Cooke, Anna Rice (1853–1934)

views updated

Cooke, Anna Rice (1853–1934)

Hawaiian philanthropist and founder of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Born Anna Charlotte Rice in Honolulu, Hawaii, on September 5, 1853; died in Honolulu on August 8, 1934; youngest of five children of William Harrison (an American missionary) and Mary Sophia (Hyde) Rice (also a missionary); attended Punahou School, Honolulu; attended Mills' Young Ladies Seminary, Benicia, California; married Charles Montague Cooke (a businessman), April 29, 1874; children: Charles Montague Cooke, Jr. (b. 1874); Clarence Hyde Cooke (b. 1876); William Harrison Cooke (1879–1880); George Paul Cooke (b. 1881); Richard Alexander Cooke (b. 1884); Alice Theodora Cooke (b. 1888); twins Dorothea Cooke (1891–1892) and Theodore Atherton Cooke.

In 1874, Anna Rice, the daughter of American missionaries, married Charles Cooke, also of a missionary family. The couple would remain true to the ethics of their childhoods by using their ensuing good fortune to improve Hawaii, their adopted home. With money amassed from Charles Cooke's successful business enterprises, including the Bank of Hawaii, they founded the Aquarium at Waikiki, Rice Hall (a dormitory), and the Cooke Library at Punahou School. Through the Charles M. and Anna C. Cooke Trust, a charitable enterprise, their fortune was further distributed to benefit the community. The couple also built a large wooden-frame Victorian house on property that covered a block in the center of the city of Honolulu, in which they raised five sons and a daughter (two other children died in infancy). They also traveled extensively, purchasing art objects and furnishings for their home from the Orient and British Columbia. When Charles died in 1909, Anna Cooke continued to travel with her daughter Alice Cooke , the last of her children to leave home. When she neared 70, and the house began to overflow with her treasures, Cooke decided to tear down the house and build a museum in its place. In addition to displaying her vast collection, the museum was to be used to educate and inspire the people of the islands, especially the children. The Honolulu Academy of Arts opened its doors on April 8, 1927.

In a building designed in the style of Hawaiian architecture, the Academy's galleries flanked a center court representing Hawaii's location in the Pacific, with the Oriental Court placed west and the Occidental Court east. In addition to planning the building and participating in cataloguing her collection, Cooke also pioneered an educational program to help the youth of Hawaii, composed of many ethnic groups, appreciate their cultural heritages. With input from the school systems, she oversaw the design of art exhibits planned to assist teachers in enriching their regular classes with art history. Concerned that some children might not have access to the museum, Cooke traveled to them, bringing paintings and other art objects to the rural country schools.

Cooke spent her later years in a new home she built in the style of a Chinese farmhouse. Remaining active in the academy's work, she was known for her lively conversation (often centering on the near poverty days of her youth) and by her gentle manner of persuasion. She was fond of games, especially cards, and a form of Fan Tan known as "Foxy Grandma" became popular in Honolulu because she was so good at it. When Cooke died at age 80, people of all ages, races, and economic groups attended her funeral. The Honolulu Academy of Arts is a monument to her quiet philanthropy.