Firsts for America’s Cash in 2022
Anna May Wong was Hollywood’s first Chinese American star, and is now the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency, appearing on a new quarter that entered circulation in late October.
A nation’s banknotes and coins serve as ambassadors to the world, expressing the national culture and values. As such, there has long been enthusiasm for diversifying the figures appearing on American cash to more fully celebrate the country’s achievements and identity. Anna May Wong is the fifth and final woman to appear on new coinage in 2022, with the design recognising her contributions to increased representation for Asian American actors.
This quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments by Anna May Wong, who overcame challenges and obstacles she faced during her lifetime.
Anna May Wong brought Asian Americans into the public eye at a time when U.S. law discriminated against Chinese immigration and citizenship. Appearing in more than 60 movies, Wong became an enduring symbol in film and literature. Her quarter shows her resting her head on her hand, surrounded by the bright lights of a marquee sign
The design is part of the American Women Quarters Program, which will feature five women each year until 2025. This year’s other inclusions were writer and activist Maya Angelou, astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, activist Wilma Mankiller, and suffragist and public school superintendent Nina-Otero Warren. 2023’s women will include Native Hawaiian hula teacher Edith Kanaka’ole.
The initiative follows redesigns of banknotes, including a $20 bill that celebrates the life and achievements of American abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman. Further redesigns—originally announced in 2016, and renewed in 2021—will include the addition of suffragists Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul to the back of $10 bills. Civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson will be featured on the back of $5 notes.