Hawaii Women Voted in 1840
photograph by Menzies Dickson
photograph by Menzies Dickson
Coming next year.
Why was 19th century Hawaii the only nation in the world where women voted and were integral participants in governing their own country?
What caused laws to change to deprive women their voice and who removed Hawaiian women from important government roles?
This untold important story will have international appeal.
Pre-contact, females inherited chiefdoms and property. A person's class, rank and education mattered more than gender. Hawaiian women in the 19th century served as Monarch, Prime Ministers, Governors, Judges and Diplomats.
In July 1837 the King of Hawaii and his top political advisors negotiated with the French. King Kamehameha III is seated in the center of the room in a chair and sitting on his left is his Prime Minister Elizabeth Kina‘u. French Captain A. DuPetit Thouras of The Venus represents the government of France. The Hawaiian government brought about a dozen high ranking officials into the conference and it appears half of the Ali‘i are women. The diplomatic meeting resulted in a treaty granting protection to French subjects in Hawai‘i and reciprocal protection to Hawaiian citizens in France. France opened a diplomatic post in Hawaii and the Hawaiian Kingdom established an embassy in Paris.
This 1837 Convention between the two countries was the first of four treaties with France. Hawaiian women participated in these high level diplomatic negotiations.
The French artist who drew the picture exposed his racism. His prejudice comes through when he shows the French military sitting ram-rod-straight in their chairs, while the Hawaiian side has representatives lazily lying about not paying attention. Sadly, this stereotype still exists today.
In 1837 the literacy rate in the Hawaiian Kingdom was one of the highest in the world at 95%. The literacy rate was lower in France, at approximately 40% for men and 22% for women. French women were finally allowed to vote after the war in 1945. This political right for French women was gained 105 years after Hawaiian women.
Lithograph by Masseot, courtesy of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu.
It took American women 72 years to win the right to vote. From Seneca Falls in 1848 until ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Women had to battle a male-dominant society that viewed females as inferior and lacking the intelligence to vote.
On the continental USA, women were violently attacked by mobs and beaten by police. It was a dangerous and bitter fight. Wives and mothers were arrested and went to jail for wanting the freedom to vote in America - November 2017.
Mrs. McGregor registered after the doors opened at midnight on August 30, 1920.
550,423 voted by Mail.
28,742 voted in person.
The Nov. 3, 2020 election had the most ballots cast in Hawaii's history. It reversed the trend of declining participation in the islands.
Hawaii was among the first states to reach 99.9% households in completing the U.S. Census.
62.9% online or by mail.
37% counted by census takers door-to-door.
Because women work in service industries, they have experienced more job loss from the pandemic. Mothers are forced to stay home to take care of children in virtual learning. This pandemic crisis has fueled an extraordinary interest in citizen engagement. People are paying closer attention to how powerfully their government leaders affects their families and their daily lives.
Hawaii Women Voted and Governed tells the untold stories of the many women who helped govern Hawaii. These Hawaiian women were decision makers and powerful leaders who held government positions decades ahead of women holding political power in other countries. Hawaiian women became world pioneers in leadership.
In these uncertain times, this film brings hope and inspiration. Women and girls today can see themselves in these stories and aspire to be strong leaders too.
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