Back in the beginning of the 19th-century, it was believed that women should be educated to understand domestic economy, because they were to play the major role in educating the young, primarily in their homes, and later as school teachers (as the school population grew and there was a shortage of teachers).
Gender segregated schools were established. The seminary’s primary task was professional preparation: the male seminary prepared men for the ministry; the female seminary took as its earnest job the training of women for teaching and motherhood. (Horowitz, Beyer)
Although schools for upper-class women were in existence prior to the 19th-century, the female seminary for middle-class women became the prevailing type of institution from 1820 until after the Civil War.
The most prominent female seminaries on the continent were Troy Seminary (1821,) Hartford Seminary (1823,) Ipswich Seminary (1828,) Mount Holyoke Seminary (1837) and Oxford Seminary (1839.)
In the Islands, the first female seminary students were adult Hawaiian women. Patricia Grimshaw states: “… that (s)oon after their arrival in Hawai’i in 1820, and over the next three decades, New England missionary women embarked on an ambitious plan to transform Hawaiian girls and women to notions of femininity upheld by their culture.”
“The plan and design of the Female Seminary is to take a class of young females into a boarding school—away in a measure from the contaminating influence of heathen society, to train them to habits of industry, neatness, and order …”
“… to instruct them in employments suited to their sex, to cultivate the minds, to improve their manners and to instill the principles of our holy religion – to fit them to be suitable companions for the scholars of the Mission Seminary and examples of propriety among the females of the Sandwich Islands.” (Dibble)
In 1835, at the general meeting of the Mission, a resolution was passed to promote boarding schools for Hawaiians; several male boarding schools and two female boarding schools were begun (Wailuku Female Seminary on the island of Maui and the Hilo Girls Boarding School on the island of Hawai’I; others followed.)
The last of the female seminaries that was begun by the missionaries was initially called the Makawao Family School. Reverend Claudius B. Andrews and his wife, Anne Seward Gilson Andrews, began it in 1861 in a location above Makawao Village on the island of Maui.
Maunaʻolu Seminary is an out-growth of the “East Maui Female Seminary.” It first sprang into existence, through the earnest desire of the Andrews for a school for Hawaiian girls, where they might he educated in the atmosphere of a Christian home, and so be equipped for their future life work.
Mr. Andrews purchased a piece of land called “Maluhia,” selecting a site about 2,000-feet on the slopes of Haleakalā.
It was here that Mr. and Mrs. Andrews with their family first conceived the idea of a “Home School” for Hawaiian girls, as Mr. Andrews said, “Where the girls are to be taught as my own daughters”.
It was not so much the idea of book knowledge as that in the early years of the child-life they would be given the essential elements of true character building, looking to future development of Hawaiian womanhood.
A year after the school began, Mrs. Andrews died.
Throughout the next seven years, Reverend Andrews received help from a variety of people, and attendance grew to 70 students. But then, in 1869, the school building burned; the school was temporarily closed, but reopened in 1871.
Reverend Andrews, along with his second wife, Samantha Andrews, were in charge of operating the school. (The second Mrs. Andrews was a sister of his first wife.)
Miss Helen E. Carpenter was engaged as an assistant teacher. Both Samantha Andrews and Helen Carpenter were graduates of Mount Holyoke Seminary. In 1874, the latter was appointed principal.
Throughout the following years, the curriculum included the usual academic courses in reading, mathematics, literature, history, language (all instruction was in English), geography, spelling, civics and the Bible. The industrial departments included sewing, domestic arts and culinary.
During the last two decades of the 19th century, the school was nicknamed the Mount Holyoke Seminary of the Hawaiian Islands due to the connection of its instructors with that American seminary and the large number of Hawaiian Islands ministers’ daughters in attendance.
Additions to the buildings and aid from both the Government and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) led to the enrollment climbing to 100 students.
At the end of the century, all the female seminaries in Hawai‘i began to lose students to the newly-founded Kamehameha School for Girls.
This latter school was established in 1894; it was not technically a seminary or founded by missionaries, but all the girls enrolled were Hawaiian, and its curriculum was very similar to what was used at the missionary-sponsored seminaries.
After a second fire in 1898, Maunaʻolu Seminary moved into temporary quarters in the buildings of the old Haleakala government boy’s school, also above Makawao.
In 1900 Maunaʻolu was rebuilt in a place closer to Pā‘ia on land known as Pu‘u Makani (windy hill). This was brought about by the generosity of the honored trustee, Mr. Henry P. Baldwin.
Maunaʻolu Seminary continued to exist through the 1920s, offering a high school diploma to their graduates. Its last commencement was in June 1942.
The school was used for the military hospital during World War II. Reopened in 1950 as a coeducational junior college run by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association of Congregational Christian Churches, Maunaʻolu Community College offered the last two years of high school and the first two years of college.
A four-year college curriculum was developed in 1969, but the college had difficulty attracting students.
In 1971, Maunaʻolu College was acquired by United States International University, and later by the County of Maui. The college is no longer in existence.