(RNS) — The first Black woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, who was also a trailblazing lawyer, civil rights activist and writer, will be honored on the U.S. quarter next year.Pauli Murray, whose 1977 ordination to the priesthood was just one in a long series of firsts, has been chosen by the U.S. Mint as one of five honorees for the American Women Quarters Program.
“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,” Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson said in a statement.
But many scholars now recognize that though richly deserving of the honor, Murray, who died in 1985, was also gender-nonconforming and may be the first such person to appear on a U.S. coin. Murray sometimes presented as a woman and sometimes as a man. Feeling trapped in a woman’s body, Murray begged doctors to prescribe hormone therapy. They refused.
“We know Pauli did not conform to gender norms,” said Barbara Lau, executive director of the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina. “So we feel very comfortable saying that Pauli was gender-nonconforming.”
On its website, the Pauli Murray Center uses “they/them” pronouns to refer to Murray.
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