HerStory 2021: Aloha Oe

Liliʻuokalani (1838-1917), was the first (and only) Hawaiian Queen, and the last sovereign of Hawaii. She was a complicated figure, made even moreso by what was going on in her world and on her islands. She came to power upon the death of her brother the King, and inherited a Hawaii that was moving toward annexation into the United States of America. There wasn’t much she could do about it; colonizers/businessmen were already part of the ruling class of Hawaii, and though she fought bitterly for Hawaii’s independence, she eventually lost and Hawaii was annexed to the US in the late 1800s. 

She ruled for a mere 2 years, and was stymied at almost every turn by a legislature hell-bent on limiting her powers and giving more powers to the businessmen that were at their core. Her driving goal was to write a new constitution that would allow her to push for more autonomy and give more power to native Hawaiians, but that was not to be. In fact, it was her dedication to these causes that inspired a stronger push on the part of her detractors for annexation into the USA. After being deposed, Liliʻuokalani continued to fight for the rights of Hawaiians, by traveling to the US mainland and petitioning congress for more representation as well as compensation for land seized during the annexation.

Our Aloha Oe colorway is named after the song Liliʻuokalani composed the year annexation occurred. The English translation is “Farewell to Thee,” and although some stories have the origins of the song being about a farewell embrace between lovers, it’s difficult to imagine that it wasn’t, in some part, written as a farewell to the Hawaii Liliʻuokalani knew. She had to know that with annexation would come a change to traditional ways of life and knowing, and penning a bittersweet farewell to that life seems just right. 

A little note about HerStory: We recognize that some of our HerStory stories represent difficult and sometimes divisive-seeming topics, and want you all to know that our goal is to expand all of our knowledge bases. Our goal is to open minds to the experiences of others, to gain a more expanded view of history/HerStory and the women who contribute to our collective world, and to shine the light on voices that aren’t always heard/acknowledged/listened to.

We also want to always remember the “many baskets of truth” philosophy: that pretty much every issue/person/situation contains many different and oftentimes warring truths, and that it is our job to explore and recognize all of those truth baskets, while trying not to obscure the less-than-ideal (or even outright awful) parts of that issue. That’s what we try to do with our HerStory Love Letters, and we hope you all take what we share and delve deeper into the issues that speak the most to you.