Ka’ahumanu, Rule Breaker by Linda Harris Sittig

She squared off against the sacred traditions of her people, customs that had endured for well over a thousand years. Ka’ahumanu of Maui, initiated the breakup of the taboo system that had prevailed against women since the arrival of her ancestors.
Born in the late 1700s, she undoubtedly had special privileges as one of King Kamehameha I’s five wives, but no indemnity against kapu, the classification of forbidden actions which her Polynesian forebears had brought with them to the islands known as Hawaii.
The ancient Hawaiians lived in a rigorous stratified society that was divided by castes. First came the king, followed by the ali’i (chiefs), the kahuna (priests, healers, and craftsman), and the vast majority of the remaining population were the commoners. The kapu system, however, applied to everyone, with the exception of the king.
Kapu was the scaffold of the society, and so strongly entrenched that violators were swiftly put to death. It permeated the Hawaiians’ daily lives and was taught to children as soon as they were old enough to understand the rules, and the consequences. A commoner could be killed for something as simple as allowing his or her shadow to fall across a chief. A woman could have a kapu put on her by the whim of the king.
Records indicate that Ka’ahumanu would be thought of as a feisty woman by modern standards. Both bold and intelligent, she went into league with her mother-in-law after the death of King Kamehameha I and together they convinced the new ruler, King Kamehameha II to allow them to eat at his table. Women had never been allowed to eat with the men, though of course they could do the cooking.
Once this first kapu had been broken, she set about to raise Hawaiian women from the status of second class citizens, by her own involvement in governmental affairs. In order to help the new king, Kamehameha II, attend to his duties, she offered to help with her extensive knowledge of the political structure of the islands. It was only a matter of time before she appointed herself as the first kuhina nui, or premier. It was a post she would hold for the rest of her life, and enable her to change many of the laws that discriminated against women.
Her grave is located in the old royal cemetery in Lahaina, Maui where fresh island flowers decorate her tomb. You may read further about her life in Hawaiian Journey by Joseph G. Mullins, available at http://www.Amazon.com.


About lhsittig

I am a freelance writer who specializes in historical fiction that showcases strong female protagonists. In non-fiction I focus on literacy tips for parents and teachers to help children become life long readers.
This entry was posted in history, strong women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ka’ahumanu, Rule Breaker by Linda Harris Sittig

  1. Another great blog about an amazing woman I had not learned about before. Loooking forward to your next post.

  2. clarbojahn says:

    I don’t remember who but a woman in the bible was just like this. She sat her husband’s table and soon helped him with decisions and changing laws. Will do some research to find out who it was. 🙂

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