Silent film era movie star Anna May Wong will become first Asian American to feature on US currency

Silent movie star Anna May Wong becomes first Asian-American to appear on US currency as new quarters roll out Monday: Image shows hair with signature blunt bangs and pencil-thin eyebrows

  • Anna May Wong will be the first Asian American to appear on a US coin
  • Wong’s career in Hollywood and in Europe has included acting in films and theater
  • The coin is the fifth in a series from the US Mint to honor notable American women
  • The new quarter will be sent from Monday



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Silent movie star Anna May Wong will be the first Asian American to appear on the US currency when the quarters are issued by the US Mint ship on Monday.

Anna May Wong was a third-generation Asian American who appeared in more than 60 films and was one of the first Chinese American movie stars in Hollywood.

Hailed as an “actress of transcendent talent” and a “great beauty,” her four-decade career spanned sound film, television, stage and radio.

The new coin commemorating her life and career is the fifth in a series from the Mint honoring notable American women.

Wong is on one side and President George Washington on the other.

The move celebrates her successful career, but also highlights the hardships she faced as the first of her kind in an industry that is notoriously difficult to penetrate.

Anna May Wong in the 1931 film Daughter of the Dragon after her break from Hollywood

Anna May Wong is the first Asian American to feature on a US currency

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The move to place Wong in the new district not only commemorates her career, but also draws attention to the hardships she faced in Hollywood

“The fifth coin in our American Women Quarters program honors Anna May Wong, a courageous advocate who championed greater representation and more multidimensional roles for Asian-American actors,” said Ventris C. Gibson, director of the United States Mint.

“This quarter is designed to reflect the scope and depth of Anna May Wong’s achievements, who have overcome challenges and obstacles she faced throughout her life,” she added.

The Mint will start shipping the coin on October 24.

One side of the coin features a close-up image of Anna May Wong. Wong has “her head on her hand, surrounded by the bright lights of a marquee,” according to a press release from La Monnaie.

“Many prominent actors from the 1920s and 1930s saw their names framed by light bulbs on movie tents, so I thought it made sense to show Anna May Wong this way,” said Emily Damstra, who designed the coin.

Wong’s career began in 1919 at age 14 when she was cast in The Red Lantern

She was born in LA in 1905 as Wong Liu Tsong, but later took the stage name Anna May Wong.

Her film career began in 1919 at age 14 when she was cast in her first film, The Red Lantern, but her big break came three years later when she was cast in a major role in The Toll of the Sea.

In the early stages of her career, she struggled to fill roles and was stereotyped by the industry and often cast as a villain.

Despite her struggles in Hollywood, she found more luck playing lead roles in European films.

In 1928, she got tired of being cast as a dragon lady and left America. One of her most famous roles was in the 1929 film Piccadilly in which she played Shosho – a dishwasher turned West End dancer.

When she returned to the US in the 1930s, she remained relegated to second-rate films and still had to play stereotypical roles.

Anna May Wong (second from left) as she appeared in the 1932 film Shanghai Express

In 1933, she told the LA Times that she had had enough of the roles she had to play in Hollywood.

When she finally died of a heart attack in 1961, Time magazine called her “the screen’s foremost Eastern villain.”

The American Women Quarters program began this year and will feature five women each year through 2025.

The first coin in the series featured poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and was the first U.S. coin to honor a black woman.

Hawaiian dancer Edith Kanaka’ole has been named as one of the selections for 2023.


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