Kapiolani (1834–1899)

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Kapiolani (1834–1899)

Hawaiian queen and philanthropist . Born on December 31, 1834, in Hilo; died on June 24, 1899, at her home in Waikiki; daughter of Kuhio (high chief of Hilo) and Kinoiki (daughter of Kaumualii, last king of Kauai); married Bennett Namakeha, a high chief (died 1860); married David Kalakaua (1836–1891), a high chief and later king of Hawaii (r. 1874–1891), on December 19, 1863; no children.

Came to Honolulu and married High Chief Namakeha (c. 1855); three years after first husband's death, married High Chief David Kalakaua (1863), who later became king; presided over opening ceremonies of Kapiolani Home for Girls in Kakaako (1885); visited U.S. and also attended Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee in England (1887); raised funds for and opened maternity home for Hawaiian women (1890); second husband died (1891); led quiet life in Waikiki.

Kapiolani was the niece and namesake of Kapiolani (c. 1781–1841) who defied the goddess Pele. She was born in Hilo on December 31, 1834, the daughter of Kuhio, high chief of Hilo, and Kinoiki , a daughter of Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai. Kapiolani had two sisters, Victoria Kalanikuikapooloku Kalaninuiamamao Poomaikelani and Mary Kinoiki Kekaulike , who were both given the title of princess after Kapiolani became queen. Kapiolani spent her childhood in Hilo and Kona, then went to Honolulu around 1855, where she was married to Namakeha, a high chief. In 1857, she traveled with Namakeha to the Gilbert Islands aboard a missionary packet, in an unsuccessful attempt to improve her husband's health. Three years later, he died in Honolulu.

On December 19, 1863, Kapiolani was quietly married to High Chief David Kalakaua, who was later to be named king (1874). It is reported they were very close, and as queen Kapiolani chose to remain in her husband's shadow. She is portrayed as friendly, even bearing no malice toward her husband's political enemies. Both she and her husband were concerned over the rapid decrease in numbers of the Hawaiian race, and they adopted the motto Hooulu Lahui (To Increase and Preserve the Nation). For more than ten years, they worked toward the establishment of a maternity home for Hawaiian women, and in June 1890 the Kapiolani Maternity Home (forerunner of the present Kapiolani Children's Medical Center) was opened. Kapiolani was also responsible for the Kapiolani Home for Girls in Kakaak and presided over its opening ceremonies in 1885. This institution took care of and educated the non-leprous children of leprous parents. In 1887, with her sister-in-law, Princess Liliuokalani , Kapiolani visited the United States and met President Grover Cleveland; she also attended Queen Victoria 's Silver Jubilee in England.

When informed of her husband's death in January 1891 while he was in San Francisco, Kapiolani tried to throw herself from the balcony of the palace but was restrained by companions. For the rest of her years, she lived a quiet life at her modest home in Waikiki and continued to devote herself to the welfare of women. Kapiolani was a wealthy woman and shortly before her death on June 24, 1899, after several strokes, she transferred her assets to two nephews. She was accorded a lavish Hawaiian funeral. A hospital, community college, boulevard, park and many businesses in Honolulu bear her name.


Peterson, Barbara Bennett. Notable Women of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii, 1984.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont