Asian American on Coin

A black and white picture of actress Anna May Wong
A black and white picture of actress Anna May Wong (source)

Anna May Wong has become the first Asian American to feature on American currency. Twenty-five cent coins, known as quarters, with the face of the actress entered circulation last month.

The new coin is part of a series that features important American women from history. The goal of the series is to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by women to the United States. Other women that appeared on coins this year include writer Maya Angelou and America’s first woman in space, Sally Ride.

Anna May Wong first appeared in a movie at age 14, and she had her first lead role in 1922’s The Toll of the Sea. She became a star despite working at a time when there was a lot of anti-Asian xenophobia in American society. Unfortunately, she was underpaid and offered roles that portrayed Asians negatively. She complained that Chinese were usually villains in American films, and she went to Europe to continue acting.

Anna May Wong’s contribution to American films was recognized near the end of her life, when in 1960, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A biopic is being made about her life that will star Gemma Chan.


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Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Currency (n) - the money that is used in a particular country
  • Circulation (n) - the movement of money around the economy
  • Accomplishment (n) - an impressive thing that someone does
  • Contribution (n) - giving or doing something that helps
  • Xenophobia (n) - a fear or dislike of people from other countries and cultures
  • Underpay (v) - to pay less than what is normal or expected
  • Portray (v) - to show
  • Villain (n) - a character that is bad or evil
  • Pass away (phr. v) - to die
  • Biopic (n) - a movie about a person’s life


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. What and who are on the coins of your country?
  2. Some people collect rare coins as a hobby. Do you collect anything?
  3. Who is your favorite actress or actor?
  4. Which country’s films do you mostly watch? Give examples if you can.
  5. Which women are known for their accomplishments in your country?
  6. Several Asian people have become successful performers in the US. Which ones come to mind?
  7. How important is representation? Can you see people that look like you in important positions?
  8. Anna May Wong did not like the way that Asians were stereotyped in film. Can we still see stereotypes in films and on TV today? What are those stereotypes?
  9. Have you been to Hollywood? Did you see the Walk of Fame and find stars that you know? If not, would you like to go there?
  10. Are you interested in seeing the biopic of Anna May Wong’s life? Why or why not?