March is Womenʻs History Month where we honor the vital role women play in shaping history. This spotlight piece is on 4 historical Hawaiian wahine (women) who helped shape the story of Hawaiʻi as we know it today.
The first queen regnant and last sovereign monarch, a remarkable woman, extremely passionate for her people, her culture, and Hawai’i. She attempted to establish a new constitution that would restore power to the monarchy and the Hawaiian people. She was improperly imprisoned by the Committee of Safety and forcefully removed as Queen of Hawai‘i. She established the ‘Onipa‘a Movement (Stand Firm) and fought against the annexation of Hawai‘i. She withdrew from public life and lived out her days at Washington Place. In March 2016, Hawaiʻi Magazine listed Liliʻuokalani as one of the most influential women in Hawaiian history.
Bernice Pauahi Bishop
A woman of intelligence, compassion and foresight, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop understood that her kuleana (responsibility) as a Hawaiian ali‘i was to serve her people. As the last descendant of the Kamehameha line, she inherited much of her land from her cousin, Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani. Having seen the rapid decline of the Native Hawaiian population which in turn led to a decline in the language, culture, and traditions, Pauahi strongly believed that education would offer a hopeful future for her people, therefore establishing The Kamehameha Schools. The mission of the schools is to improve the capability and well-being of Native Hawaiians through education. The Kamehameha Schools have been educating Native Hawaiian children since 1887. The school serves 6,900 students of Hawaiian ancestry at K-12 campuses on O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island, and at 30 preschool sites statewide. They also extend their educational reach into the community through a range of programs and community collaborations. Bishop Estate is Hawai‘i’s largest private land owner and one of the nation’s largest charities.
Married to King Kalākaua she reigned as Queen Consort of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi from 1874 to 1891. Deeply interested in the health and welfare of Hawai‘i’s mothers and babies, Queen Kapi‘olani established the Kapi‘olani Maternity Home in 1890. In 1978, Kapi‘olani Hospital merged with Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital to become Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children. The hospital is a nationally recognized, not-for-profit hospital and the leader in Hawai‘i in the care of women, infants, and children.
A native Hawaiian kumu hula, dancer, chanter and teacher, who was considered the high priestess of the ancient hula. She is regarded as the most esteemed hula dancer in the state of Hawai‘i. She is most remembered for her instruction and revival of Hula Kahiko, the ancient style of dance that is passed down for generations. She trained over 300 students in the ancient rituals, chants, and authentic instrumentation from traditions passed down to her. In honor of her, the annual ‘Iolani Luahine Hula Festival is held at the Keauhou Beach Resort and features hula workshops, presentations and musical entertainment. The festival awards a scholarship each year to encourage students to continue the study of hula.