Anna May Wong: The Trailblazing Actress Featured On New Quarters

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

On Oct. 25, the U.S. Mint made quarters featuring the face of Anna Wong available to the public. The Mint, which is responsible for making and distributing currency in the U.S., made the coin as part of the American Women Quarters Program, which seeks to feature more female historical figures on the nation’s 25-cent coin. 

Wong Liu Tsong was born in Los Angeles, CA., in 1905. She was raised in the Chinatown neighborhood of LA and found an interest in acting at a young age. Wong’s first role was in “The Red Lantern” when she was 14-years-old. She came up with her stage name, Anna May Wong, by combining her English and Chinese names. 

Wong has starred in over 50 movies throughout her career. In many, she was cast in stereotypical roles for female Asian characters. After growing tired of these roles, she moved to Europe in 1928, where she starred in English, French and German films. Wong became the first Asian American actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. One year later on Feb. 2, 1961, she died of a heart attack. 

“I feel proud for her, but I feel like it should have happened sooner,” Chinese Honor Society co-president and Asian Culture Club vice president Ryan Lin said. “I feel like it was not in its best consciousness, they did not do it because like, ‘oh she is an amazing [actress],’ they just did it because we need more Asians, that is it. I feel like they should choose a coin that actually shows an actual accomplishment. Get like a famous scientist that was Asian who actually helped America in a way, or a famous engineer who maybe built something, you know?”

Despite his criticism of the coin, Lin still believes that it is important.

“I would rather have an Asian person on the coin than no Asian person on the coin,” Lin said.

“I think it is very important that Chinese Americans see that there is a figure featured on the quarter. It is going to inspire other Chinese Americans to see that, ‘wow, we have representation despite being a very small percent of the population.’ And it might even inspire others; not just Chinese Americans, but maybe Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, Indonesians, Vietnamese, just all the Asians, even middle eastern [people], to see that we are getting represented by the American government, that they are at least giving us the quarter, a face that we can see in our pockets. That one day when we make a transaction [and] we can see someone that is Asian American,” Asian Culture Club co-president Tong Jing said.

The legacy of Anna May Wong is one of breaking barriers and new beginnings. Her feature on the quarter is a step toward the representation she fought for throughout her life.