Why America’s First Asian American Movie Star Anna May Wong Will Appear On U.S. Currency Next Week


The U.S. Mint just announced that actress Anna May Wong will be appearing on quarters this month, honoring the woman who is referred to as Hollywood’s first Asian American movie star. Her efforts in early Hollywood changed the industry for the better.

Wong’s Trailblazing Hollywood Career

Wong began acting in the 1920s, appearing in silent films like The Toll of the Sea and The Thief of Baghdad. She continued her movie career when “talkies” replaced silent films, starring in Daughter of the Dragon, Java Head, and Daughter of Shanghai

Tired of being typecast, Wong moved to Europe in 1928 and started acting in German, British, and French movies. She returned to Hollywood a few years later and spent the rest of her career advocating for bigger and better roles for Asian American actors. 

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“Why is it that the screen Chinese is nearly always the villain of the piece, and so cruel a villain—murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass,” she said in a 1933 interview. “We are not like that.”

Mint Director Calls Wong ‘A Courageous Advocate’

The U.S. Mint is expected to create more than 300 million coins bearing Wong’s image—a close-up of the actress’ face resting on her hand. The other side of the coin has an image of George Washington created by sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser, who became the first woman to design a coin for the United States in 1921.

rendering of a U.S. quarter with Anna May Wong
(U.S. Mint via Getty Images)

Mint Director Ventris Gibson called Wong “a courageous advocate who championed increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors.”

The Women Being Honored By The U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program

Wong isn’t the only woman who will appear on American quarters in the coming years. The U.S. Mint recently launched its American Women Quarters Program, which will honor five female trailblazers each year between 2022 and 2025. 

The four other women honored by the U.S. Mint this year were writer Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride, suffragist and politician Nina Otero-Warren, and the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller. 

The U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program is an excellent way to honor women who have made huge marks on their industries, advocated for minority groups, and changed the world. Too many women have been omitted from history and their contributions stolen, so hopefully, we’ll see more of these programs in the future. 



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