Maria Tallchief Quarter

American Women Quarters

Background

The Maria Tallchief Quarter is the 10th coin in the American Women Quarters™ Program. Maria Tallchief is widely considered the first American prima ballerina. She broke barriers as a Native American ballet dancer, exhibiting strength and resilience both on and off the stage.

Tallchief was born on January 24, 1925 in Fairfax, Oklahoma on the Osage reservation. She began dance lessons as a young girl and excelled at dance and playing piano.

At the age of 17, she moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a ballerina. She was selected as an apprentice in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the premier Russian ballet company in the United States. Her performances were applauded by critics and captured the attention of the dance professionals around her.

In 1946, Maria Tallchief married famed choreographer George Balanchine. With Tallchief’s exceptional technique and energy as a ballerina and Balanchine’s expertise and innovation as a choreographer, together, they transformed classical ballet, both in America and around the world. When the couple’s marriage ended, she remained at the forefront of Balanchine’s works for his company, the New York City Ballet. 

Tallchief remarried in 1956 to Henry “Buzz” Paschen, and gave birth to their daughter Elise in 1959. Family life ultimately drew her to Chicago. She retired as a performer in the late 1960s and founded the ballet school of the Lyric Opera. She also served as artistic director at the Chicago City Ballet.

Maria Tallchief died on April 11, 2013. Her legacy includes numerous honors, such as being named Woman of the Year by the National Women’s Press Club and receiving the National Medal of the Arts Award. She was also inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The Osage Tribal Council gave Maria Tallchief a name selected by her grandmother, “Wa-Xthe-Thoṉba,” which translates to “Two Standards.” It reflects Tallchief’s life in two worlds – as an accomplished dance professional, and as a member of the Osage Nation, two identities that she proudly represented throughout her life.

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Characteristics

The obverse (heads) depicts a portrait of George Washington, originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark George Washington’s 200th birthday. A recommended design for the 1932 quarter, then-Treasury Secretary Mellon ultimately selected the familiar John Flanagan design.

The reverse (tails) depicts Maria Tallchief spotlit in balletic pose. Her Osage name, which translates to “Two Standards,” is written in Osage orthography.

Obverse Inscriptions

  • LIBERTY
  • IN GOD WE TRUST
  • 2023

Reverse Inscriptions

  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
  • E PLURIBUS UNUM
  • QUARTER DOLLAR
  • MARIA TALLCHIEF
  • Her name written in Osage orthography

Mint and Mint Mark

Specifications

Composition Weight Diameter Thickness Edge No. of Reeds
Cupro-Nickel
8.33% Nickel
Balance Copper
5.670 g
0.955 in.
24.26 mm
1.75 mm Reeded 119

Artist Information

Obverse
  • Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966)
Reverse Content last reviewed October 18, 2022