The U.S. Mint has released a commemorative quarter honoring late legendary kumu hula Edith Kanakaʻole into circulation.
Kanaka‘ole, who died in 1979, was an award-winning composer, chanter, master instructor for hula, and venerated cultural icon who taught at Hawaii Community College (1971-1974) and the University of Hawaii at Hilo (1974-1979).
Known to many as “Aunty Edith,” she is one of five American women to be minted on new quarters as part of the 2023 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program.
The coin depicts a portrait of Kanakaʻole, with her hair and “lei po‘o” (head lei) morphing into the elements of a Hawaiian landscape, according to U.S. Mint, symbolizing her life’s work of preserving the natural land and traditional Hawaiian culture.
The inscription “E ho mai ka ʻike” translates as “granting the wisdom,” and is a reference to the intertwined role hula and chants play in this preservation.
The other side of the coin depicts a portrait of George Washington, originally designed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark his 200th birthday in 1932.
“It was a joy to become aware of Edith Kanakaʻole’s legacy as I developed a design for her quarter,” said Artistic Infusion Program Designer Emily Damstra in a news release. “I came to understand that her deep connection to the land — her home in Hawaii near the Mauna Kea volcano — played a large role in her life and work. To best honor the various ways she made an impact, I felt that the design should emphasize her relationship to that environment.”
A celebration of Kanakaʻole’s legacy will be held at UH Hilo on May 6.