Light in the Queen’s Garden: Ida May Pope, Pioneer for Hawai‘i’s Daughters, 1862–1914

Hardback: $36.00
ISBN-13: 9780824866440
Published: October 2017

Additional Information

336 pages | 75 b&w illustrations


  • Winner of the Ka Palapala Po‘okela Awards (various categories), 2019
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  • About the Book
  • At the end of the 1800s, when Oberlin graduate Ida May Pope accepted a teaching job at Kawaiaha‘o Seminary, a boarding school for girls, she couldn’t have imagined it would become a lifelong career of service to Hawaiian women, or that she would become closely involved in the political turmoil soon to sweep over the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. Light in the Queens Garden offers for the first time a day-by-day accounting of the events surrounding the coup d’état as seen through the eyes of Pope’s young students. Author Sandra Bonura uses recently discovered primary sources to help enliven the historical account of the 1893 Hawaiian Revolution that happened literally outside the school’s windows. Queen Lili‘uokalani’s adopted daughter’s long-lost oral history recording; many of Pope’s teaching contemporaries’ unpublished diaries, letters, and scrapbooks; and rare photographs tell a story that has never been told before.

    Towering royal personages in Hawai‘i’s history—King Kalākaua, Queen Lili‘uokalani, and Princess Ka‘iulani—appear in the book, as Ida Pope sheltered Hawai‘i’s daughters through the frightening and turbulent end of their sovereign nation. Pope was present during the life celebrations of the king, and then his sad death rituals. She traveled with Lili‘uokalani on her controversial trip to Kalaupapa to visit Mother Marianne Cope and afflicted pupils. In 1894, with the endorsement of Lili‘uokalani and Charles Bishop, Pope helped to establish the Kamehameha School for Girls, funded by the estate of Princess Pauahi Bishop, and became its first principal. Inspired by John Dewey and others, she shaped and reshaped Kamehameha’s curriculum through a process of conflict and compromise. Fired up by the era’s doctrine of social and vocational relevance, she adapted the curriculum to prepare her students for entry into meaningful careers. Lili‘uokalani’s daughter, Lydia Aholo, was placed in the school and Pope played a significant role in mothering and shaping her future, especially during the years the queen was fighting to restore her kingdom.

    As Hawai‘i moved into the twentieth century under a new flag, Pope tenaciously confronted the effects of industrialization and the growing concentration of outside economic power, working tirelessly to attain social reforms to give Hawaiian women their rightful place in society.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Sandra E. Bonura, Author

      Sandra E. Bonura lives in Southern California and teaches in higher education. Her two previously published works emanating from primary sources were An American Girl in the Hawaiian Islands: The Letters of Carrie Prudence Winter (1890–1893) (2012) and “Lydia K. Aholo—Her Story, Recovering the Lost Voice,” from volume 47 of The Hawaiian Journal of History (2013).
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Light in the Queen’s Garden is a beautiful and sensitive biography of Ida May Pope, an educator who lived through a pivotal period in Hawaiian history. Bonura has brought Ida Pope back to life through deep research and graceful writing. This is the definitive work on a teacher and social reformer who transformed the lives of many Hawaiian women.
      —Julia Flynn Siler, author of Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure
    • Sandee Bonura’s biography of Ida May Pope, founding principal of the Kamehameha School for Girls and—more importantly—an intimate of Queen Lili‘uokalani and an observer and participant in a crucial period of Hawai‘i, is the best kind of history: a new subject, literately and approachably presented, and not just revelatory but a delight to read.
      —James L. Haley, author of Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii
    • Light in the Queen’s Garden is an absorbing, well written, meticulously researched portrait of a pivotal yet neglected figure in Hawaiian history. Ida May Pope, founding principal and guiding spirit of the Kamehameha School for Girls, emerges as an intelligent, compassionate, determined woman who opened up new worlds of education and an old world of ancestral culture to generations of Native Hawaiian women. Her story is both important and inspiring.
      —Alan Brennert, author of Moloka‘i and Honolulu
    • Light in the Queen's Garden is more than a biography of a dedicated educator and social reformer who guided the youth of Kawaiaha‘o Seminary and helped to establish the Kamehameha School for Girls. It is a new window into a turbulent time in Hawai‘i's history, from the death of King Kalākaua, through the overthrow and annexation of Hawai‘i, and on into a new century. . . . The author's heavy use of valuable primary resources runs seamlessly into her intimate narrative of Pope's life, creating a vivid picture of Hawai‘i at the end of the 19th century. Absorbing, well-written and backed by extensive research, this book is a welcome contribution to any bookshelf.
      —Judges' comments, 2019 Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards
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