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Bonura, Light in the Queen's Garden: Ida May Vope, Pioneer for Hawaii's Daughters.

When many in mainland Americans picture Hawai'i, images of beaches, hibiscus flowers, outrigger canoes, and hula dancers come to mind. It is rare to wonder about the education of the children in the state, and it is rarer still to consider the people who historically developed Hawai'i's schools. Sandra Bonura's work tells a compelling tale of Ida Pope, a daughter of a wealthy family born in Ohio, who adopted Hawai'i as her home and spent her all too short life indoctrinating the young women of Hawai'i into white, Christian modes of schooling. Pope spent her life working tirelessly for Hawai'ian women of all ages; she served as a surrogate mother, "principal, teacher, nurse, bookkeeper, maintenance worker, spiritual mentor, and grandmother to their children" (1).

The book is organized into eighteen short chapters which enhances the readability of the work. Split roughly in half, the first nine chapters present the history of the Pope family in Ohio and explores Pope's role in the development and operations of the Kawaiaha'o Seminary in Honolulu. In this first section, Bonura introduces the tensions between the Christian missionaries and the Hawai'ian royal family, and she discusses gender roles in the late 19th century US; using Pope's education as an example.

Pope's arrival in Hawaii coincided with the death of King Kalakaua in 1891 and the ascension of Queen Liliuokalani, a benefactor of the school. The first section of the book explores Pope's rise to the position of principal of the school and the conflicts that arose between the European model of schooling and Hawai'i'an cultures. Pope's trip to the leper colony on Molokai, accompanying Queen Liliuokalani, marks somewhat of a transition in the book and in local politics. The remaining chapters in this first section of the book describe the US-led coup of the queen and the ensuing political "revolution" in Hawai'i. Wealthy white businessmen essentially led a coup to overthrow the royal family. While in theory this was to put into place a legislative government, in practice this forced the king to sign a constitution which disenfranchised many aboriginal citizens. The king's sister, Lili'uokalani, assumed the throne upon his death and tried to write a new constitution which would restore the monarchy, but only ruled for two years until she was overthrown by the wealthy White citizens. The first section of the book ends with an exploration of the breach between Pope and the Queen, and closing of the Seminary after Pope's departure.

The second half of the book details Pope's work at the newly-opened Kamehameha School for Girls. This section documents the school's opening and its stark differences from Kawaiaha'o Seminary in discipline and curriculum. This section provides context in order to understand the local world into which graduates of the school would move. It was during these years that Pope made the shift from a heavily Eurocentric model of schooling to one that honored Hawai'ian culture, a shift that Bonura credits to Pope's progressive leanings and resistance to the "Americanization" of the time. As Bonura writes,
Almost as an apology for nine years of forcing Hawaiian girls into a
mold that did not fit, Miss Pope went into a new century full of steam,
making sure her pupils knew they had a distinct cultural identity, one
that must be acknowledged, respected, and enabled to flourish in the
midst of the Americanization of the islands. (2)

Bonura also documents Pope's work in establishing the Ka'iulani Home for Girls; modelled on the work of Jane Addams in Chicago, the home was a residence for graduates of Kamehameha who remained single and were employed in the city, and it quickly expanded into three residences set around the city as need demanded.

Throughout her time as administrator, Pope traveled throughout mainland USA observing the latest in educational trends and attending the University of Chicago. She brought many of the ideals of the reformers with her back to Honolulu, particularly putting together a commission to explore workplace conditions for women. The final two chapters describe the shifts at the school to preparing the girls for occupations such as nursing, the founding of an alumni association, and Pope's untimely death in Chicago at the age of 52. A woman of constant motion and vigor, Pope experienced a bout of extremely high blood pressure which, coupled with the intense heat of the Chicago summer, caused her death suddenly after dinner one evening.

There are many strengths to the work. It is well researched; the author uses a variety of secondary and primary sources, including Pope's papers, oral histories, diaries and journals, scrapbooks and photos, and correspondence of teachers who worked for Pope. Bonura presents a solid narrative of a woman who was an advocate for women's rightful place in Hawai'ian society, particularly the workplace. Bonura moves even a reader unfamiliar with the history of Hawai'i through the complex sociopolitical climate of the islands and clearly demonstrates Pope's role as observer and shaper of the times. Currently, there is an interest in exploring the lives of women influential in progressive education; Pope's life clearly fills a void in this narrative. Much scholarship in the history of education pertaining to this time period is focused on urban areas such as Chicago and New York; almost all of it is devoted to schooling in mainland USA. Bonura's work begins to fill a substantive void in our knowledge of schooling on the Hawai'ian islands.

Bonura is balanced in her portrayal of the school; for example, she does not shy away from depicting flawed methods and sometimes horrible treatment of the students at the hands of their teachers. However, there is a lack of truly critical analysis of the imperialistic role that schools played in Hawai'ian history, and the role of missionaries in this context. While Pope went through a transition later in life to embracing Hawai'ian culture and history in her school, she continued to tap many pedagogical practices which were culturally unsuited for the population. There exists fairly extensive scholarship looking at the profoundly negative impact of schooling on indigenous peoples such as Joel Spring's Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality? There exists extensive work on the terrible nature of schooling among Native Americans which bear many similarities to the schools described in Bonura's work (punishing students for speaking their language, thinking their religion and traditions barbaric, enforcing uniforms, and the like). Beyond deculturalization, there are political ramifications for these schools which remain unexplored in Bonura's work. For example, Clif Stratton's Education for Empire* explores how schooling is a tool for American imperialism, devoting one chapter specifically to Hawai'i and schooling in the Pacific Rim. However, these weaknesses in no way take away from the significance of Bonura's work in telling the fascinating story of a life that would otherwise likely be missed in mainland USA narratives.


(1) Sandra E. Bonura, Light in the Queen's Garden: Ida May Pope, Pioneer for Hawai'i's Daughters 1862-1914 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2017), p. 257.

(2) Bonura, Light in the Queen's Garden, p. 191.

(3) Joel Spring, Deculturalization and die Struggle for Equality: A Brief History of the Education of Dominated Cultures in the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013).

(4) Clif Stratton, Education for Empire: American Schools, Race, and the Paths of Good Citizenship (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016).

Edward Janak

University of Toledo
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Title Annotation:Sandra Bonura
Author:Janak, Edward
Publication:Vitae Scholasticae
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2018
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