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Queen Ka`ahumanu Fulfilled The Destiny For Change In Hawaii

1216 words - 5 pages

Hawai`i was changed forever after Queen Ka`ahumanu lived from 1768-1832. As a woman in a place where gentlemen took precedence, Ka`ahumanu strived for justice all her life. Her indignant beliefs of the Hawaiian religion that limited her gave her fuel to make change. Jane Silverman, a present-day historian, noted, "There was a hunger in her much deeper; the hunger to control." When she saw the opportunity to be at the top of the kingdom, she seized it without delay. She used her power to influence the Hawaiian people into believing her judgments of the Hawaiian religion. Her first move was to break the system that placed those limits on her. When people from the outside world arrived, she sought their faith to replace those ancient rules. Toward the end of her life, she established formal laws to engrave her ideas into the Hawaiian people and prevent them from reverting back to the Hawaiian ways. Queen Ka`ahumanu contributed to the downfall of Hawaiian society because she dismantled the kapu system, supported the American Christian missionaries, and made a new set of laws that banned many Hawaiian customs.
Throughout her life, Ka`ahumanu was always around power. She was born in 1768 in Hana, Maui to Ke`eaumoku, who was a chief of Kona, and Namahana, whose family reigned on Maui. Her father was a close supporter of King Kamehameha, and gave his daughter to him for marriage at the age of 13. As his favorite wife, Ka`ahumanu helped Kamehameha conquer and govern the islands. Kamehameha described her by saying, "Strong in times of crisis, she can also ride the waves like a bird." When he died in 1819, she was designated kahina nui and given the same authority as the new king, Liholiho. Using her newly assumed power, she advocated for women's rights and the abolishment of the kapu system. In 1821, she remarried Kaumuali`i, the king of Kaua`i. After the missionaries arrived, she learned to read and write, and she later embraced the Christian religion. In 1825, she made a new set of laws. As her life was coming to an end, she made last efforts to promote the work of missionaries because she believed the Hawaiians needed their teachings to carry on.
Ka`ahumanu intentionally dismantled the kapu system through several bold, planned actions. Immediately after King Kamehameha's burial, she appealed for the kapu system to be abandoned. When young King Liholiho refused to abide, she released the kapu on separate eating between genders in the capital herself. Her next moves were carefully strategized to break Liholiho's iron grip on the system. She ate a banana, which was kapu to women, in Liholiho's presence, and convinced Keopuolani to eat with her in his younger brother's presence. Finally, she invited Liholiho to a feast of free-eating in Kailua. At the feast, the king relented and ate in front of Ka`ahumanu. Many people witnessed the breakage of the kapu system and the once feared gods' failure of punishing the king. The women squealed, "Ai noa!" or "The...

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