Queen Kapiʻolani and St. Marianne of Molokaʻi

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I was rereading some of the letters of St. Marianne (Cope) of Moloka’i from Queen Kapi’olani. Queen Kapi’olani was a devout Anglican but had a close relationship with the Roman Catholic community especially with Fr. Leonor Fouesnel and Mother Marianne Cope.  Fr. Leonor was the private chaplain to the Queen and to the Queenʻs two sisters. When it came to faith, the Queen beloved that love of oneʻs God and of all His creation was above any doctrinal differences. When the Queenʻs sister, the Princess Kekaulike was on her death bed, Fr. Leonor was asked the bless the princess and to bring some nuns. That is when Mother Marianne Cope met the Queen. Mother Marianne was at that time helping the leper station at Kakaʻako and was newly arrived to the islands. As early as 1874, King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani wrote to over 50 churches world wide for help for Kalaupapa and only the Roman Catholic Order of the Sacred Heart answered and sent priests and nuns–among them two saints, St. Damien and St. Marianne. Mother Marianne gave up New York and volunteered to go to Hawaiʻi to help those with those with Hansenʻs disease. Upon meeting Mother Marianne, Queen Kapiʻolani embraced her and gave her a US$100 bill in her hand and said, “This wonʻt be the last” and then “You are my Sisters. I love you and you will always be my Sisters.”

When Mother Marianne arrived on Molokaʻi, the Queen began sending $100 per month out of her private funds to help Kalaupapa particularly the women and children. When Mother Marianne wrote to the Queen to ask for addition funds to build houses for women, a new public hospital on Maui for those afflicated with Hansenʻs disease, and for a home for female children who had their parents deported to Molokaʻi, Queen Kapiʻolani did not hesitant to give funds including selling off some of her own properties for to help provide. The Queen never published or wrote about her efforts, just as Mother Marianne never sought fame or admiration for her work. Both lived under the motto of Aloha Ke Akua (God is Love) and believed that.

Both Father Damien and Mother Marianne would come under attack by the Calvinist pastors in Honolulu who the King once called a “miserable lot” but both Robert Louis Stevenson and Queen Kapiʻolani were steadfast supporters, despite both of them being Protestants. When Queen Kapiʻolani passed in 1899, Mother Marianne is said to have wept for her “Sister in Christ” and said something to the effect that the Queen was a star shining love to her people to one of the other nuns. (Queen Kapiʻolaniʻs first part of her first name was Esther which means “star”). Though the same could of those who helped those afflicted with Hansenʻs disease like Sts. Marianne Cope and Damien.

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.