Hollywood’s Anna May Wong will become the first Asian American to use US currency
(Reuters) – The U.S. Mint will feature an Asian American on its currency for the first time when it next week issues a coin engraved with the likeness of actress Anna May Wong, who worked at Hollywood in a time of overt racism and stereotyping.
A quarter-dollar coin featuring a profile of Wong with her signature bangs and long fingernails will begin circulation Tuesday as part of the American Women’s Quarters program, the U.S. Mint said in a statement.
“In addition to the hard work, determination and skill that Anna May Wong brought to the acting profession, I think it was her expressive face and gestures that really captivated movie audiences, so I included those elements,” said Mint designer Emily Damstra, who helped create the piece.
Wong was born in 1905 in Los Angeles as Wong Liu Tsong. She was cast in her first extra role in the film “The Red Lantern” in 1919 at the age of 14 and her first starring role in 1922 in “The Toll of the Sea”.
She then acted in more than 60 films including one of the first films made in Technicolor. She became the first Asian American actress on an American television show for her role in “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong” in 1951.
Despite her success, Wong faced anti-Asian discrimination and racism in Hollywood where she was typecast, underpaid and left out for lead roles, forcing her to travel to Europe to act in films, and to London and New York to perform at the theatre. Wong died in 1961.
“The fifth coin in our American Women Quarters program honors Anna May Wong, a courageous advocate who championed increased representation and more multidimensional roles for Asian American actors,” said Mint Director Ventris. Gibson.
Author and civil rights champion Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, were also honored with coins from the series.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, editing by Angus MacSwan)