Closeup of new Lowell quarters in person's hand Image by Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun

The Lowell quarter, representing Massachusetts as the 46th coin in the U.S. Mint's America the Beautiful Quarters Program.

Lowell Sun
By Rick Sobey

LOWELL -- The hundreds of fourth-graders on the edge of their seats erupted in euphoria.

The students in the packed auditorium were about to be the first ones in the nation to get their hands on a Lowell quarter, depicting a mill girl working at a power loom with a view of the Mill City -- including the Boott Mill clock tower.

How will the youngsters handle the coin honoring Lowell National Historical Park?

Will they spend the 25 cents after school? Or will they put the quarter away somewhere safe, passing it on to their grandchild, telling them how they were part of history 50 years ago in February 2019?

Now it's up to the kids after Wednesday's quarter launch and coin exchange ceremony at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, an event and quarter that paid homage to the role of Lowell in America's Industrial Revolution.

"This is your city, this is your national park, and this is your history," said former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, speaking in front of the swarm of elementary schoolers. She later participated in the quarter pour through a wheel, officially launching the quarters into circulation.

"Growing up here will shape you, it will influence you for the rest of your life, and you have much to be proud of," Tsongas told the crowd. "Today's celebration is just one example of that."

The quarter honoring Lowell National Historical Park is the 46th coin released in the United States Mint's America the Beautiful Quarters Program. It's the first quarter of 2019.

With its focus on the worker and her work, the design honors the female workforce in Lowell's mills.

The design depicts a mill girl working at a power loom with its prominent circular bobbin battery. A view of Lowell, including the Boott Mill clock tower, is seen through the window.

The mill girls earned cash wages and lived in supervised, company-owned boarding houses. They became an important voice for labor by advocating for better working conditions, supporting abolition and embracing education.

From the famous Yankee mill girls, to early labor organizers, to advocates for social causes, to immigrant workers coming to Lowell to pursue opportunity, working women have played important and transformative roles throughout the city's history.

To keep with this theme of working women, the ceremony featured women leaders of Lowell National Historical Park's major partner institutions, including City Manager Eileen Donoghue.

"This is an exciting day for the city of Lowell -- to pay tribute to the history, the backbone of the Industrial Revolution, our Lowell mill girls," she said.

Other women leaders at the ceremony were Tsongas, UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, Lowell National Historical Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo, Community Teamwork, Inc. CEO Karen Frederick, and Coalition for a Better Acre Executive Director Yun-Ju Choi.

"Remember this day," Moloney told the students. "You are making history."

Attendees had an opportunity to buy $10 rolls of the new quarter at the end of the ceremony.

The America the Beautiful Quarters Program is a 12-year initiative that honors 56 national parks and other national sites. Each year until 2020, the public will see five new national sites depicted on the tails sides of the coins, with a final coin scheduled for release in 2021.

The Mint issues these quarters in the order in which the national sites were officially established.

The designs of the quarters are developed with representatives of each host city/town, the federal agencies overseeing the sites, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Secretary of the Treasury approves all final designs after review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

The United States Mint offers free online lesson plans for teachers. The plans are created by teachers and stretch across all subjects for grades K-12.