician, activist and diplomat. She is best known as the 32nd First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945; according to PBS, she is the longest-serving first lady in United States history. According to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Roosevelt lost both parents as a child and she was sent to live with her grandmother, Valentine G. Hall. At the age of 15, she was sent to a private school for girls in England and returned to New York, her home state, at the age of 18. In 1905, she married her fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would later become an American. President. While serving as First Lady, Eleanor was considered the “eyes, ears and legs” of the President as she traveled all over the country. She was an activist who fought for the rights and needs of minority groups, the poor and disadvantaged. In 1935, Eleanor began her own syndicated column, “My Day”, which ran until 1962. Her husband died in 1945; even after his death, she continued a life of goodwill. She was president of the Commission on Human Rights and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the General Assembly adopted in 1948. She volunteered for the American Association of the United Nations and later became Chair of the Association’s Board of Directors. Eleanor was a prolific speaker and writer and maintained her public image until her death in 1962.

Jovita Idar (1885-1946)

Jovita Idár was a Mexican-American journalist, activist and suffragist. According to the National Museum of Women’s History, Idár’s first career choice was to become a teacher. however, she soon quit after being exposed to segregation and violence against Mexican-American students. Idár then started working at his father’s newspaper, La Cronica; some of his siblings also worked for the newspaper. In 1911, the Idár family created the first Mexican Congress to unify Mexicans and fight injustice. Later that year, Idár founded and became the president of La Liga Feminil Mexicaista or the Mexican Women’s League. This organization advocated for women’s suffrage by teaching local Mexican American students. Idár finally left La Cronica and started working for a newspaper called The Progresso. After writing an article opposing President Woodrow’s decision to send US troops to the border, the US military attempted to shut down The Progresso. Although they succeeded, Idár was able to hold them off by standing in front of the office door. Throughout his life, Idár continued to write numerous articles that advocated the fair treatment of Mexican-Americans. She also served during the Mexican Revolution as a nurse.

Maria Grandchef (1925-2013)

Maria Tallchief was the first Native American (Osage Nation) woman to become a prima ballerina. Tallchief started dancing at the age of three and at 17 moved to New York to pursue a career in dancing. According to the National Women’s History Museum, Tallchief was cast as an understudy in the Ballet Russe, the premier Russian ballet company in the United States at the time. When one of the lead ballerinas had to leave the company, Tallchief was asked to replace her. His performance captivated the audience. In 1947, Tallchief danced with the Paris Opera Ballet, becoming the first American to do so. A year earlier, Tallchief had married choreographer George Balanchine. Balanchine took over the ballet Bird of Fire and cast Tallchief in the lead role. According to biography.com, other Tallchief productions have starred in included Nutcracker like the sugar plum fairyMiss Julie, Scottish Symphony and Orpheus. During her time as a ballerina, many suggested that Tallchief change her last name to avoid discrimination against her Native American heritage; Tallchief refused. Tallchief died in Chicago in 2013 at the age of 88.