First black female Episcopal priest to be featured on special edition quarter

The Rev. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), the first African American woman to be ordained in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the National Organization for Women.
The Rev. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), the first African American woman to be ordained in The Episcopal Church and one of the founders of the National Organization for Women. | Public Domain

The first African American woman to be ordained a priest in The Episcopal Church will be honored as part of the United States Mint’s 2024 American Women Quarters Program.

Pauli Murray, an Episcopal priest and co-founder of the National Organization for Women —an abortion rights activist group — will be among multiple women honored next year with being put on commemorative quarters.

The U.S. Mint said in a press release last week that Murray, who was also a lesbian but is believed to have remained celibate, was being honored for being “a poet, writer, activist, lawyer, and Episcopal priest, as well as a staunch advocate for civil rights, fighting against racial and sex discrimination.”

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“In 1966, she co-founded the National Organization for Women with Betty Friedan and other activists. Murray is regarded as one of the most important social justice advocates of the [20]th century,” stated the Mint.

In addition to Murray, women honored by the Mint next year will include Patsy Takemoto Mink, who was the first minority female to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a woman’s rights activist and abolitionist who served as a surgeon in the American Civil War; Zitkala-Ša, an educator and activist on behalf of Native Americans who was also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin; and Celia Cruz, an award-winning Cuban-American singer commonly known as “The Queen of Salsa.”

“All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our nation in their own unique way,” said Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson. “The women pioneered change during their lifetimes, not yielding to the status quo imparted during their lives. By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket.”

The designs for the quarters honoring each of the five women will be unveiled later this year.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1910, Murray was a civil rights activist who campaigned for gender and racial equality and was ordained a priest in 1977.

Murray’s other accolades include being a lawyer, educator, member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, author and poet.

According to the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, Murray identified as queer and tried but failed to get sex change surgeries in her younger years to look more like a man before eventually fully identifying as a woman.

“Currently, the Pauli Murray Center chooses to use he/him and they/them pronouns when discussing Pauli Murray’s early life and she/her/hers when discussing Dr. Murray’s later years,” stated the Center.

“When discussing Pauli Murray in general, we interchangeably use she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs pronouns, or we refer to Pauli Murray by their name and title(s). We hope this strategy will encourage readers to embrace the individual and fluid nature of gender.”

In 2018, The Episcopal Church added Murray to its calendar of saints, along with Supreme Court Justice and Episcopal Church member Thurgood Marshall, and Florence Li Tim-Oi, who became the first woman ever ordained in the Anglican Communion back in 1944.

Murray’s feast day is July 1, which marks the anniversary of her death in 1985. 

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