Hollywood Star Anna May Wong to Be First Asian American Featured on U.S. Currency

As part of a new initiative, the United States Mint will honor Anna May Wong, star of movies such as “Shanghai Express,” by making her the first Asian American featured on U.S. currency, placing her likeness on quarters with production starting Oct. 18.

The printed quarter shows an image of Wong resting on her hand, serving as a tribute to what most consider the first Chinese American movie star. She was born in 1905 in Chinatown, Los Angeles and died in 1961 of a heart attack in her Santa Monica home.

Wong started her career in the entertainment business at 14 years old, talking her way into her first movie role. In the following years, she rose to stardom as among the first Asian American stars in Hollywood and appeared in more than 50 films. Though the quarter seeks to pay tribute to her career in the film industry, it also acknowledges the difficulties that came her way trying to land meaningful roles as an Asian American actress during a time where racial discrimination and commonplace practices of putting white actors in “yellowface” to portray Asian characters was prevalent. In addition, Wong’s characters were often killed in the films she acted in, which she once joked about, saying that she had already “died a thousand deaths.”

The “American Women” initiative from the United States Mint also features revered writer Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride in addition to Wilma Mankiller and Nina Otero-Warren, who were featured on quarter currencies earlier in the year. Angelou was the first Black woman featured on U.S. currency, while Ride was celebrated for being the first American woman to fly into space. Each year until 2025, five new quarters featuring impactful women who may have been overlooked in American history will be produced.

The U.S. Mint is expected to produce more than 300 million quarters featuring Wong’s likeness through its “American Women” program.

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