Postage stamps are an important resource for gender studies. Hawaiian stamps issued between 1864 and 1893 are an excellent example. Hawaii was originally an independent nation with its own monarchy, parliament, anthem and flag. Several of the nation’s postage stamps depict the last senior female members of the Hawaiian Royal Family; all strong, compassionate, talented women with a deep love for their kingdom and people.
Although Princess Victoria Kamamalu’s (1838-1866) brother the King prevented her marriage for political reasons, Victoria was far from a pawn in male power politics of the time. Remaining a spinster she resisted her brother’s attempts to marry her off to more amenable suitors, even causing the King significant embarrassment when implicated in a scandal with a married Englishman. An accomplished pianist and singer she performed in the Kawaiaiha’o Church Choir despite criticisms that her royal rank rendered such activities inappropriate. In 1863 she also established the Kaahumanu Society to assist small pox sufferers, the sick and elderly.
Princess Likelike (1851-1887) married Archibald Scott Cleghorn, a Scottish resident. Tiring of his controlling behaviour she abandoned him to become the Governor of Big Island between 1879 and 1880, refusing his repeated requests to return home. Involved in extensive charity work, Likelike also had a musical bent writing iconic Hawaiian songs including Ainahau.
Queen Kapilolani (1834-1899) established the Kapiolani maternity home and participated in the 1887 state visit to Britain to attend Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee Celebrations. Throughout the visit Kapiolani insisted on speaking Hawaiian despite being proficient in English.
Queen Emma Kaleleonalani (1836-1885) was a renowned equestrian who expanded the Royal Palace Library. She established the Queen’s Hospital in 1859 and St Andrew’s Priory School for girls in 1867. A devout Anglican she was a central figure in establishing the Church of Hawaii and St Andrew’s Cathedral.
Queen Liluokalani (1838-1917) assisted in founding Queen’s Hospital and the Kaahumanu Society for the relief of the elderly and sick in 1864. In 1909 she also established the Liliuokalani Trust for the welfare of orphaned Hawaiian Children. She wrote Hawaii’s most iconic song Aloha ‘oe and one of Hawaii’s national anthems, acted as regent during her brother’s world tour in 1881, and also participated in the 1887 State visit to Britain. In 1891 she was elected head of state on her brother’s death, ruling until 1893 when she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate following an American backed coup bringing the Hawaiian Monarchy to a tragic end. Prior to her death in 1917 Liliuokalani continually sought support to regain her throne, and also published her memoirs Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen in 1898.
Richard Scott Morel
Curator, Philatelic Collections
British Library, Philatelic collections: UPU Collection: Hawaii 1893 Provisional Government Overprinted Issues
Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen (Boston, 1898)
Paul Bailey, Those Kings and Queens of Old Hawaii, (LA, 1975)
Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom (3 volumes, Honolulu, 1947-1967)