The U.S. Mint will begin shipping coins featuring actress Anna May Wong on Monday, the first U.S. currency to feature an Asian American.
Dubbed Hollywood’s first Asian American movie star, Wong championed the need for more representation and fewer stereotypical roles for Asian Americans on screen. Wong, who died in 1961, struggled to land roles in Hollywood in the early 20th century, a time of “yellowface,” when white people wore makeup and clothes to take on Asian roles, and anti-miscegenation laws, which criminalized interracial relationships.
After experiencing racist treatment in Hollywood, Wong moved to Europe and starred in English, French and German films. Wong’s career spanned 60 films — many in the silent era — and she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
The U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Programme celebrates five female trailblazers in American history each year between 2022 and 2025. Wong is featured on the fifth coin released this year. The U.S. Mint is expected to produce more than 300 million Wong quarters at facilities in Philadelphia and Denver.
Mint Director Ventris Gibson called Wong “a courageous advocate who championed increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors.”
The tail of the coins will show a close-up of Wong with her head resting on her hand, while the front will feature a portrait of George Washington created by 20th-century sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser, who became the first woman to design a coin for the U.S. in 1921.
The four other women in the programme this year were poet Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride, suffragist and politician Nina Otero-Warren, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.