The U.S. Mint has put silent-era Hollywood actress Anna May Wong on a special edition of U.S. quarters, making her the first Asian American to be featured on official U.S. currency.
Anna May Wong appears on a new line of quarters that the U.S. Mint is shipping on Monday. The quarters are part of a special series called the American Women Quarters Program, which is devoted to commemorating the accomplishments of women in U.S. history.
Other women featured in the program are Maya Angelou, Sally Ride, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) paid tribute to Wong on Tuesday, both praising her as a sort of proto-social justice warrior.
Born in Los Angeles, Anna May Wong became Hollywood’s go-to Asian actress during the silent era, appearing in dozens of movies. But she grew frustrated with the roles that the studios threw her way — mostly exotic seductresses and scheming dragon ladies.
Her desire to play different roles led her to seek a career in Europe, where she found a degree of success on stage and screen. But she eventually returned to Hollywood, making the leap from silent films to talkies. Perhaps her best-known movie was Josef von Sternberg’s 1932 Shanghai Express, in which she had a supporting roles opposite Marlene Dietrich.
But Wong still felt she was being typecast. In one famous piece of Hollywood lore, she was passed over for the lead role in MGM’s adaptation of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth in favor of actress Luise Rainer, who would win an Oscar.
Wong received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, a year before she died at 56.