Women in History

10 Mana Wāhine o Hawai‘i – Powerful Women of Hawai‘i

This first appeared on paperlanternwriters.com

  1. THE BENEFACTOR: Born in 1831, Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. During her lifetime, the native Hawaiian population declined, taking with it the language and culture of her people. When she died, she left her estate (about 9% of Hawaiʻi’s acreage) to found Kamehameha Schools.
  2. THE TRAVELER: Princess Kaʻiulani was the heir to the Hawaiʻian throne when she was sent to England to be educated in 1879. In 1893, however, when the monarchy was overthrown. The world came to know her as intelligent and determined to preserve the monarchy. As her mother had predicted, though, she never married and never became queen.
  3. THE CHRISTIAN: Ka’ahumanu , born in 1772, was Kamehameha’s favorite wife and Queen Regent after his death. Ka’ahumanu broke the tradition of kapu, or taboos, and converted to Christianity. Some may argue that eventually boded ill for the Hawaiʻian people, but at the time she was progressive.
  4. THE PHILANTHROPIST: Queen Kapiʻolani, born in 1834, was deeply interested in the health and welfare of her people, Kapiʻolani established the Kapiʻolani Home for Girls, for the education of the daughters of residents of the Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement, and the Kapiʻolani Maternity Home, where Hawaiian mothers and newborns could receive care.
  5. THE DANCER: Iolani Luahine was one of the greatest hula dancers of the 20th century. She traces her lineage back to royal dancers and studied hula at the University of Hawaiʻi. Her dancing embodied a deep connection between movement, culture, and nature. Iolani Luahine kept hula alive during a time when it was illegal to speak the Hawaiʻian language.
  6. THE SUFFRAGETTE: Wealthy biracial women, like Wilhelmine Kekelaokalaninui Widemann, were the first leaders of the suffragette cause in Hawaii. Born in 1861, Wilhelmine was the youngest sister in a family of Native Hawaiʻian activists whose female line traced back to the aliʻi (nobility) of the Hawaiʻian kingdom.
  7.  THE BIOLOGIST: Isabella Kauakea Yau Yung Aiona was born in Hana, Maui, in 1919 to a Chinese father and Native Hawaiʻian mother. She was the first Native Hawaiʻian woman to earn a doctoral degree in science. Her mother taught her about limu (seaweed) and Isabella turned it into a career, becoming the world’s leading expert on Hawaiʻian algae.
  8. THE POLITICIAN: Rosalie Enos Lyons Keliʻinoi was the first woman to sit in the Hawaiʻian legislature since the overthrow of the monarchy. Elected in 1925 to the Territorial House of Representatives, Rosalie passed laws protecting property rights of women and securing funds for the welfare of pregnant women.
  9. THE INTELLECTUAL: Emma Kaʻilikapuolono Metcalf was born in 1847 in Honolulu. Considered one of the top Hawaiʻian intellectuals of the 19th century, Emma became an expert on water rights. She kept her position as Commissioner of Private Ways and Water Rights through the upheaval of the overthrow of the monarchy.
  10. THE PRISONER: Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last sovereign monarch of the Hawaiʻian kingdom. She drafted a constitution that was never implemented due to the overthrow of her kingdom by United States forces. Imprisoned in the palace, she wrote songs such as Aloha ʻOe (Farewell to Thee) and a book, Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen.

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