Bernice Pauahi Bishop

December 19 2022 – Haylin Chock

Bernice Pauahi Bishop
Bernice Pauahi Bishop

“Times will come when you will feel you are being pushed into the background. Never allow this to happen-stand always on your own foundation. But you will have to make that foundation. There will come a time when to make this stand will be difficult, especially to you of Hawaiian Birth, but conquer you can-if you will”

 Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Today, on December 19, the beneficiaries of Princess Pauahi's legacy gather to celebrate her life. For those fortunate to directly benefit from Kamehameha Schools or the Pauahi foundation, it is a time for us to reflect and pay respects to the Princess, often with lei, mele, oli, and roses, as they were her favorite flowers. 

Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop was born in Honolulu on December 19, 1831. Her parents named her Pauahi after an aunt, her mother's sister. When her Aunt Pauahi was just a baby, she was rescued from a fire. Because of that incident, she was given the name Pauahi. In Hawaiian, pau means "finished," and ahi means "fire," Pauahi means "destroyed by fire, burned; to put out a fire." Her father was High Chief Abner Pākī. He was born on Molokaʻi and was a descendant of the Kamehameha and Kiwalaʻō of Maui and Hawaiʻi. The mother of the Princess was High Chiefess Laura Konia. Her parents were Luahine and Kaʻōleiokū, the first son of Kamehameha I. Her mother, Chiefess Konia, was Kamehameha's granddaughter. Pauahi was his great-granddaughter. Konia was known for her kindness and hospitality. When Kamehameha III formed his first council of high chiefs, he selected Konia as one of his advisors. She served as a member of the legislature from 1840 to 1847. Although the Princess was their first child. It was custom to let a relative hānai, or adopt, your child to another family member. Konia had promised Pauahi to her Aunt Kīnaʻu. Kīnaʻu was the eldest daughter of Kamehameha. She was one of the highest-ranking chiefesses of that time. When Kaʻahumanu died in 1832, Kīnaʻu succeeded her as the kuhina Nui, or co-ruler, with Kamehameha III.

At this time, the king and chiefs hired Amos Starr Cooke and his wife, Juliette Montague Cooke, to set up a school and teach their royal children English and foreign affairs to prepare them for roles of leadership in government. While the new school was being built, the children went to a day school in a temporary classroom. There were six students: Pauahi, Moses, Lot, Alexander, Lunalilo, and Kaliokalani, an older brother of Liliʻuokalani. The school was completed in May 1840, Chiefs' Children's School" but In 1846, its name was changed to the "Royal School." over time, a total of Sixteen young aliʻi were taught at the Royal School. Eight were chiefs, and eight were chiefesses. Four of the boys grew up to become kings. They were Alexander Liholiho (Kamehameha IV), Lot Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V), William Lunalilo, and David Kalākaua. Two of the girls became queens: Emma, as the wife of Kamehameha IV, and Liliʻu, who reigned as Liliʻuokalani.

Pauahi Spent most of her young life at this school as it was a boarding school. She was admired for having a thirst for knowledge and a talent for writing, horseback, and music. She was also known for mentoring the younger girls, often teaching them how to play piano and other instruments. 

In 1847 a young man visited the Royal School. He was an American businessman from Glens Falls, New York. His name was Charles Reed Bishop. He met the young Princess Pauahi when she was about 16 years old. Her foster sister Liliʻu, later to become the last queen of Hawaiʻi, described Pauahi as 


" of the most beautiful girls I ever saw; the vision of her loveliness can never be effaced from remembrance; like a striking picture once seen, it is stamped upon memory's page forever." 


It wasn't long before young Charles called upon the Princess every evening. At this time, the two fell deeply in love. The Princess and Mr. Bishop were married on the evening of June 4, 1850, in the parlor of the Royal School. Pauahi was now eighteen years old, and Charles was twenty-eight. The Princess was said to have worn a gown of white muslin and a lei of pīkake, or jasmine. For those who have read our recent blog celebrating the birthday of King Lot Kapuāiwa, you would know that Pauahi and Lot were originally betrothed. But after discussing her feelings with Lot, He relieved her of her obligation to marry him because he understood that she would be truly happy with Mr. Bishop. After a short, intimate wedding, the newlyweds spent their honeymoon in Kōloa on the island of Kauaʻi.

 On June 13, 1855, Her father, Abner Pākī, died, and just two years later, her mother, Konia, died. They left Pauahi all of their lands—which amounted to over 10,000 acres. These lands were located in Kona on the island of Hawaiʻi, on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi, and 6,000 acres of land on Oʻahu. 

 Mr. and Mrs. Bishop became the social and cultural leaders of Honolulu. People gathered in their homes for conversation, meetings, music recitals, readings, and receptions. Children came for piano lessons with Pauahi. Pauahi and Charles enjoyed reading, and their home was filled with books.

Princess Pauahi was generous with not only her philanthropy but also with her skills. She gave sewing lessons to the women and taught them to save every bit of basting thread so it could be used repeatedly. Even with her royalty status, she continued to sew some clothes.

     The grounds of Haleakalā, Her home, and Her father's former property in Honolulu were full of beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees. Pauahi loved flowers. She was often found working herself among the plants. She enjoyed sending gifts of plants and flowers that she had raised to her friends and neighbors. Very often, she would gather flowers to take to people who were sick. In many ways, Pauahi shared common interests with women of her community both then and now. 

The Princess brought together the two cultures she was raised in: the western Christian way and that of a Hawaiian aliʻi. She was a devout, or deeply religious, Christian. She taught a Sunday School class at Kawaiahaʻo Church and was a faithful teacher of children for many years. A memorial tablet has been placed on the wall above the pew where Pauahi and her parents once sat. Like any true Hawaiian aliʻi, Pauahi served her people well and is often referred to as a servant leader. She counseled them, often sent gifts, or went to the homes of people in need.

 Kamehameha V, Lot Kapuāiwa, ruled from 1863 to 1872. Just before he died, he sent for Pauahi. He requested Pauahi to succeed him after he passed. Although Lot insisted she would be the best choice for the people, she declined the position and died without naming a successor.

Later in life after the passing of her hānai sister, Princess Ruth Keʻelikolani, Pauahi fell ill with cancer for several months. In April 1884, heeding her doctor's advice, she sailed to San Francisco, where she underwent an operation. She returned to Honolulu in June of that year and spent some time at her summer home in Waikīkī near the present site of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Despite her efforts to recover, her condition did not improve. On October 9, she was taken to Keōua Hale, the former home of Princess Ruth. On October 16, 1884, she passed with Charles, her husband of over thirty-four years, at her bedside. She was fifty-two years of age. Her body was laid to its final resistance place at Mauna ʻAla, the site of the Royal Mausoleum. There Pauahi was laid to rest in the Kamehameha crypt. Charles later joined her, and you can visit them at Mauaʻala. 

 As the last direct royal descendant of Kamehameha I, Pauahi inherited many acres of land from her cousin Ruth. Her parents and her aunt ʻAkahi, who died in 1877, also left her their lands. Altogether, she had about 375,500 acres. What was to become of Pauahi's large estate? The Bishops loved children, yet they had none of their own. Pauahi had no children to inherit her lands. A year before she died Pauahi wrote Article Thirteen of her will. She directed the trustees of her estate.

 " 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."

Pauahi also stated,

 "I desire my Trustees to provide first and chiefly a good education in the common English branches and instruction in morals and in such knowledge as may tend to make good and industrious men and women."

Pauahi inherited from the land; some land was given away, condemned, or sold. About 366,000 acres remain. These form the corpus, or core asset, of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate. Income, or money earned, comes from charging rent to those who use the land. Revenue has also come from selling land and investing some of the money. Bishop Estate pays for most of the costs of educating Hawaiian boys and girls enrolled in Kamehameha Schools Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate's educational programs. These students enjoy the advantages provided by Pauahi's estate. Kamehameha Schools began its education of Hawaiian boys and girls in 1887 and is intended to continue "in perpetuity," Thus there will be no end to the number of children called "the hānai sons and daughters" of Bernice Pauahi and Charles Reed Bishop.

Since the formation of Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation, Countless Native Hawaiian children have benefitted from attending campus, Summer enrichment programs, and scholarships. Even if not all of us were alums of Kamehameha schools, The support they have offered children through various programs continues to foster the growth and education of the Hawaiian people. Mahalo Ke aliʻi Pauahi, we are forever indebted. 

E ao ka pō i nei kukui a Pauahi

E kaʻi ikaika aku nō i ke ala pono,

I pono ka ʻōlelo a nei waha

I pono ka hana a nei lima

I pono ʻo loko o nei naʻau,

He naʻau mahalo i ke kuleana

Ke kuleana kaikuaʻana a me ke kaikaina;

E ao ka pō i nei kukui a Pauahi, ʻo ia.

Let the darkness become lit by this light of Pauahi

Travel confidently and securely on the path of righteousness,

So that the words of this mouth are appropriate

So that the works of these hands are virtuous

So that the core of these feelings and emotions is just,

They are feelings which acknowledge and accept an inherited responsibility

The inherited responsibilities of the older sibling and the younger sibling;

Let the darkness become lit by this light of Pauahi, that’s it.

* Written by Malia Morales


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