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Bernice Pauahi Bishop

Bernice Pauahi Bishop (December 19, 1831–October 16, 1884), born Bernice Pauahi Pākī, was a philanthropist and aliʻi. At her death, her estate was the largest private landownership in the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands, comprising approximately 9% of Hawaii's total area. The revenues from these lands are used to operate the Kamehameha Schools, which were established in 1887 according to Pauahi's will. Pauahi was married to businessman and philanthropist Charles Reed Bishop.


  • Life 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Will controversies 3
  • Honours 4
  • Ancestry 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Pauahi was born in Honolulu on December 19, 1831 in ʻAikupika, the grass hut compound of her father.[1] Her father, High Chief Abner Kuhoʻoheiheipahu Pākī (c. 1808-1855), was a noble from the island of Molokaʻi, and son of Aliʻi Kalani-hele-maiiluna, who descended from the Aliʻi Aimoku of the island of Maui. Her mother was Laura Kōnia (c 1808-1857). She was the younger daughter of Aliʻi Pauli Kaʻōleiokū (1767–1818), by his second wife, Aliʻi Kahailiopua Luahine. She was named for her aunt Queen Pauahi (c. 1804–1826), one of the widows of King Kamehameha II, and given the Christian name of Bernice. Pauahi was adopted at birth by Princess Kīnaʻu (who took office as Kuhina-Nui Kaʻahumanu II). She was sent back home when Kīnaʻu died of the mumps in 1839.

Beginning at age eight, Pauahi went to the Chiefs' Children's School (later called the Royal School) until about 1846. Her teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Cooke. Pauahi greatly enjoyed horseback riding and swimming, and she also liked music, flowers, and the outdoors. She dressed like any fashionable New York or London woman and wore the trappings of the Victorian Era.

It had been planned from childhood that Pauahi, born into Hawaiian royalty, would marry her hānai (adopted) brother Prince Lot Kapuāiwa. Pauahi married businessman Charles Reed Bishop May 4, 1850 despite the objections of her parents.[2] Per her request, very few people attended her wedding. One of the few witnesses was Princess Elizabeth Kekaʻaniau, her cousin. The couple had no children of their own. They adopted a son named Keolaokalani Davis from Pauahi's cousin Ruth Keʻelikōlani in 1862, against the wish of Ruth's husband, but the infant died at the age of six months. In 1883, they offered to adopt William Kaiheekai Taylor (1882-1956), the infant son of Pauahi's distant cousin Lydia Keōmailani Crowningburg and Wray Taylor; they had been the boy's godparents during his christening at St. Andrews. The Taylors refused to give up their first-born son but instead offered to give one of their twin daughters to the Bishops, but they decided not to accept the second offer.[3]:105, 168 William Edward Bishop Kaiheekai Taylor, as the boy would one day be named, was one of the first students at the Kamehameha's Preparatory Department and would later serve as the kahu (caretaker) of the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii at ʻMauna Ala from 1947 until his death in 1956.[4]

Prince Lot Kapuāiwa became King Kamehameha V in 1863, and offered Pauahi the throne on his deathbed in 1872. But, taken aback, she replied, "No, no, not me; don't think of me. I don't need it." The king pressed on. But she again spurned the throne: "Oh, no, do not think of me. There are others." After considering the alternatives, all of whom were rejected, the king said no more. The king died an hour later. Pauahi's refusal to accept the crown allowed the House of Kalākaua to come to power. No one knows why Pauahi refused the throne. The answer may have been in her letters left in the care of her husband. Unfortunately, they were destroyed during the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

On October 16, 1884, at the age of 52, Pauahi died of breast cancer at Keōua Hale, Honolulu. She is interred in the Kamehameha Crypt at Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii at Mauna ʻAla on Oʻahu.


Bishop wished that a portion of her estate be used "to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two for boys and one girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools."[5][6] She directed her five trustees to invest her estate at their discretion and use the annual income to operate the schools. When she wrote her will, only 44,000 Hawaiians were alive. After Bishop's death in 1884, her husband Charles Reed Bishop started work in carrying out her will.

The original Kamehameha School for Boys was established in 1887. The girls' school was established in 1894 on a nearby campus. By 1955, the schools moved to a 600-acre (2.4 km²) location in the heights above Kapālama. Some time later, Kamehameha Schools established two more campuses on outer-islands: Pukalani, Maui and the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus in Keaʻau on the island of Hawaii.

Charles Reed Bishop founded the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in 1889 as another memorial to Pauahi, using the building that was the original school.

Will controversies

Her will caused three major controversies. In 1992, a clause that all Kamehameha Schools teachers must be Protestant was challenged as illegal religious discrimination in employment by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a decision of the district court, and found that the school had not proved that it was "primarily religious", and thus this clause violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[7]

In 1997, several conflicts of interest were charged. Trustees received up to $900,000 per year and put their own money into the investments of the estate. The

External links

Further reading

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Trustees were instructed "to devote a portion of each year's income to the support and education of orphans, and others in indigent circumstances, giving the preference to Hawaiians of pure or part aboriginal blood."[6] Traditionally, this was interpreted to admit almost no students that could not prove native Hawaiian ancestry. A number of lawsuits challenged this policy. One included a settlement reported to be $7 million.[10]


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