Remembering Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Remembering Hawaii
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On December 19th, 1831, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was born in Honolulu to high chiefs Abner Pākī and Laura Kōnia Pākī. She was raised with bi-cultural consciousness, with emphasis on Hawaiian traditions while also receiving a western education at the Chiefs’ Children School (later renamed the Royal School). This combination of Hawaiian values and American education would later inform her most lasting legacy.

She married New York businessman Charles Reed Bishop when she was 18 against her parents’ will, who had planned for her to marry Prince Lot Kapuaiwa. Within a year, however, Pauahi had reconciled with her parents, and in 1857 she inherited an estate totaling more than 16,000 acres of land. Though the inheritance brought with it an abundance of responsibility, Pauahi always made time for philanthropy both big and small, offering guidance to those in need as well as helping sick and poor people as a member of the Stranger’s Friend Society and Women’s Sewing Society.

Pauahi was eligible to become the ruler of Hawaii but turned it down, paving the way for William Charles Lunalilo to become the first elected monarch of Hawaii.

She had witnessed a sharp decline in the Hawaiian population throughout her life, which exacerbated the loss of Hawaiian language, culture and traditions. As such, she wrote in her will to use a portion of her estate to build schools to be called Kamehameha Schools.

She died of breast cancer at the age of 52. She was the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha the Great, and the last royal descendant of the Kamehameha line.

Princess Pauahi is one of the most beloved icons of Hawaiian history, known for her interpersonal generosity as well as helping to perpetuate Hawaiian culture when it was deeply threatened. Although she never had children of her own, she used her vast estate to help countless children of Hawaii across future generations.

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