Warrior Women

Queen Liliuokalani


This is the very sad story of the last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani, the trials and tribulations of the indigenous Hawaiians and her extended battle with the rich American plantation owners who eventually coerced her to give up her throne.

Liliuokalani was born in Honolulu on September 2, 1838, and, in keeping with a very interesting Hawaiian custom, she was adopted by another family, Abner Paki, his wife, Konia, and their daughter, Bernice Pauahi.

As I write this I wonder why Bernice wasn’t adopted by another family. My first thought was perhaps it was tradition only in royal families, but Konia was the granddaughter of King Kamehameha l, so that theory went right out the window. (More research would solve the mystery, I think.) If you want to learn more about the custom of adopting newborns from other families, go here: http://www.hawaiian-roots.com/researchproblems2.htm )

Liliuokalani, and her brother, Kalakaua, were educated “in the ways of the foreigners.” It was standard practice, beginning in the 1830s, for the children of royal families to be taught to speak, as well as read, English. Consequently, Liliuokalani was able to negotiate with the American plantation owners who wanted to acquire the islands as a protectorate of the U.S.

Liliuokalani Kalakaua, were clever, well-read and cultured. They both understood the formalities and protocol of court life. However, they also felt comfortable with ordinary Hawaiians and, as a matter of fact, were apprehensive about their future happiness.

In 1874, Kalakaua became King Kalakaua, ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and, upon his death in 1891, Liliuokalani became Queen. Her reign was one of treason, treachery and turmoil. Less than two years after ascending the throne, Sanford Ballard Dole, with other American plantation owners, removed Queen Liliukalani from the throne in a bloodless coup. She stepped down, against her will and under protest. Dole appointed himself president of the new republic. That was the end of the Hawaiian monarchy. This is what Queen Liliukalani had to say:

“I, Liliuokalani, by the grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.”

In a desperate, but ill-fated attempt to regain her throne, Liliukalani had hidden guns in her garden, or had knowledge of their existence. (Two stories exist concerning this issue.) She was found out, arrested and sentenced to five years of hard labour. The sentence was not enforced. Instead, she was placed under house-arrest for less than a year, then was pardoned.

Queen Liliukalani fought hard to keep her beloved home an independent and sovereign nation, but she was no match for the rich plantation owners and the American government. On Aug 12, 1898, Hawaii became an American territory. The Incorporated Territory of Hawaii was born.

I have great admiration for this woman. She was intelligent, resilient, strong-willed, and discerning when it came to the future of her citizens.

She held on to her beloved Hawaii as long as she could.

Queen Liluokalani, last monarch of the sovereign nation of Hawaii, died on November 11, 1917. She was mourned deeply by all who knew her, native Hawaiians and Americans alike.

(PS: Queen Liliuokalani had quite an artistic talent. She wrote 165 songs, one of which is the popular Aloha ‘Oe. You can listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1bIxMYPlas )