Recently I traveled to Hawaii with my sister. The highlight was sailing joyfully on a catamaran in the Pacific on my birthday and hunting for First Women. My favorite was Queen Lili’uokalani but she deserves a blog of her own. While I’m writing that, here are a few others we can admire:
In 1915 Alice Ball, an African-African woman from Seattle, Washington, was the First Woman to graduate with a Masters of Science in chemistry from the University of Hawaii. After graduating she became the First Woman to teach chemistry at the University. She researched the effect of chaulmoogra oil on Hansen disease (also called leprosy). For some reason Hawaiians were especially susceptible to the disease and Alice devoted herself to its improvement and cure.
Rosalie Keli’inoi was the First Woman elected to the Territorial Legislature in Hawaii, in 1924—just four years after women were given the right to vote in the nineteenth amendment. She sponsored legislation granting property rights for women and several of her bills passed. She assured that a woman could sell her own property without her husband’s approval.
Two firsts for women arose unhappily from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Anna Leah Fox was head nurse at Hickam Field. When the Japanese bombed the planes sitting on the ground at the airfield, Anna was wounded. She was awarded a Purple Heart, the first ever awarded to a woman. After witnessing smoke rising over Pearl Harbor, Cornelia Fort was the second woman to volunteer for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. In 1943 she was killed when another plane hit her. She was the First Woman U.S. military pilot to die in the line of duty.
In 1971 Patsy Takemoto Mink was the First Asian-American Woman to serve in Congress. She represented her Hawaiian districts in Congress for 12 terms and also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Patsy was a co-author of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which demanded equality for women in all educational and activity programs that received Federal aid. It represented a sea-change in women’s athletics.
Mazie Herono holds many firsts:
–First Woman Senator from Hawaii (elected in 2013)
–First Asian-American Woman elected to the U.S. Senate
–First U.S. Senator born in Japan
–First Buddhist to serve as Senator
The state motto of Hawaii, which appears on its state seal, is “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina I ka Pono.” This roughly translates as “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” We know that is due in part to some of the righteous women who made and are still making strides forward for themselves and all the women they represent.