“Honolulu Female Academy (is) another of the schools provided by Christian benevolence for the benefit of the children of this highly favored land. This institution will, it is hoped, supply a felt need for a home for girls, in the town of Honolulu, yet not too near its center of business.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, April 13, 1867)
“The inception of this school emanated from Mrs Halsey Gulick. In 1863, when living in the old mission premises on the mauka side of King street, she took several Hawaiian girls into her family to be brought up with her own children … The mother love was strong in that little group as some of us remember.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 23, 1897)
The usefulness of such a school became evident; as the enrollment grew, the need for a more permanent organization was required. It became known as Kawaiahaʻo Female Seminary.
In 1867, the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society (HMCS – an organization consisting of the children of the missionaries and adopted supporters) decided to support a girls’ boarding school.
HMCS invited Miss Lydia Bingham (daughter of Reverend Hiram Bingham, leader of the Pioneer Company of missionaries to Hawaiʻi) to return to Honolulu to be a teacher in this family school; she was then principal of the Ohio Female College, at College Hill, Ohio.
“Her love for the land of her birth and Interest for the children of the people to whom her father and mother had given their early lives, led her to accept the position, and in March, 1867, she arrived on the Morning Star via Cape Horn.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 23, 1897)
In January 1869, her sister, Miss Elizabeth Kaʻahumanu (Lizzie) Bingham, arrived from the continent to be an assistant to her sister. Lizzie was a graduate of Mount Holyoke and, when she was recruited, was a teacher at Rockford Female Seminary. (Beyer)
Later, Lydia and Lizzie’s niece (daughter of Hiram’s first child Sophia Bingham), Clara Lydia Moseley (later Sutherland), joined them at Kawaiaha‘o.
“It was my sister Mary that my aunt first asked for, and this was at least two years before she asked for me. But while Mary was considering the matter, along came a fine young man from Boston by the name of Charles Crocker. … He was a man of such fine character that we came to like him more and more, so how could my sister refuse him when he asked her to marry him?”
“It was quite natural that she should choose to marry him rather than go off to some little Island in the middle of the Pacific which very few people knew anything about at that time.”
“(B)efore I was fifteen, a wonderful thing happened to me which probably changed the whole course of my life. Two of my mother’s sisters, Aunt Lydia and Aunt Lizzie, returned to Honolulu, the home of their birth and engaged in teaching in a school for Hawaiian girls which was called Kawaiahaʻo Seminary.”
“It was located at that time on King St. just opposite the Old Mission house where the Mission Memorial Building now stands.”
“My Aunt Lydia was Principal of this school and she wrote to my mother asking if she couldn’t spare me and let me come out and teach music to her girls, knowing that I was musically inclined.”
“When my aunt wrote asking for me, she said she wanted me to have a teacher for a few months intervening before I should leave home, and she would pay for my lessons, so I took lessons … for about three months.”
“Of course my parents were willing to let me go, knowing it was too fine an opportunity for me to miss. A friend of my aunt’s, Miss Julia Gulick, was coming to the states that year so it was planned that I should go back with her.”
“Uncle Hiram (II) met us at the wharf that Sunday morning we arrived, and when we reached the house my three aunts gave me such a warm and cordial welcome that I was no longer homesick, but oh! so glad to be here on terra firma.” (Clara Lydia Sutherland)
It started with boarders and day students, but after 1871 it has been exclusively a boarding school. “Under her patient energy and tact, with the help of her assistants, it prospered greatly, and became a success.” (Coan)
“To those of us who were then watching the efforts of these Christian ladies the school became the centre of great interest. The excellent discipline, the loving care, the neatness and skill shown in all departments of domestic life …”
“… the thoroughness of the teaching and the high Christian spirit which pervaded it all caused rejoicing that such an impulse had been given to education for Hawaiian girls.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 23, 1897)
“Every Sunday one of the teachers accompanied the Girls to Kawaiahaʻo Church diagonally across the street to the morning service.” (Sutherland Journal)
“Just across the driveway from the main house and close to the old Castle home was a long narrow adobe building known as the ‘Bindery’ as that is what it was originally used for by the early missionaries.”
“There were three rooms down stairs and these were occupied by my Uncle Hiram and Aunt Clara. At the head of the stairs, which were on the outside of the building was my Aunt Lydia’s room; then a dormitory where eight or ten of the older girls slept, and at the east end of the building, toward the Castle’s home was my room.” (Clara Lydia Sutherland)
“When Miss Bingham came to Hilo (on October 13, 1873 she married Titus Coan,) the seminary was committed to the charge of her sister (Lizzie), whose earnest labors for seven years in a task that is heavy and exhausting so reduced her strength, that in June, 1880 she was obliged to resign her post.” (Coan)
“I had planned to stay five years when I first went out to the Islands (however) ‘Old Captain Gelett) felt he must do something to change the course of my life. So he persuaded my aunts to let him send me away to school as soon as I had finished my third year at the Seminary.”
“Accordingly, in August, 1875, I sailed from Honolulu on the ‘DC Murray’ with a group of other young people who were going over to school. This sailing vessel was twenty one days in getting to San Francisco”. (Clara Lydia Sutherland)
At the end of the century, all the female seminaries 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.
Since Kawaiahaʻo Seminary was located only a few miles from this new female school, it experienced the biggest loss in enrollment and adjusted by enrolling more non-Hawaiian students.
In 1905, a merger with Mills Institute, a boys’ school, was discussed; the Hawaiian Board of Foreign Missions purchased the Kidwell estate, about 35-acres of land in Mānoa valley.
By 1908, the first building was completed, and the school was officially operated as Mid-Pacific Institute, consisting of Kawaiahaʻo School for Girls and Damon School for Boys.
Finally, in the fall of 1922, a new coeducational plan went into effect – likewise, ‘Mills’ and ‘Kawaiahaʻo’ were dropped and by June 1923, Mid-Pacific became the common, shared name.