Life in the Box: My 25 Cents’ Worth


I like the various images they put on U.S. quarters these days. I have a few that are favorites, of trees and parks mostly. But an image of a woman caught my attention, mainly because there were no words on the coin that identified her. No words like “United States of America” around the edge.

She was someone I didn’t recognize, wearing a proper Victorian blouse with a tiny trim stand-up collar, and her hair all done up.  She looked well-to-do and pretty. Possibly African-American heritage?

I was intrigued. Who was she, and why is she now on the back of a quarter? I tucked that quarter away for exploration.

A magnifying glass showed a little more detail, and there, woven into a word pattern were the missing words—I think I saw “United States.”  Still too small and blurry. I tried a shot with my cell phone, but finally decided to scan it with my computer printer so I could see it in higher resolution.

Okay, finally, her name: Jovita Idar! More words: Mexican American rights, Astrea, nurse, Revolucion, El Heraldo Cristiano, La Cruz Blanca, Journalist, E Pluribus Unum, and more. Some I still can’t decipher. “Femenel… something.” Really not the easiest design for reading. Clever, but not decipherable.

That gave me enough, though, to ask my friend Google for info. This took me to a lovely spot, in the Women’s History organization’s archives. There, I found Jovita’s story.

Jovita was a Texan, born and raised. In her time (she was born in 1885), Texas was settling in as an American territory, having been torn from the country of Mexico by the wars of the early 1800s. But Jovita’s Tex-Mex parentage left her vulnerable to the terrors of the U.S.’s racist government. Mexicans were compared to dogs, and treated as sub-humans: lynchings were common, along with other tortures.


Jovita’s family was progressive, and ran a newspaper for Hispanic people. She helped her father run the newspaper, La Crónica, and later wrote an article for El Progreso that so inflamed the Texas governor, that he sent the Texas Rangers there to stop the presses.

 As the story goes, when the Rangers approached, Jovita stood in the doorway, blocking their entrance. She told them they had no right to enter the building. And, surprisingly, the Rangers didn’t kill her! They turned back, waited until nighttime, and smashed the entire newsroom to pieces with sledge-hammers. Well, at least they didn’t kill anyone.

Jovita was a remarkable woman. Not only was she an intrepid journalist, she also volunteered as a nurse on the front lines of the Mexican Revolution. She was instrumental in organizing for many causes, including Women’s suffrage and for Mexican American Women’s involvement in political issues of her day. She fought for education for the children, and many other issues we would see as progressive today.

PBS has an eleven-minute biography of Jovita Idar, and I found it fascinating. It’s on the American Masters online “Unladylike2020” series. I’ve got a link, below.

That brings me back to her being on the quarter in 2023. Who put her there, and why didn’t I hear about it then? Okay, maybe I was busy being disgusted with politics, and shut off my news feeds. Here’s what I just now found out: the U.S. Mint has a four-year project (2022-2025) which highlights five “trailblazing women” each year. Oh, how nice it is to have liberals in charge! I no longer take that for granted!

This nice little program will give us all a tiny (about 1 inch–a quarter’s width) look at “an ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of [women who…represent] a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.”

How lovely! Other women on the 2023 coins are: Bessie Coleman, Edith Kanakaʻole, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Maria Tallchief.  Only one of which I’m familiar with. More stories to explore!

Get your women’s history while you can. Even if some states try to erase this history, at least some symbols of it will be etched in round pieces of a nickel-copper mix with the U.S.’s stamp of approval.

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. She’s now showing photos on Smug Mug  

Jovita Idar 11 minute Biography from PBS

Jovita Idar story on American Women’s History dot org

 American Women Quarters Program  (U.S. Mint)

American Masters (PBS) Short stories collection called “Unladylike2020”  

American Masters (PBS) Inspiring Woman Collection   


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