Pauahi was born on December 19, 1831, the daughter of Abner Kaʻehu Paki and Kanaholo Konia; she is great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha.
She was born in the house known as ʻAikupika (Egypt,) a native-style house, not large, with a grass-roof. (It was situated just mauka of what is now known as the corner of Bishop and King Streets in the heart of the downtown area.)
Inoa (a name) was a ritual of power. Hawaiians believed that every name had mana, a force of its own, that could influence and shape the character, personality and even destiny of the bearer. A good name could bring good fortune while a bad inoa could bring a person bad luck. (Kanahele)
Paki and Konia gave her the name Pauahi (‘the fire is out.’) It was the name of Konia’s half-sister, the child’s aunt and mother of Ruth Keʻelikolani. The original Pauahi was nearly burned to death as a child through an accidental explosion of gunpowder; to commemorate her lucky escape, she was given the name: pau or finished and ahi or fire. (Kanahele)
Pauahi was hanai (adopted) to her aunt, Kinaʻu (the eldest daughter of Kamehameha, who later served as Kuhina Nui as Kaʻahumanu II, a position similar to a Prime Minister.)
Later, on September 2, 1838, Lydia Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha was born to Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea and Analeʻa Keohokālole; Liliʻu was hānai to Pākī and Kōnia (she later became Queen Liliʻuokalani.)
In Liliʻu’s own words, “…their only daughter, Bernice Pauahi … was therefore my foster-sister. … I knew no other father or mother than my foster-parents, no other sister than Bernice.”
“She was one of the most beautiful girls I ever saw; the vision of her loveliness at that time can never be effaced from remembrance; like a striking picture once seen, it is stamped upon memory’s page forever.” (Liliʻuokalani)
Pauahi lived with Kīnaʻu for nearly eight years, then Kinaʻu died suddenly of mumps (April 4, 1839.) It was shortly after this Pauahi entered the Chief’s Childrens’ School (Royal School – created by King Kamehameha III to groom the next generation of the highest ranking chief’s children of the realm and secure their positions for Hawaii’s Kingdom.)
Seven families were eligible under succession laws stated in the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i; Kamehameha III called on seven boys and seven girls of his family to attend the school. On the morning of June 13, 1839, Pauahi began her first day at school.
“It was a boarding-school, the pupils being allowed to return to their homes during vacation time, as well as for an occasional Sunday during the term.” (Liliʻuokalani) Pauahi was a student there for about 10-years; this is where she and Liliʻu directly interacted – they were not raised in the same household.
“(B)y the time she left the school, Pauahi had largely formed her Christian commitment. She was deeply spiritual, but not fanatical; a believer in the wisdom of the church, but not a doctrinaire fundamentalist; a woman of faith, but not of blind, unquestioning, and unreasoning conformity.” (Kanahele)
“Amongst the young men who began to visit the school was Mr. Charles R Bishop. He came of good New England stock, inheriting from his ancestry the intelligence, industry and perseverance”. (Memoirs of Bernice Pauahi Bishop)
Pauahi “married in her eighteenth year (May 4, 1850 – in the parlor of the Royal School,) She was betrothed to Prince Lot, a grandchild of Kamehameha the Great; but when Mr Charles R Bishop pressed his suit, my sister smiled on him, and they were married. It was a happy marriage. … Mr. Bishop was a popular and hospitable man, and his wife was as good as she was beautiful.” (Liliʻuokalani)
Immediately after their marriage, the Bishops spent several weeks on Kauai, then returned to Honolulu and lived for some months with the family of Judge Andrews in Nuʻuanu Valley. They later moved into a home built by her father Pākī. (This new home replaced Pākī’s thatched-roof home.)
The name Paki gave his new home has been translated by some as ‘House of the Sun’ or Haleakala, but he probably meant it to be Haleʻakala or the ‘Pink House,’ after the color of the stone used in its construction. (Kanahele)
It immediately became the center of all that was best, most cultivated, and refined in Hawaiian social life, has been graphically described by a cousin of Mr Bishop (Mrs. Allen) as “the most beautiful in Honolulu, the house large and pleasant, the grounds full of beautiful trees, shrubs, and vines and so well cared-for.” (Memoirs of Bernice Pauahi Bishop)
Liliʻuokalani and John Dominis were married at Haleʻākala; much later (August 24, 1890,) Duke Kahanamoku was born at Haleʻakala. (On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, US Sailors and Marines established ‘Camp Boston’ in the home (then known as the Arlington Hotel,) at the time of the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaiian monarchy, January 17, 1893.)
Daughter of Pauahi’s namesake, Princess Ruth Keʻelikolani, inherited all of the substantial landholdings of the Kamehameha dynasty from her brother, Lot Kapuāiwa; she became the largest landowner in the islands.
At her death (May 24, 1883,) Keʻelikolani’s will stated that she “give and bequeath forever to my beloved younger sister (cousin), Bernice Pauahi Bishop, all of my property, the real property and personal property from Hawaiʻi to Kauai, all of said property to be hers.” (about 353,000 acres)
Shortly thereafter, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, in the last days of her battle with breast cancer, wrote the final codicils (amendments) of her will at Helumoa in Waikīkī (former home of her great-grandfather and others in the Kamehameha line.) She died at Keōua Hale, former home of Ruth Keʻelikōlani on October 16, 1884.
Pauahi’s will formed and funded the Kamehameha Schools; “I give, devise and bequeath all of the rest, residue and remainder of my estate real and personal … to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools, each for boarding and day scholars, one for boys and one for girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools.” (KSBE)
Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s will (Clause 13) states her desire that her trustees “provide first and chiefly a good education in the common English branches, and also instruction in morals and in such useful knowledge as may tend to make good and industrious men and women”.
Because Pauahi’s estate was basically land rich and cash poor, Charles Reed Bishop contributed his own funds for the construction of several of the schools’ initial buildings on the original Kalihi campus: the Preparatory Department facilities (1888,) Bishop Hall (1891) and Bernice Pauahi Bishop Memorial Chapel (1897.)
On November 4, 1887, three years after her death, the Kamehameha School for Boys, originally established as an all-boys school on the grounds of the present Bishop Museum, opened with 37-students and four teachers. A year later, the Preparatory Department, for boys 6 to 12 years of age, opened in adjacent facilities. In 1894 the Kamehameha School for Girls opened on its own campus nearby.
Next to her royal lineage, no other aspect of Pauahi’s life was as important to her fulfillment as a woman – and as the founder of the Kamehameha Schools – as her marriage to Charles Reed Bishop. He brought her the love and esteem she needed as a woman and the organizational and financial acumen she needed to ensure the successful founding of her estate. (Kanahele) (Lots of information here is from KSBE, Kanahele and Memoirs of Bernice Pauahi Bishop.)
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Peter H. Radl says
What an interesting piece, Peter. Was it common for Hawaiians … perhaps high born Hawaiians … to use non-Hawaiian given names, e.g., Abner, Ruth, Bernice, Lydia? Fascinating reading. Bernice Pauahi was a beautiful woman. She died much too young. Your photographs really add power and meaning to your writing. I am enjoying your contributions to the History of the World in general, and to the History of Hawaii in particular. Thank you very much.