The Last Queen of Hawaiʻi

Lydia Liliʻu Lolokū Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha was one of the most important women in Hawaiian history. She served her people for 79 years. Liliʻu learned diligently in her childhood. She loved children, although she had none of her own. She excelled in music and wrote many songs that are still sung today. However, she also had a heavy burden as aliʻi and queen of Hawaiʻi.

Liliʻu was born on September 2, 1838, with a rainbow signaling that a great chief was born. After her birth, she was taken to Pākī and Kōnia as hānai. Liliʻu was raised by them until 1843, when she began attending the High Chief’s Children’s School. She learned the common English subjects from haole missionary teachers Amos and Juliette Cooke.

In her young adult years, Lili’u began to search for a husband. Eventually, she married John Owen Dominis on September 16, 1862. Liliʻu lived with him and his mother in a white house at Washington Place. However, she was unhappy there. She was foreign to haole customs, and was disapproved of by John’s mother. Although Liliʻu and John had no children of their own, Liliʻu did hānai three children: Lydia Aholo, Joseph Kaiponohea ʻAeʻa, and John ʻAimoku Dominis.

Kalākaua, Liliʻu’s oldest brother, was elected king of Hawaiʻi in 1874, and Liliʻu became a princess. After their younger brother died in 1877, she was named heir by Kalākaua and given the name Liliʻuokalani. Nine days after Kalākaua’s death on January 20, 1891, Queen Liliʻuokalani was sworn into office. In 1893, she proposed a new constitution for Hawaiʻi to regain power after the Bayonet Constitution, which would restore power to the monarchy, as well as voting rights to the economically disenfranchised. However, a group of anti- monarchists led by Sanford B. Dole overthrew the monarchy on January 17 of that year.

Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in ʻIolani Palace for eight months, and under “house arrest” at Washington Place for another five months. She took this punishment with dignity, writing some of her most famous compositions during this period, such as “Aloha ʻOe” and “The Queen’s Prayer.”

Despite Liliʻuokalani’s efforts to prevent the annexation, including writing to the President, she was unsuccessful. A decade of legal pursuits in obtaining recompense for stolen lands also ended in vain. Liliʻuokalani eventually lived out the rest of her life at Washington Place. On November 11, 1917, the last queen of Hawaiʻi passed on. Her legacy, one of the last links to Hawaiiian culture, now passes on to us.

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