(AP) More than 60 years after Anna Mae Wong became the first Asian American woman to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the pioneering actor has coined another first, quite literally.
With quarters bearing her face and manicured hand set to start shipping Oct. 25, per the U.S. Mint, Wong will be the first Asian American to grace U.S. currency. Few could have been more stunned at the honor than her niece and namesake, Anna Wong, who learned about the American Women Quarters honor from the Mint’s head legal counsel.
“From there, it went into the designs, and there were so many talented artists with many different renditions. I actually pulled out a quarter to look at the size to try and imagine how the images would transfer over to real life,” Anna Wong wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
The elder Wong, who fought against stereotypes foisted on her by a white Hollywood, is one of the five women being honored this year as part of the program. She was chosen for being “a courageous advocate who championed for increased representation and more multidimensional roles for Asian American actors,” Mint Director Ventris Gibson said in a statement.
The other icons chosen include Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller and Nina Otero-Warren. Wong will be the first Asian American to grace U.S. currency.
Wong’s achievement has excited Asian Americans inside and outside of the entertainment industry.
Her niece, whose father was Anna May Wong’s brother, will participate in an event with the Mint on Nov. 4 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. One of Wong’s movies, “Shanghai Express,” will be screened, followed by a panel discussion.
Arthur Dong, the author of “Hollywood Chinese,” said the quarter feels like a validation of not just of Wong’s contributions, but of all Asian Americans. A star on the Walk of Fame is huge, but being on U.S. currency is a whole other stratosphere of renown.
“What it means is that people all across the nation — and my guess is around the world — will see her face and see her name,” Dong said. “If they don’t know anything about her, they will . . . be curious and want to learn something about her.”
Born in Los Angeles in 1905, Wong started acting during the silent film era. Her career spanned film, television and theater. Wong appeared in more than 60 motion pictures and also became the first Asian American to star in a U.S. TV show when she was cast in “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong” in 1951.
Wong faced discrimination in Hollywood for years, traveling internationally to continue her acting career in English, German and French films. She was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and died in 1961.
In a press release from the U.S. Mint, “She is remembered as an international film star, fashion icon, television trailblazer and a champion for greater representation of Asian Americans in film. She continues to inspire actors and filmmakers today.”
For more information and how to purchase the quarters, visit usmint.gov.
—Additional reporting by the Pacific Citizen