Kalākua (also Kaheiheimālie) (c. 1778–1842) was daughter of Keʻeaumoku (a chief from Hawaiʻi Island) and Nāmahana, from the royal family on Maui. She was described as physically being ‘tall and gigantic,’ like her siblings. (Bingham)
“Kalākua, a widow of Kamehameha … asked (the missionary women) to make a gown for her in fashion like their own.” (Bingham) “(She) was told that it was the Lord’s day, and that they would make it tomorrow.” (April 2, 1820, Thaddeus Journal)
The next day, the first Hawaiian sewing circle was held on the decks of the Thaddeus, “Kalākua brought a web of white cambric to have a dress made for herself in the fashion of our ladies, and was very particular in her wish to have it finished while sailing along the western side of the island, before reaching the king.”
“Monday morning April 3d (1820,) the first sewing circle was formed that the sun ever looked down upon in the Hawaiian realm. Kalākua was directress. She requested all the seven white ladies to take seats with them on mats, on the deck of the Thaddeus.”
“The dress was made in the fashion of 1819. The length of the skirt accorded with Brigham Young’s rule to his Mormon damsels, – have it come down to the tops of the shoes. But in the queen’s case, where the shoes were wanting, the bare feet cropped out very prominently.” (Lucy Thurston, part of the Pioneer Company)
Later, another ‘sewing circle’ was presented by some of the early missionary descendants. But first, some background …
About 30-years after the first sewing circle (June 5, 1832), the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society (HMCS) was formed. At the time, “there were no places of entertainment, for social enjoyments or organized mission work, or any society for the missionary children, no uplifting influences at their disposal.”
“The family rules were strict. Native prayer meetings at five o’clock in the morning and long Sunday services, mostly in Hawaiian, were the only change the poor children had, and the formation of the HMCS was a beautiful and wise undertaking. It has done its work faithfully and well.” (Cooke; HMCS, 1900)
Then in 1900, the HMCS membership was asked, “What is the future of the Society?” Outgoing HMCS president, AF Cooke noted, “Having fulfilled its original design, let us now form a new society with broader aim …”
“… and with a more extended scope for membership, and plan to become a historical centre for all missionary efforts in the wide Pacific. … A historical or commemorative society offering occasion for missionary intelligence and personal reminiscences of the lives of our fathers and mothers …”
“…would give to us and to our children and to the Christian world, a most valuable record and much history might be preserved that would otherwise remain unknown.” (Cooke; HMCS, 1900)
The Society acquired the 1821 Mission House in 1907 and later the coral block Chamberlain house. The making of a museum was underway (and remains under HMCS control to today).
A House warming was given here on April 4th, 1908. The officers of the Society and others received the Cousins and their friends in the old historic reception room where royalty was entertained in the long ago, and where, no doubt, every missionary to these sunny islands has gathered in consultation and knelt in prayer.
Many guests went up the winding stairs to the chambers above, out to the stone kitchen and down to the cellar dining and store rooms before going through to the makai lawn where chairs were arranged for the audience.
A dramatic performance of an old-time missionary sewing circle, supposedly held during the General Meeting of 1840, was presented.
“Our Cousin James A. (Judd) Wilder has with a most sympathetic hand, woven together various incidents and anecdotes from unwritten missionary history, into a brief drama of one scene, apologies need be made for any anachronisms as to pretense to be more than a composite picture.”
“The missionary mothers are represented by grand and great-grand-daughters, and the old-time dress will enhance family resemblances and are sure to be pleasing to those who remember dear faces gone.” (HMCS Annual Report, 1908)
“The acting was good and the whole scene very realistic. The play was given at the rear of the Old Mission Home, between that and the vine-clad coral kitchen, and the audience were seated on the lawn.”
“A platform was built in front of the stage, between trees and draped with flags, ferns and ilima wreaths, on which sat the guests of honor, Queen Lili‘uokalani, Gov. Pinkham, Admiral Moore and General Macomb.” (HMCS Annual Report, 1912)