Gladys Kamakakuokalani Brandt

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Gladys Kamakakuokalani ʻAinoa Brandt (1906–2003) was an educator and civic leader in Hawaii. She served as a principal at Kamehameha Schools and helped found the University of Hawaii's Hawaiian Studies Center, leading to a revival of interest in native Hawaiian culture. Later she led protests against the trustees of Kamehameha Schools for financial mismanagement, leading to their replacement.


Gladys Kamakakūokalani ʻAinoa Brandt was born in Honolulu on August 20, 1906.[1] Her father, David Kanuha, was involved in the counterrevolutionary movement[which?] of royalist Robert William Wilcox in the mid-1890s working to restore the monarchy of Liliʻuokalani. Arrested and convicted of treason for his beliefs, Kanuha was elected to the new territorial legislature. She attended the funeral of the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Queen Liliʻuokalani's in 1917, one of many events marking the social changes to Hawaiian culture. She denied her culture as a child, ignored her language, and rubbed her skin with lemon juice to try to whiten it. However, she took self-determined leaps towards embracing her Hawaiian roots in the 1960s and 1970s, and fought to rebuild them.[2]

For a time as a young child, she attended Kamehameha School for Girls and was raised by its first principal Ida May Pope.[3]

When she was 16, her father changed the family name to ʻAinoa (her mother was Esther Aionoa), meaning "to eat in freedom" in the Hawaiian language. It was a reference to the ʻAi Noa period of freedom after a king of ancient Hawaii had died, and the particular one in 1819 which marked the major changes to the Hawaiian social system.[3]

Brandt graduated from President William McKinley High School in 1925. She received a teaching certificate from the University of Hawaii (then called Hawaii Normal School), and married Isaac Brandt in 1927. She first taught in public schools on the island of Maui, and then Kauaʻi. In 1943 she received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Hawaii. She then became Hawaii's first woman public school principal. She was the first woman to be named superintendent of schools, in 1962 on Kauaʻi island.[3]

She then moved on to become the principal of the Kamehameha School for Girls, in 1963. Although the institute was created distinctly for Hawaiians, Gladys was its first Native Hawaiian principal. She was promoted to director of the high school division in 1969, serving until 1971. When she invited Hawaiian culture expert Nona Beamer to teach, Beamer insisted that traditional standing hula, which had been banned as being "indecent" for girls, would be required.[3]

Although officially "retired" in 1971 after 44 years of being an educator, she served on various boards and officiers of civic organizations. In 1983 Governor of Hawaii George Ariyoshi appointed her to the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii. She served until 1986, and was chair for four years. She lobbied the legislature to fund the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies, which offers both an undergraduate and (starting in 2005) master's degree. It was named after her Hawaiian name Kamakakuokalani in 2002.[4]

In 1997 she was co-author of two essays known as "Broken Trust" which criticized Kamehameha Schools, the largest private landowner in Hawaii, resulting in their reorganization.[5][6][7]:175 In 1998 Governor Ben Cayetano appointed her a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She died on January 15, 2003 in Honolulu.[3] Cayetano said "I never met anyone who was so widely respected across all ethnicities."[8] Senator Daniel Akaka praised Brandt for championing education as most important to the future of the Native Hawaiian people, instead of anger of fear.[8]


  1. ^ "Lookup of Brandt, Gladys A". Social Security Death Index. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ Scott Ishikawa; Beverly Creamer (January 17, 2003). "Gladys Brandt, champion of Hawaiian culture". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Sally Apgar (January 16, 2003). "Famed and respected educator, civic leader and mainstay in the Hawaiian community dies". Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies". University of Hawaii at Manoa. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 
  5. ^ Samuel Pailthorpe King, Msgr. Charles Kekumano, Walter Meheula Heen, Gladys Brandt and 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 December 10, 2010. 
  6. ^ Isabella Abbott, Winona Beamer, Gladys A. Brandt, Roderick F. McPhree and Winona Ellis Rubin (November 27, 1997). "Schools' gross mismanagement must stop: Tyranny, distrust, poor decisions reign at Kamehameha". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  7. ^ Samuel Pailthorpe King; Randall W. Roth (March 2006). Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, and Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-3014-4. 
  8. ^ a b Scott Ishikawa (January 16, 2003). "Kupuna Brandt dies at 96". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved December 9, 2010.