Anna May Wong will be the first Asian American to appear on US currency

written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

First-time movie star Anna May Wong, who broke into Hollywood during the silent film era, will become the first Asian American to appear on US currency, a century after landing her first role main character.

Wong’s image, with his trademark blunt bangs and pencil-thin eyebrows, will appear on the back of the new quarters starting Monday.

The design is the fifth to emerge from the American Women Quarters program, which highlights women pioneers in their respective fields. The other four quarters, all put into production this year, feature poet and activist Maya Angelou; the first American woman in space, Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, leader of the Cherokee Nation; and suffragist Nina Otero-Warren. The latter two were, along with Wong, selected with public input.

“These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture,” said Acting Director of the United States Mint Alison Doone in a statement on CNN last year when the list was revealed.

Considered the film industry’s first Chinese American star, Wong overcame widespread discrimination to carve out a four-decade career in film, theater and radio. He acted alongside icons such as Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford and Laurence Olivier and appeared on stages in London and New York.

Anna May Wong appeared in more than 60 films.

Anna May Wong appeared in more than 60 films. Credit: General Photo Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in Los Angeles, she began acting at age 14 and landed a leading role in “The Toll of the Sea” three years later in 1922. She appeared in dozens of films, but faced racism deeply rooted in Hollywood, where he struggled. break with stereotypical roles.

He moved to Europe in the 1920s, but later returned to the U.S. to make such hits as “Shanghai Express,” the 1932 adventure-romance film that gave Wong one of his best-known roles ; starred Dietrich as a notorious courtesan who takes on a role. three-day train journey through China during the Chinese Civil War and is held hostage on board, with Wong playing a fellow first-class passenger.

Throughout his life, Wong advocated for greater representation of Asian-American actors in Hollywood. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, the year before he died at the age of 56.

His image appears on the reverse (tails), while George Washington appears on the obverse (heads).

His image appears on the reverse (tails), while George Washington appears on the obverse (heads). Credit: Burwell Photography/usmint.gov

Her keen sense of style also made her a fashion icon, with Wong often mixing traditional Chinese dress and fin-era styles with eccentric touches. A biopic of the actor’s life is currently in production, which will see her played by “Crazy Rich Asians” star Gemma Chan.

“Many prominent actors of the 1920s and 1930s saw their names framed by light bulbs in movie theater canopies, so I thought it made sense to present Anna May Wong in this way,” said the coin’s designer , Emily Damstra, in a press release.

“With the hard work, determination and skill that Anna May Wong brought to the acting profession, I believe it was her face and expressive gestures that really captivated movie audiences, so that I included these items next to his name.”

The American Women Quarters program will choose five different women each year to be featured on the reverse of the coin through 2025. Next year’s confirmed designs will highlight pilot Bessie Coleman, composer Edith Kanakaʻole, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the journalist and activist Jovita Idar and the dancer. Mary Tallchief.

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