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Pioneering Hollywood actor is first Asian American selected to appear on a US quarter

The actor Anna May Wong will be the first Asian American featured on the US quarter.

Wong, born in Los Angeles, was considered the first ChineseAmerican film star. She is one of five women chosen to appear on the quarter as part of the the US Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, which honours American women who have made a contribution to a multitude of different fields.

Wong’s quarter, which will be released next Tuesday, is historic. Her coin, which like all others will feature George Washington on one side, will show her resting her head on her hand. It will also display her full name.

The actor was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905, where her parents gave her the English name Anna May. She achieved widespread recognition during a barrier-breaking career that that saw her feature in numerous films and star in her own television show called The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong — also a first for an Asian American actor.

According the US Mint, Wong consistently faced discrimination in Hollywood. She was passed over for at least one role by a director who cast a white actor to play an Asian character in yellowface, and travelled overseas to act and make films later in her career. She acted in England, Germany, and France, as well as on stages in New York and London. During World War II, Wong endeavoured to help the Chinese cause against Japan.

Wong was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, just prior to her death of a heart attack at the age of 56 the following year. Per the US Mint, she is remembered as “an international film star, fashion icon, television trailblazer, and a champion for greater representation of Asian Americans in film.”

The women honoured by the US Mint in addition to Wong include the poet and writer Maya Angelou, the astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, the Indigenous activist Wilma Mankiller and the women’s rights and Latina trailblazer Nina Otero-Warren.

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