Queen Lili'uokalani (1838-1917)
The last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani was born on September 2, 1838, near the Punch Bowl, on Oahu. She was the daughter of high-ranking chiefs Caesar Kapa‘akea and Anale‘a Keohokālole but at her birth she became the adopted child of chiefs Laura Konia and Abner Paki. Her brother was King Kalakuaua. Lili’uokalani attended the Royal School, where she learned the proper use of the English language, was trained in music, and traveled widely. Lili’uokalani was very proud of her Hawaiian traditions and was always loyal to her people. Lili’uokalani married John Owen Dominis on September 16, 1862. Dominis would later become the Governor of Oahu and Maui. The couple never had any children.
In 1881, Lili’uokalani was temporarily left in charge of Hawaii when her brother went on an extended trip around the world. While he was gone, an epidemic of smallpox broke out, killing many Hawaiians. Chinese laborers who worked in Hawaii’s sugar cane fields brought the disease. To limit its spread, Lili’uokalani temporarily closed Hawaii’s ports, which made the wealthy sugar growers angry, but showed her strong concern for her people.
On January 17, 1891, Lili’uokalani inherited the Hawaiian throne from her brother Kalākaua after his death. The previous year, the McKinley Tariff caused a recession in the islands by jeopardizing a mainland market for Hawaiian sugar. American interests in Hawaii began to consider annexation for Hawaii in order to reestablish economic competition for sugar. In 1893, Queen Lili’uokalani sought to empower Hawaiians through a new constitution. This caused the American minister in Hawaii, John L. Stevens to call for troops to take over the Iolani Palace and other government buildings and in 1894, they deposed Queen Lili’uokalani. The United States Government instituted a provisional government, which became the Republic of Hawaii, in place of the overthrown monarchy,
Upon realizing that the Hawaiian people were on the side of their dethroned Queen, President Cleveland offered her the throne back if she granted amnesty to all involved in the take over of her kingdom. She initially refused, but then changed her mind and agreed only to be denied her reinstatement by the Provisional Government. On, July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed with Sanford B. Dole as president.
Lili’uokalani was arrested in January of 1895 after a failed counterrevolution in which firearms were found on her property. She denied knowing of their existence and the following year she was released and returned to her home. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898.
Queen Lili’uokalani was an accomplished musician and wrote over 160 poetic melodies and chants over her lifetime. One of her more famous pieces became one of Hawaii’s four National Anthems. “Aloha Oe” is her best known composition, a story about two lovers who reluctantly must part.
Lili’uokalani died on November 11, 1917 from complications resulting from a stroke. She was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
- Lili'uokalani. Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen.
- “Queen Lydia Liliuokalani,” University of Illinois at Chicago, History Department, n.d., http://www.uic.edu/depts/owa/history/liliuokalani.html (23 February 2006).
- Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen (1898), cited on “A Celebration of Women Writers,” University of Pennsylvania, n.d., http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/liliuokalani/hawaii/hawaii-1.html (8 February 2006).
- “Hawaii’s Last Queen,” Public Broadcast Systems, n.d., http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hawaii/program.html (23 February 2006).
- PHOTO: University of Pennsylvania