Anna May Wong, Asian American Movie Star, will be Featured on U.S. Currency

Anna May Wong (1905 – 1961) is the first Asian American woman to be featured on U.S. currency. She is part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, where they feature women of note in American history, releasing five trailblazers between 2022 and 2025.

Anna May Wong, Credit: vintagemoviestarphotos

Wong was an Asian American actress in Hollywood. As many minorities with dreams of making it big in the movie industry, Wong played stereotypical roles, often being the seductress who died a horrible death or the exotic temptress who died a terrible death. Wong described herself as The Actress who Died a Thousand Deaths.

Additionally, Wong lived and worked during a segregated time. She was only offered supporting roles, never the lead, in Hollywood. Moreover, due to anti-miscegenation laws, she wasn’t allowed to kiss or marry any actor in any movie. This included films with Asians and Asian themes, because under yellow-face makeup and tape was a White actor, according to American Masters on PBS.

With only career-limiting roles available in Hollywood, Wong moved to Europe and landed roles in plays and films in Paris, London, and Berlin. When sound and color became available in film, she played roles speaking in French and German. “She starred in the operetta, Tschun Tschi in fluent German,” according to Women’s History.

Tails side of the coin shows Anna May Wong with her head resting on her hand. Credit: NPR, Burwell and Burwell Photography

When Wong returned to the States, she was subjected to these typecast roles again and she refused. Instead, she hired a cinematographer and created her own documentary. Other highlights in her career include featuring in Shanghai Express, a film where she doesn’t die at the end, and Daughter of Shanghai, where Wong was able to play a sympathetic character, something that meant a great deal to her. She was finally awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Wong joins as the fifth woman in the program, alongside Maya Angelou (poet laureate), Sally Ride (astronaut), Nina Otero-Warren (politician and suffragist), and Wilma Mankiller (first principal chief of the Cherokee Nation).

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I manage two blogs - Elle's Adventure in China (EACh) and Read and Write Here (R&WH). EACh currently has China-related content from reputable news sources. R&WH is to express my creativity through writing, art, jewelry, and to inform others.

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