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Late cultural icon Edith Kanakaʻole to appear on 2023 American Women US Quarter series

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The late Edith Kanakaʻole, has been selected by the US Mint to appear on the back of the US Quarter as part of the 2023 American Women Quarters series.

The cultural icon, kumu hula, composer, and chanter, is recognized as a key influence in the Hawaiian renaissance of the 1970s.  

Photo credits: Bessie Coleman portrait ©Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Edith Kanaka`ole portrait ©franco salmoiraghi. Eleanor Roosevelt portrait ©Yousuf Karsh.

She is among five women trailblazers selected for the honor.  Others include former First Lady and first chair of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights Eleanor Roosevelt, first African American and first Native American woman pilot Bessie Coleman, Mexican American journalist Jovita Idár, and Maria Tallchief a Native American and America’s first major prima ballerina.

The Mint is issuing five coins as part of the series with different reverse designs annually over the four-year period from 2022 through 2025.

“This is an unbelievable honor for our family, for our body of work at the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation in carrying on her legacy and her teachings, for our home and for our people,” said Kanaka‘ole’s granddaughter and Executive Director of the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation Huihui Kanahele-Mossman, Ph.D.

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Kūha‘o‘īmaikalani Zane, Kanaka‘ole’s grandson and president of the board of directors of the foundation established in honor of her life’s work said, “this high recognition reminds us that our work at the foundation continues to be relevant, our research and our practices continue to have meaning and application.”

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Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, Ph.D., a daughter of the late Kanaka‘ole, a cultural resource herself said, “my mother was a ‘pusher’ but she always did it with a smile. She pushed all six of her children, when it was not yet a natural process for Hawaiians, towards Higher Education to earn a degree. When she became an Instructor at the University of Hawaiʻi in Hilo she encouraged Hawaiian students to 1) maintain their stay and earn their degree, 2) know who they were as Hawaiians and elevate the status of the Lāhui.”

In a release, US Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson said, “the range of accomplishments and experiences of these extraordinary women speak to the contributions women have always made in the history of our country. I am proud that the Mint continues to connect America through coins by honoring these pioneering women and their groundbreaking contributions to our society.”

The Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation continues the legacy of Edith Kanakaʻole who died in 1979. One part of her legacy includes Hālau o Kekuhi, an internationally acclaimed hālau hula.

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In 1996, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs deemed the hālau and its teachers Living Hawaiian Treasures in recognition of the depth in native Hawaiian traditional culture that hula requires, such as education in genealogy, use of indigenous plants for making and decorating garments, protocol in the collection of plants, and deep insight into all aspects of Hawaiian language, culture, and history for the proper interpretation of chants and dance.

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