Diversity and Numismatics – Two outstanding pioneering women in the USA’s Celebrating Women’s Series – Blog 6

About three years ago, I introduced myself as a numismatist (collector of money) and published a few blogs that intersected my hobby with my profession as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Since that time, I have written 5 blogs about the intersection of diversity with coin and paper money. See the complete list at the bottom of this blog.

The fifth of the series introduced the new “Celebrating America Quarters” that would introduce five women from American history per year on our quarters. With almost exclusively white men featured on America’s money for the past centuries, it is about time that women were featured. The 2022 introductory series (see my blog about this) was extraordinary in their diversity; these first five quarters featuring Black, Lesbian, Latino, Native American and Asian women.

Two of the 2023 quarters feature two women who had to overcome tremendous cultural and racial barriers to achieve success.

Jovita Idar is the one women in this photo (second from the right) at the El Progresso Newspaper. General Photograph Collection, UTSA Special Collections

The first is Jovita Idar, a journalist, activist and suffragist who courageously battled multiple injustices of her time. Born in the Laredo, Texas near the Mexican border in 1885, she fought for the rights of Mexican Americans, exposed racism and encouraged women to become involved in public policy. After receiving her teaching degree from the Holden Institute, she quickly learned of the segregated inadequate education offered to Hispanic and Latino children in Texas.

Jovita left public education to embark in a career in journalism where she felt she could do more to advocate for all rights for Mexican-Americans, particular women and children. She helped organize the First Mexican Congress to unify Mexican-Americans on topics such as racism, education and lack of economic resources. And she was involved in women’s rights and leading groups to activate Mexican-American women into the political and voting processes.

The second is Elizabeth “Betty Marie” Tall Chief, America’s first prima ballerina. Born in Oklahoma, her family recognized Betty Marie’s fierce work effort and talent, and moved to Los Angeles so she would have access to the finest ballet instruction. Unfortunately, she received relentless teasing from her classmates, who would sound “war whoops” when Betty Marie walked by and asking if her father took scalps. Classmates pretended not know if her last name was “Tall” or “Chief”, so she changed it to Tallchief, all one word.

She took the risk of moving to New York at the age of seventeen and quickly moved up the ranks within the Ballet Russe. Leaders suggested she modify her name of Betty Marie to Maria, with which she was fine. But when they suggested she changed her last name if “Tallchieva” to appear more Russian, she refused as she was proud of her Native American heritage. In 1948 within the newly formed New York City Ballet, she became America’s first prima ballerina (principal dancer.)

Do be looking for these two women’s quarters in your change as well as others from the 2022 and 2023 series.

+     +     +     +     +     +     +     +     +     +

My past five blogs featuring the intersection of numismatics and diversity in chronological order:

In June, 2020 – “Black Lives Matter and the $20 Bill – an Awful American Travesty,” I recounted the very sad story of how the approved plans to place African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman on our $20 bill got derailed.

In July, 2020, I followed with – “A Black Lives Matter and an American Coinage Travesty – blog 2,” I recount the sad story of a Ku Klux Klan-inspired coin.

Then in December, 2020 – I connect our nation’s monetary currency to diversity issues: in “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” I recount how Republicans during the Great Depression attempted to censure this song.

In my 4th blog of the series, I wrote about women around the world featured on paper money and coinage. Included in that blog where photos of the first two quarters of the USA’s latest American women quarter series.

The fifth of the series introduced the new “Celebrating America Quarters” that would introduce five women from American history per year on our quarters.