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Hannah Kaaepa, Advocate of Hawaiian Women's Rights

1873-1918

Hannah Kaaepa
Illustration by Brooke Smart

By Amanda Hendrix-Komoto

 

Hannah Kaaepa was born in March 1873 in Hawai‘i. [1] In 1898, she immigrated to Utah with her mother, Makanoe Kahluhilaau Kaaepa, to join fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hannah’s immigration occurred against the backdrop of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and the annexation of Hawaii to the United States in 1898. Hannah’s mother had been close to Queen Liliuokalani, who was dethroned after attempting to grant a new constitution reinstating the monarchy’s authority and restoring voting rights to native Hawaiians. Hannah’s loyalty to the crown reinforced her support for women’s suffrage.

Hannah and her mother settled in Iosepa, Utah, a colony of native Hawaiian Mormons located in Tooele County. They lived with her grandfather Kaluohilaau and several other family members. Like her mother, who had held leadership positions in the women’s Relief Society organization in Hawaii as well as the Woman’s Hawaiian Patriotic League, Hannah quickly integrated into her new Utah community. By 1899, Hannah was serving as the secretary of the Iosepa Sunday School. She represented Iosepa at the Sunday School General Jubilee Celebration in Salt Lake City in October 1899, where she spoke in her native language.     

A grouping of individual black and white headshots of 10 of Utah's most influential women, and Hannah Kaaepa is in the bottom right corner of the page.

Utah delegation to the Triennial National Council of Women, held in Washington, D.C., February 1899. Top row: (L to R) Martha Horne Tingey, Minnie. J. Snow. Second row: Ann M. Cannon, Emmeline B. Wells, Susa Young Gates. Third row: Mabel Lyon, Zina Young Card, Lula L. Greene Richards. Bottom row: Lucy B. Young, Hannah Kaaepa. Young Woman’s Journal 10 (May 1899): 194.

In February 1899, Kaaepa accompanied Susa Young Gates and other prominent Utah suffragists to Washington, D.C. to participate in the third Triennial Congress of the National Council of Women.  Council president May Wright Sewell invited both Kaaepa and Gates to speak on behalf of Hawaiian women. In her remarks, Hannah urged Council members to use their influence to support Queen Liliuokalani in her efforts to secure suffrage for the women of Hawaii. She ended with an expression of love in her native language and presented flower leis to Sewall, Susan B. Anthony, and Anna Howard Shaw. Queen Liliuokalani, who was living in Washington, D.C. at the time and attended Hannah’s presentation, hosted a dinner in her home for Kaaepa, Sewell, Anthony, Gates, Emmeline B. Wells, and Lucy B. Young. Gates noted that Hannah “made a good impression, speaking in native and wearing with dignity the modified costume of her people, decked with leis and shells.” [2]

Shortly after she returned from the Triennial Congress, Hannah married George Lou Kauhaneola (also known as George Lowe). The couple returned to Hawaii in 1903. Although they had several children, only two survived to adulthood. Hannah died on September 29, 1918, in Hilo, Hawaii. According to her obituary, her last words included an expression of loyalty to the crown and to her faith: “Give my aloha to the Prince Kalania[‘]ole, stand by him, stand by the church and stand by the flag.” [3]

Amanda Hendrix-Komoto is assistant professor of history at Montana State University. Her research interests include Women’s Studies, the American West, Comparative Colonialism and Religion.

 

Footnotes

[1] Year: 1900; Census Place: Grantsville, Tooele, Utah; Roll: 1686; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0143; FHL microfilm: 1241686.

[2] Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 1911), 205.

[3]  “Mrs. George Lowe, Failing Since Death of Queen, Passes On,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin Vol. 26, No. 3257 (October 1, 1918), 6.

 


Sources

“Hana Kaaepa’s Presentation,” Salt Lake City Herald (February 26, 1899), 4. “The Council of Women,” New-York Tribune (February 15, 1899), 5. “The Recent Triennial in Washington,” Young Woman’s Journal 10:5 (May 1899): 203 – 204. Jubilee History of Latter-day Saint Sunday Schools: 1849-1899 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1900), 516.