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A black and white photo of Anna May Wong, an Asian American woman.
American actress Anna May Wong (1905 - 1961), 10th March 1929. (Photo by Sasha/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Groundbreaking Asian American actress to be minted on U.S. quarter

Anna May Wong was the first Asian American woman to star in film. Her accomplishments are being recognized through her appearance on the U.S. quarter.

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The first-ever quarters to depict an Asian American have been minted and entered circulation on Oct. 24, 2022.

Born Jan. 3, 1905, Anna May Wong — whose birth name was Wong Liu Tsong and renamed by her family — was the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.

Wong appeared in over 60 movies, including her first appearance on television as an extra in “The Red Lantern” in 1919 at the age of 14,  and her first starring role in “The Toll of the Sea” in 1922.

In addition to her appearances in movies, Wong starred in the show “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong” in 1951, becoming the first Asian American actor in a leading role on U.S. television.

Regrettably, “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong” has no known recordings as the broadcasting network, the DuMont Television Network, either did not keep recordings of it, or potentially dumped its records into the Hudson River following the network’s closure.

Wong’s career faced many barriers due to her race and gender, such as “yellowface,” where White actors would wear clothing and makeup to appear Asian, a prominent alternative to hiring Asian or Asian American actors.

In addition to this, she was regularly underpaid in comparison to her White counterparts and cast in racially stereotypical roles that exaggerated her ethnicity.

Wong would eventually leave Hollywood behind in 1928 due to constant discrimination, travelling to Europe to work in English, German, and French films.

In a 1933 interview, Wong would speak out against the roles she was expected to perform.

“I was so tired of the parts I had to play. Why is it that the screen Chinese is nearly always the villain of the piece, and so cruel a villain--murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass. We are not like that,” Wong said.

“How should we be, with a civilization that’s so many times older than that of the West. We have our own virtues. We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show these on the screen? Why should we always scheme, rob, kill? I got so weary of it all--of the scenarist’s concept of Chinese characters. You remember ‘Fu Manchu’? ‘Daughter of the Dragon’? So wicked,” she continued.

Wong was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, before passing away in 1961, leaving behind a legacy as an international film star, television trailblazer, fashion icon, and champion for representation of Asian Americans in film.

As a part of the American Women Quarters™ Program, she was recognized for her accomplishments, alongside other notable women including Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, and Nina Otero-Warren, each receiving their own set of quarters to be minted until 2025.

Wong’s coin will be the final set of those minted in 2022.

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