Ruth Ke'elikolani Abbott was a prominent Hawaiian figure who made significant contributions to her community and the Hawaiian Kingdom during a time of great change and upheaval. Born on February 9, 1829, in Hilo, Hawaii, she was a member of the royal family and lived through a period of rapid transformation as Hawaii transitioned from a traditional Hawaiian society to a Western-style monarchy.
Despite the challenges she faced as a woman and a member of the Hawaiian royal family during this time, Ke'elikolani Abbott became a respected leader and advocate for her people. Her achievements and legacy continue to be celebrated today as an example of the resilience and strength of Hawaiian women.
Ke'elikolani Abbott's early life was shaped by her position as a member of the royal family. She was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and the granddaughter of Kamehameha I's niece and successor, Kamehameha II. She was also related to the last two kings of Hawaii, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V.
As a member of the royal family, Ke'elikolani Abbott received a Western-style education and was exposed to European culture and ideas. However, she remained deeply connected to her Hawaiian heritage and was committed to preserving and promoting Hawaiian language, culture, and traditions. She spoke fluent Hawaiian and was an accomplished musician and dancer.
Ke'elikolani Abbott's leadership and advocacy for her people began to emerge in the 1860s, when she inherited a large estate and became one of the wealthiest landowners in Hawaii. She used her wealth and influence to support a wide range of Hawaiian causes, including the preservation of Hawaiian language and culture, the protection of Hawaiian land rights, and the promotion of Hawaiian self-determination.
One of Ke'elikolani Abbott's most significant contributions was her role in the formation of the Kamehameha Schools, a private school system for Hawaiian children founded in 1887. She donated much of her estate to the schools and served as a trustee, helping to ensure that they remained true to their mission of educating and empowering Hawaiian youth.
Ke'elikolani Abbott's advocacy for Hawaiian language and culture was also a major focus of her work. She was a patron of Hawaiian music and dance, and she composed numerous songs and chants that are still performed today. She also supported the publication of Hawaiian-language newspapers and helped to establish a Hawaiian-language church.
Despite her wealth and position of privilege, Ke'elikolani Abbott faced significant challenges and opposition during her life. She was a woman in a society that was deeply patriarchal and a member of a royal family that was losing power and influence as Hawaii became increasingly Westernized.
In addition, Ke'elikolani Abbott's advocacy for Hawaiian language and culture put her at odds with many of the Western missionaries and businessmen who were exerting increasing influence in Hawaii. These forces were pushing for the assimilation of Native Hawaiians into American culture and the suppression of Hawaiian language and traditions.
Despite these challenges, Ke'elikolani Abbott remained committed to her values and continued to fight for the rights and well-being of her people. She was a strong and independent leader who used her wealth and influence to make a positive difference in the lives of countless Hawaiians.
Ke'elikolani Abbott's legacy continues to be celebrated today as an example of the resilience and strength of Hawaiian women. Her advocacy for Hawaiian language and culture helped to preserve important aspects of Hawaiian heritage, and her support for the Kamehameha Schools helped to ensure that future generations of Hawaiians would have access to education and opportunities.