Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Hollywood trailblazer Anna May Wong to be first Asian American on US currency

While Wong had a prolific career she was also limited by racism

Story at a glance

  • The United States Mint will soon be distributing a new quarter featuring a portrait of Anna May Wong.

  • Wong was Hollywood’s first Asian American movie star and will be the first Asian American on U.S. currency.

  • The coin honors May’s trailblazing career, which was limited due to stereotyping and racism.

Hollywood’s first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong will be the first Asian-American on United States currency.  

A design featuring Wong surrounded by bright lights with her head resting on her hand, will be placed on the tails side of some U.S. quarters as part of the American Women Quarters Program.  

The United States Mint facilities in Philadelphia and Denver will begin to ship quarters with Wong on Oct. 24. Coins featuring other honorees will begin shipping next year through 2025, the United States Mint said in a statement.  

The heads side of the quarter will still be decorated with a portrait of George Washington originally created by American sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser to mark the president’s 200th birthday.  

“The fifth coin in our American Women Quarters Program honors Anna May Wong, a courageous advocate who championed for increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors,” said Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson. “This quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments by Anna May Wong, who overcame challenges and obstacles she faced during her lifetime.” 

Wong, whose birth name was Wong Liu Tsong, had a career that spanned silent films, sound films, television and theater. She appeared in over 60 movies filmed in the United States and Europe like “The Toll of the Sea,” “The Thief of Bagdad,” “Picadilly” and “Shanghai Express.” 

Wong also appeared in productions on both New York and London stages.  

But while Wong had a trailblazing career, the roles she was given were often limited due to deep racism across the country or perpetuated stereotypes of Asian women.  

The coin was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by U.S. Mint Medallic Artist John McGraw.  

“Many prominent actors from the 1920s and 1930s saw their name framed by lightbulbs on movie theater marquees, so I thought it made sense to feature Anna May Wong in this way,” said Damstra. “Along with the hard work, determination, and skill Anna May Wong brought to the profession of acting, I think it was her face and expressive gestures that really captivated movie audiences, so I included these elements next to her name.”