Kaʻahumanu (March 17, 1768 – June 5, 1832) ("the feathered mantle") was queen consort and acted as regent of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi as Kuhina Nui. She was the favorite wife of King Kamehameha I and also the most politically powerful, and continued to wield considerable power as co-ruler in the kingdom during reigns of his first two successors.

Queen Kaahumanu.jpg
Queen Ka'ahumanu of Hawaii
Queen consort of Hawaii
Kuhina Nui of the Hawaiian Islands
TenureMay 20, 1819 – June 5, 1832
PredecessorNew Creation
SuccessorKaʻahumanu II
BornMarch 17, 1768
Puu Kauiki, Hāna, Maui
Died(1832-06-05)June 5, 1832 (aged 65)
Mānoa Valley, near Honolulu, Oahu
SpouseKamehameha I
IssueKamehameha II (hānai)
David Kamehameha (hānai)
Keʻelikōlani (hānai)
Theresa Owana Kaheiheimālie Rives (hānai)
Virginia Kahoa Kaʻahumanu Rives (hānai)
Elizabeth Kaʻahumanu
FatherKeʻeaumoku II Pāpaʻiahiahi

Early lifeEdit

Kaʻahumanu was born in a cave called Puu Kauiki in Hāna on the Hawaiian island of Maui. She was born on 17 March 1768. The present Kaahumanu Society celebrates the birthday of its namesake on March 17.[1]:174 Her father was Keʻeaumoku Papaʻiahiahi, a fugitive aliʻi (noble) from the island of Hawaiʻi, and her mother was Nāmāhānaikaleleokalani, the wife of her half-brother the late king of Maui, Kamehameha Nui. Through her mother she was related to many kings of Maui. Through her father, she was the third cousin of Kamehameha I, both sharing the common ancestor, Princess Kalanikauleleiaiwi of the island of Hawaiʻi. She was named after her father’s rival, Kahekilinuiʻahumanu because it was from him that her father was fleeing at the time.

Her siblings include Governor John Adams Kuakini of Hawaii island, Queen Kalākua Kaheiheimālie, and Governor George Keʻeaumoku II of Maui.[citation needed] Her father became an advisor and friend to Kamehameha I, eventually becoming royal governor of Maui. He arranged for Kaʻahumanu to marry him when she was thirteen. Kamehameha had numerous wives but Kaʻahumanu would become a favorite and encouraged his war to unify the islands.

Queen RegentEdit

Kaʻahumanu was one of Kamehameha I's favorite wives and his most powerful. Upon Kamehameha's death on May 8, 1819, Kaʻahumanu announced that late king had wished that she share governance over the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi with his 22-year-old son Liholiho, who took the name of Kamehameha II. The council of advisors agreed and created the post of kuhina nui for her, with a similar to co-regent or modern-day prime minister. Her power base grew and she ruled as Queen Regent during the reigns of both Kamehameha II and Kauikeaouli, who assumed the throne as Kamehameha III.

In some ways Kaʻahumanu was ahead of her time and championed the rights of native Hawaiian women, although this was to her own advantage. In what became known as the 'Ai Noa (free eating), Kaʻahumanu conspired with Keōpūolani, another of her late husband's wives who was also a Queen Regent during the reign of Kamehameha II, to eat at the same table with the young king. Notably, she also convinced the Kahuna-nui (translatable to High Priest) of the kingdom, Hewahewa, to support her efforts to abolish the kapu. Breaking a major kapu which should have resulted in her death, but her son refused to kill her; this event effectively broke the monarchy's support of the kapu, and resulted in the system being outlawed.

Kaumualiʻi of KauaʻiEdit

The island of Kauaʻi and its subject island Niʻihau had never been forcibly conquered by Kamehameha. After years of resistance they negotiated a bloodless surrender in the face of Kamehameha's armada. In 1810 the island's King, Kaumualiʻi, became a vassal to Kamehameha. When Kamehameha I died, Kamehameha II and Kaʻahumanu feared Kauaʻi would break away from the kingdom. To preserve the union they kidnapped Kaumualiʻi on October 9, 1821 and Kaʻahumanu married him by force. After Kaumualiʻi died in 1824, and a rebellion by Kaumualiʻi's son Humehume was put down, she married his other son Kealiʻiahonui.

Embracing ChristianityEdit

In April 1824, Kaʻahumanu publicly acknowledged her embrace of Protestant Christianity and encouraged her subjects to be baptized into the faith.[2] That same year, she presented Hawaiʻi with its first codified body of laws modeled after Christian ethics and values and the Ten Commandments. Kaʻahumanu was baptized on December 5, 1825 at the site where Kawaiahaʻo Church stands today. She took the name "Elizabeth".[3]:278

Missionaries persuaded Kaʻahumanu that the Roman Catholic Church, which had established the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, should be removed from the island nation. On July 7, 1827, she ordered the first Catholic missionaries to leave. In 1830, Kaʻahumanu signed legislation that forbade Catholic teachings and threatened to deport whoever broke the law.

In 1832, Kaʻahumanu visited Maui, and came to the site of what is now Kaʻahumanu Church, witnessing services being presided by Jonathan Smith Green. Upon seeing this, Queen Ka'ahumanu asked the Congregationalist mission to name the permanent church structure after her.[4] However, this request was not honored until 1876 when Edward Bailey constructed the fourth and current structure on the site, naming it after the Queen.[4]

Establishing American relationsEdit

Kaʻahumanu and King Kamehameha III negotiated the first treaty between the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the United States in 1826, under the administration of President John Quincy Adams. The treaty assumed responsibility on behalf of native Hawaiians with debts to American traders and paid the bill with $150,000 worth of sandalwood; this won her the support of chiefs who owed money to the traders. The same document was also a free trade treaty, ensuring Americans had the right to enter all ports of Hawaiʻi to do business. Americans were also afforded the right to sue in Hawaiian courts and be protected by Hawaiian laws.

In 1827, after Kaʻahumanu returned from a tour of the windward islands, her health steadily declined. During her illness missionaries printed the first copy, bound in red leather with her name engraved in gold letters, of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language.[5] She kept it with her until her death of intestinal illness, June 5, 1832 in the Mānoa Valley near Honolulu.[6] Her funeral was held at Kawaiahaʻo Church, often referred to as the Westminster Abbey of Hawaiʻi. Services were presided by Hiram Bingham. She was laid to rest on ʻIolani Palace grounds but was later moved to the Royal Mausoleum. The monument of Kaumualiʻi in Waiola Church cemetery includes the inscription, "Kaahumanu was his wife, Year 1822," leading some to mistakenly conclude that she is buried there.[7]


A portion of the Hawaii Belt Road, state highway 19, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi is named in her honor. It connects the towns of Kailua-Kona and Kawaihae. Often referred to by locals as "the Queen K," it is used for the bicycle and running portions of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.[8] It also provides access to the Kona International Airport.

Queen Kaʻahumanu Center shopping mall is located at 275 West Kaʻahumanu Avenue (Hawai state route 32) in Kahului, Maui, 20°53′12″N 156°28′30″W / 20.88667°N 156.47500°W / 20.88667; -156.47500 (Queen Kaʻahumanu Center).[9]

Kaʻahumanu Society, a Hawaiian civics club, was founded and named in her honor in 1864 to celebrate her legacy, serve the poor and sick and promote the importance of Hawaiian female leadership.[10][11][12][13]



  1. ^ Barbara Bennett Peterson (1984). Notable Women of Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-8248-0820-7.
  2. ^ Kirk, Robert W. (2012). Paradise Past: The Transformation of the South Pacific, 1520-1920. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7864-9298-5. OCLC 817224972.
  3. ^ Hiram Bingham I (1855) [1848]. A Residence of Twenty-one Years in the Sandwich Islands (Third ed.). H.D. Goodwin.
  4. ^ a b "NPS Focus National Register – Ka'ahumanu Church". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ Laura Fish Judd (1880). Honolulu Sketches of Life, Social, Political, and Religious, in the Hawaiian Islands from 1828 to 1861. New York, A. D. F. Randolph & Co. p. 47-48.
  6. ^ Ralph Simpson Kuykendall (1965) [1938]. Hawaiian Kingdom 1778–1854, Foundation and Transformation. University of Hawaii Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-87022-431-7.
  7. ^ "Kaʻahumanu". Find a Grave. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "Course Maps: World Championship". Ironman web site. World Triathlon Corporation. Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  9. ^ "Queen Kaʻahumanu Center".
  10. ^ "History". ʻAhahui Kaʻahumanu. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  11. ^ Dawrs, Stu (April–May 2002). "Civic Pride". Hana Hou!. 5 (2). Honolulu. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  12. ^ Sajecki, Anna (November 6, 2005). "Molokaʻi Kaʻahumanu chapter is 75". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Honolulu.
  13. ^ Anwar, Yasmin (June 11, 2001). "Sisterhood keeps old traditions alive". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Honolulu.

Further readingEdit

  • Daws, A. Gavan (1970). Shoal of Time. Honolulu, Hawai'i: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824803248.
  • Mellen, Kathleen Dickinson (1952). The Magnificent Matriarch, Kaahumanu, Queen of Hawaii. New York: Hastings House. ASIN B0007DM0VM.
  • Mellen, Kathleen Dickinson (1954). Hawaiian Majesty. London: Melrose. ASIN B0000CISII.
  • Patterson, Rosemary I. (1998). Kuhina Nui: A Novel Based on the Life of Kaʻahumanu, the Queen Regent of Hawaiʻi (1819–1832). Columbus, Ohio: Pine Island Press. ISBN 1-880836-21-1.
  • Silverman, Jane L. (1995). Kaʻahumanu: Molder of Change. Friends of the Judiciary History Center of Hawaiʻi. ISBN 0-9619234-0-7.

External linksEdit

Royal titles
First Queen Consort of the Hawaiian Islands
Succeeded by
Queen Kamāmalu
Queen Dowager of the Hawaiian Islands
Succeeded by
Queen Kalama
Kuhina Nui of the Hawaiian Islands
May 20, 1819 – June 5, 1832
Succeeded by
Kaʻahumanu II
Queen Regent of Hawaiʻi