Osage Ballerina Maria Tallchief Graces the U.S. Quarter
Since last year, the U.S. Mint has been releasing new reverse designs for the quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program, an initiative celebrating groundbreaking women in U.S. history. Through 2025, the Mint will issue up to five new designs each year featuring historical women like Maya Angelou, Bessie Coleman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Celia Cruz. The latest coin, the 10th in the program collection, features legendary prima ballerina and Osage Nation member Maria Tallchief.
The Tallchief quarter launched on October 23, in time for World Ballet Day and coinciding with the 75th-anniversary year of New York City Ballet, where Tallchief danced for 18 years. But this is not the first time the dancer has graced the face of a U.S. currency; last year, the Mint released a $1 coin design featuring the “Five Moons,” five trailblazing Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma, including Tallchief and her sister, Marjorie.
The new quarter, designed by Benjamin Sowards and sculpted by Joseph Menna, depicts Tallchief in a flying saut de chat. She wears the costume from the titular role of George Balanchine’s Firebird—a role she debuted in 1949 that, by critical accounts, established her as an American prima ballerina. Tallchief’s Osage name, Wa-Xthe-Thoṉba, which translates to “Two Standards,” is written in Osage orthography underneath her.
The Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum also partnered with the Mint to celebrate the launch of the Tallchief quarter at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. On Sunday, October 29, the museum hosted a public event featuring members of the Tallchief family and the Osage Nation, local government officials, and speakers from the Smithsonian and the Mint. Festivities included a proclamation of Maria and Marjorie Tallchief Day, a rededication of a Marjorie Tallchief statue, and performances by the Wahzhazhe Osage Ballet and students from the Osage Nation’s immersion school, Daposka Ahnkodapi. American Ballet Theatre principal and fellow groundbreaking ballerina Misty Copeland also provided remarks.
By all accounts, the Tallchief quarter is something to celebrate. Keep an eye out for this special coin in your change!