Queen Kapiʻolani and her Legacy of Kapiʻolani Medical Center

I just thought I’d bring up one of the most long lasting legacies of the late queen–Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children. Both Queen’s Hospital (established by Queen Emma) and Kapi’olani Medical Center were established private by those two royal consorts to address the needs of the Hawaiian people–needs that the Hawaiian legislature was not quick enough to address. Queen Kapi’olani had no children. She did have miscarriages and was the kahu for Crown Prince Albert Kaleiopapa-a-Kamehameha. From this profound sense of wanting to have her own children but not able to, Queen Kapi’olani founded a medical facility specifically to address the needs of women and children. The spend over three years fundraising for the hospital after time and again the requests for a public hospital for women and children went upon the ears of the all male and predominately Native Hawaiian national legislature–some of whom did not understand how pressing the need was. Some in the government, inspired by Calvinist dogma, that public healthcare was not a right. Queen Kapi’olani disagreed and both Queen Emma and Queen Kapi’olani were early Native Hawaiian advocates of universal healthcare. In particularly, both women saw the need for healthcare as a national emergency as the Hawaiian race itself was facing extinction due to the introduced foreign diseases. Queen Kapi’olani herself saw that in the outer islands, women did not have access to midwives (as previously kahuna served as midwives but kahuna were banned) and only the wealthy foreigners and landed rich Hawaiians could afford foreign doctors. The Queen believed in her husband’s campaign motto of “Ho’oulu Lāhui (Increase the Nation)” but “ho’oulu” (to increase) strengthen the well being of the women and children of the country and women and children of her era badly needed healthcare. It was also deeply personal to the Queen as someone who had experienced burying not just her own child in infancy but also her ward, the Crown Prince, whom she raised as her own.

For three years Queen Kapi’olani had bazaars, bake sales, lu’au and went knocking on houses collecting funds to build her hospital and finally in 1890 with land she donated and with the donations she collected, she founded Kapi’olani Maternity Home. Since 1890, over 400,000 babies were born at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children and it is still the only public pediatric tertiary care center in the Hawai’i. Queen Kapi’olani may not have been able to have children of her own, but she tried to ensure that other women–no matter their occupation or station in life—would be able to have their own children in a modern and healthy facility. 

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