Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, is set to become the first Asian American to appear on U.S. currency this October.
As part of the U.S. Mint’s new American Women Quarters Program, Wong is one of the five women to be featured on U.S. Quarters.
While the quarters’ obverse depicts a portrait of George Washington, its reverse features a close-up image of Wong with her head resting on her hand.
“Anna May Wong was often photographed with her hand or hands glamorously posed near her face. With her chin resting on her hand and one finger casually directing attention to her name, this pose might suggest she has been waiting for the kind of recognition that being on a United States coin might finally bring,” designer Emma S. Damstra wrote on her blog.
Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1905. Her career spanned movies, television and theater. She received her first leading role in the 1922 silent film “The Toll of the Sea,” and became the first Asian American lead actor in the 1951 U.S. television show, “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.”
The acting legend has starred in more than 60 movies despite facing constant discrimination in Hollywood. Wong was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 before she died of a heart attack in 1961.
The Anna May Wong Quarter is the fifth and final coin to be released this year as part of the American Women Quarters program. The other women featured include the first American woman to fly into space Dr. Sally Ride, writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, the first woman to be superintendent of Santa Fe public schools and a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement Nina Otero-Warren and Wilma Mankiller, the first female-elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
“Anna May Wong paved the road for Asian actors in America. We have to look back at how hard paving that road was,” Wong’s niece Anna told Vanity Fair. “Her tenacity blows my mind. It makes me feel so proud that I’m related to her and named after her. I never want to see her legacy’s light go out. That’s my mission in life. And I think she would be absolutely astonished that the U.S. Mint is putting her face on the quarter.”