The Liliuokalani Educational Society

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During the reign of King Kalākaua, the Throne Room hosted his Hale Nauā, a cultural and scientific organization dedicated to perpetuating the deeper traditions and sciences of the Hawaiian people. They discussed history, re-enacted ancient traditions, debated on scientific topics, and talked about ways to inspire Hawaiians.

During the brief reign of Queen Liliʻuokalani, the Throne Room began to host lectures cosponsored by the Queen and her Liliʻuokalani Educational Society (LES). LES was founded during the time that the Queen was still a Princess and was dedicated to advancing the educational needs of Native Hawaiian girls particularly orphans and girls born of a socially marginalised background (i.e. girls born from prostitutes or of single mothers). These girls were sent to private schools or to special public schools with their tuition and boarding fees paid for by the Society. The Societyʻs Board of Directors with the exception of Prince-Consort John Owen Dominis, who was an honorary member and helped with fundraising. He in fact donated more than $12,000 to the society–something equal to $200,000 in todayʻs money) LES had their own flag (attached image) composed of the Hawaiian Crown, the torch of ʻIwikauikaua, and a scroll that read Hui Hoʻonaʻaʻau (o) Liliʻuokalani.

When Liliʻuokalani ascended the Throne, the Queen began to have monthly lectures in the Throne Room dedicated to “Literature and History” for the girls under the sponsorship of the Society as well as for donors and members of the Society. One of the first lecturers was Florence Augusta Stephens Williams of the Danish Antilles (now called the US Virgin Islands). Williams was the first “native Caribbean librarian” and would be considered Afro-Antillean or Afro-Caribbean in todayʻs racial identification. She was college educated (which was rare for women of that time), spoke several languages and her lecture was on French Emperor Napoleon in particular Napoleonʻs legacies in the Caribbean and in Latin America. The main library in her hometown of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands is named after her. Speakers at these events were women writers and professionals and often Hawaiian or women of color. Hawaiian history lectures were given by Judge Emma Kaʻili Metcalf Beckley Nakuina, the girls were learning Hawaiian history not just by a judge but someone who was actually Hawaiian. The aim of these lectures were not only to inspire a love of history and literature in the girls under the care of the Society, but to impress upon the minds of the audience and the public that women are intellectuals and there are women in professional fields. With the coup of 1893, all of this came to an end and the Society was forced to dismantle itself by decree by the decree of the new government due to itʻs royalist and pro-Hawaiian links. I dare say too that an organisation that sought to educate young women to be intellectuals and rise above their social class was also a threat to the a government built by an oligarchy of entitled rich men.