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Bernice Pauahi Bishop

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Bernice Pauahi Bishop
BornBernice Pauahi Pākī
(1831-12-19)December 19, 1831
ʻAikupika, Haleākala, Honolulu, Oʻahu, Hawaii
DiedOctober 16, 1884(1884-10-16) (aged 52)
Keōua Hale, Honolulu, Oʻahu, Hawaii
BurialNovember 2, 1884[1]
(m. 1850)
IssueKeolaokalani Davis (hānai)
Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop
FatherAbner Pākī
Kekūanaōʻa (hānai)
MotherLaura Kōnia
Kīnaʻu (hānai)
SignatureBernice Pauahi Bishop's signature

Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop KGCOK RoK (December 19, 1831 – October 16, 1884) was an aliʻi (noble) of the royal family of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a well known philanthropist. At her death, her estate was the largest private landownership in the Hawaiian Islands, comprising approximately 9% of Hawaii's total area. The revenues from these lands are used to operate the Kamehameha Schools, which were established in 1887 according to Pauahi's will. Pauahi was married to businessman and philanthropist Charles Reed Bishop.

Ancestry, birth and early life[edit]

Pauahi was born in Honolulu on December 19, 1831, in ʻAikupika the grass hut compound of her father,[2] Abner Kuhoʻoheiheipahu Pākī (c. 1808–1855). Pākī was an aliʻi (noble) from the island of Molokaʻi, and son of Kalani-hele-maiiluna, who descended from the aliʻi nui (ruling monarchs) of the island of Maui. Her mother was Laura Kōnia (c. 1808–1857), the younger daughter of Pauli Kaʻōleiokū (1767–1818), by his second wife, Kahailiopua Luahine. Kaʻōleiokū was the son of Kānekapōlei, wife of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and Kamehameha I, and Luahine was descended from Kalaimanokahoʻowaha who had greeted Captain Cook in 1778. Pauahi was named for her aunt, Queen Pauahi (c. 1804–1826), a widow of King Kamehameha II, and given the Christian name of Bernice.

In a surviving mele hānau (birth chant) for Pauahi, the names Kalaninuiʻīamamao and Keaweikekahialiʻiokamoku are referenced and considered the main links to the Kamehamehas as Kalaninuiʻīamamao was the father of Kalaniʻōpuʻu and "stepfather" of Keōua, Kamehameha I's father while Keaweikekahialiʻiokamoku was the common ancestor of both men. Pauahi's birth chant does not mention Kamehameha I himself.[3]

She was adopted at birth by Princess Kīnaʻu[4] (who took office in the position of Kuhina Nui (regent), styled as Kaʻahumanu II), but was returned to her parents in 1838 when Kīnaʻu gave birth to her daughter, Victoria Kamāmalu.[5] Kīnaʻu died of mumps in 1839.[6] Pauahi began attending the Chiefs' Children's School (later called the Royal School) that same year and remained there until 1846.[6] Her teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Cooke. Pauahi greatly enjoyed horseback riding and swimming, and she also liked music, flowers, and the outdoors. She dressed like any fashionable New York or London woman of the time.

elderly Victorian man
Husband Charles Reed Bishop


It had been planned from childhood that Pauahi, born into Hawaiian royalty, would marry her hānai (adopted) brother Prince Lot Kapuāiwa. Pauahi married businessman Charles Reed Bishop May 4, 1850, despite the objections of her parents.[7] Per her request, very few people attended her wedding. One of the few witnesses was Princess Elizabeth Kekaʻaniau, her cousin. The couple had no children of their own. They adopted a son named Keolaokalani Davis from Pauahi's cousin Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani in 1862, against the wish of Ruth's husband, but the infant died at the age of six months. In 1883, they offered to adopt William Kaiheekai Taylor (1882–1956), the infant son of Pauahi's distant cousin Lydia Keōmailani Crowningburg and Wray Taylor; they had been the boy's godparents during his christening at St. Andrews. The Taylors refused to give up their first-born son but instead offered to give one of their twin daughters to the Bishops, but they decided not to accept the second offer.[3]: 105, 168  The child, William Edward Bishop Kaiheekai Taylor was one of the first students at the Kamehameha's Preparatory Department and would later serve as the kahu (caretaker) of the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii at ʻMauna Ala from 1947 until his death in 1956.[8]

Eligible to rule[edit]

Pauahi was educated at the Royal School and was eligible to be a named heir. Prince Lot Kapuāiwa ruled as Kamehameha V and offered Pauahi the throne on his deathbed in 1872. But, taken aback, she replied, "No, no, not me; don't think of me. I don't need it." The king pressed on. But she again spurned the throne: "Oh, no, do not think of me. There are others." The king died an hour later. Pauahi's refusal to accept the crown allowed Lunalilo to become the first elected monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Death and funeral[edit]

On October 16, 1884, at the age of 52, Pauahi died of breast cancer at Keōua Hale, Honolulu. She is interred in the Kamehameha Crypt at Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii at Mauna ʻAla on Oʻahu.


By the time of her death in 1884, her estate consisted of 485,563 acres (which was reduced to 375,569 acres by the January 22, 1886 meeting of the Trustees of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate) of land across the Hawaiian Islands which she had either purchased or inherited from her parents Pākī and Kōnia, from her aunt ʻAkahi, from her cousin Keʻelikōlani and other relatives. These lands were incorporated after Pauahi's death into the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estates, which funds the Kamehameha Schools to the present day.[9][10]

Bishop wished that a portion of her estate be used "to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools...one for boys and one girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools."[11][12] She directed her five trustees to invest her estate at their discretion and use the annual income to operate the schools. When she wrote her will, only 44,000 Hawaiians were alive. After Bishop's death in 1884, her husband Charles Reed Bishop started work in carrying out her will.

The original Kamehameha School for Boys was established in 1887. The girls' school was established in 1894 on a nearby campus. By 1955, the schools moved to a 600-acre (2.4 km2) location in the heights above Kapālama. Some time later, Kamehameha Schools established two more campuses on outer-islands: Pukalani, Maui and the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus in Keaʻau on the island of Hawaii.

Charles Reed Bishop founded the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in 1889 as another memorial to Pauahi, on the grounds of the original boys school.

In 1912, Walter F. Dillingham (of Dillingham Construction) purchased 84 acres (34 ha) from the former Bernice P. Bishop Estate, which used the land for property development to create the neighborhood of Waikiki and many of its early related buildings and structures (including the Ala Wai Canal).[13]

In 1912, 84 acres (34 ha) from the Bernice P. Bishop Estate was sold to Walter F. Dillingham (of Dillingham Construction), which used the land for property development to create the neighborhood of Waikiki and many of its early related buildings and structures.[14]

She was named a woman hero by The My Hero Project.[15]


Her will caused three major controversies. In 1992, a clause that all Kamehameha Schools teachers must be Protestant was challenged as illegal religious discrimination in employment by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a decision of the district court, and found that the school had not proved that it was "primarily religious", and thus this clause violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[16]

In 1997, several conflicts of interest were charged. Trustees received up to $900,000 per year and put their own money into the investments of the estate. The Supreme Court of Hawaii was directed in the will to replacement trustees, but also ruled on many cases involving the estate. An essay by Judge Samuel Pailthorpe King and University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law Professor Randall W. Roth and others was published as a series of newspaper articles,[17] and later a book. After a number of legal battles, the trustees resigned and management was re-organized.[18]

Trustees were instructed "to devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood."[12] Traditionally, this was interpreted to admit almost no students that could not prove native Hawaiian ancestry. A number of lawsuits challenged this policy. One included a settlement reported to be $7 million.[19]


National honours



  1. ^ David W. Forbes, ed. (2003). Hawaiian national bibliography, 1780-1900. Vol. 4. University of Hawaii Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-8248-2636-1.
  2. ^ Kamehameha Schools. "1846–1851 in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi". Retrieved 2011-01-29.
  3. ^ a b George H. Kanahele (1986). Pauahi: The Kamehameha Legacy. Kamehameha Schools Press. pp. 3–7. ISBN 978-0-87336-005-0.
  4. ^ Mary S. Lawrence (1912). Old Time Hawaiians and Their Work. Ginn. p. 159.
  5. ^ Anne Commire (1999). Women in World History. Gale. p. 557. ISBN 978-0-7876-4061-3.
  6. ^ a b Hiram Bingham (1849). A Residence of Twenty-one Years in the Sandwich Islands; Or, The Civil, Religious, and Political History of Those Islands: Comprising a Particular View of the Missionary Operations Connected with the Introduction and Progress of Christianity and Civilization Among the Hawaiian People. H. Huntington. p. 533. ISBN 9780804812528.
  7. ^ "Oahu (1832–1910) marriage records". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  8. ^ Parker, David "Kawika" (2008). "Crypts of the Ali`i The Last Refuge of the Hawaiian Royalty". Tales of Our Hawaiʻi (PDF). Honolulu: Alu Like, Inc. p. 55. OCLC 309392477. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 11, 2013.
  9. ^ "Pauahi's Will". Kamehameha Schools. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  10. ^ The Ho‘okahua Cultural Vibrancy Group (October 31, 2016). "Princess Pauahi's will shows foresight and strength of character". Kamehameha Schools. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "Bernice Pauahi Bishop - The Philanthropy Hall of Fame". philanthropyroundtable.org. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  12. ^ a b "Pauahi's Will". ksbe.edu. Kamehameha Schools. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  13. ^ Cocke, Sophie (2013-05-20). "Ala Wai Canal: Hawaii's Biggest Mistake?". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 2024-03-24.
  14. ^ Cocke, Sophie (2013-05-20). "Ala Wai Canal: Hawaii's Biggest Mistake?". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved 2024-03-24.
  15. ^ "Bernice Pauahi Bishop". The My Hero Project. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  16. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (March 31, 1993). "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kamehameha Schools/bishop Estate, 990 F.2d 458". Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  17. ^ Samuel King; Msgr. Charles Kekumano; Walter Heen; Gladys Brandt & Randall Roth (August 9, 1997). "Broken Trust: The community has lost faith in Bishop Estate trustees, in how they are chosen, how much they are paid, how they govern". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  18. ^ Randall W. Roth (2006). "Broken Trust". Book web site. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  19. ^ Jim Dooley (February 8, 2008). "Kamehameha Schools settled lawsuit for $7M". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2010-03-10.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]