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In The Headlines, Once Again

Not many people have heard the name of Wong Liu Tsong (January 3, 1905 – February 3, 1961), known professionally as Anna May Wong, until a few days ago. She is considered the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood, as well as the first Chinese-American actress, who had gained international recognition a century ago. She is again in the headlines after so many years, as the Joe Biden Administration has announced that Anna becomes the first Asian-American to feature in US currency.

Commemorating the contribution and success in history, the images of women of different professions and races from various parts of the country have started securing their places in the coins from 2022. Anna, who had begun her film career at the age of 14 as an extra in The Red Lantern, is all set to appear on US currency, with the US Mint shipping quarters, featuring Anna, for circulation on October 24, 2022. In a statement issued on October 17, Mint Director Ventris Gibson stressed: “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.

Even before Anna made her debut in Hollywood, the US authorities had stopped legal immigration from China to their country. It was not easy for people from China to live in the US at that period of time. Despite her talent and beauty, this Asian-American actress had to fight against discrimination and injustice. In a 1933 interview with the Los Angeles Times, she reportedly mentioned: “Why is it that the screen Chinese is nearly always the villain of the piece, and so cruel a villain – murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass. We are not like that.” She was often boxed into racist and underpaid roles. In Shanghai Express, Anna was paid only USD 6,000, while her White co-star Marlene Dietrich had earned USD 78,166.

Later, the liberal actress left Hollywood for Europe to act in German, French and English-language movies and plays. Anna successfully showcased her talent in theatres and big screen in various European cities. She, defying all obstacles, had acted in more than 60 films. The US Government believes that Anna’s portrait in currency coins shall encourage the new generation to chase their dream even in the 21st Century.

Feminist activists have welcomed Biden Administration’s move, saying that the Women’s Rights Movement is gaining strength in the US. They believe that Washington DC did a good job by paying a rich tribute also to poet Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Annie Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014), first female US astronaut Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012), Native American activist Wilma Pearl Mankiller (November 18, 1945 – April 6, 2010) and María Adelina Isabel Emilia Nina Otero-Warren (October 23, 1881 – January 3, 1965), a woman’s suffragist, educator and politician.

Meanwhile, Cai Chenghua, President of the All-American Chinese Association, told China Daily: “Anna May Wong was a descendent of Chinese immigrants who was born and grew up in the US in the early 20th Century. Her unremitting pursuit of ideals and hard work, as well as her unwavering belief enabled her to win achievements and recognition in the film and television industry.

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