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Missionaries in Hawai'i

The Lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick, 1797-1883

Clifford Putney

Publication Year: 2010

Ever since Protestant missionaries from the United States first reached Hawai‘i in 1820, they have inspired conflicting passions. In evangelical circles, the missionaries are praised for christianizing Hawai‘i, transforming Hawaiian into a written language, and inoculating the islanders against smallpox. But this celebratory assessment is rejected by modern-day Hawaiian nationalists, who excoriate the missionaries as advance agents of U.S. imperialism. In this biography of pioneer missionaries Peter and Fanny Gulick, Clifford Putney offers a balanced view of their contributions. He says the nationalists are right to credit the missionaries with drawing Hawai‘i into America’s political orbit, but argues that the missionary enterprise helped in some ways to preserve key elements of Hawaiian culture. Based primarily on letters, journals, and other archival materials, Putney’s book provides readers with a detailed portrait of the lives of Peter and Fanny Gulick. Inspired by America’s Second Great Awakening to spread the Gospel overseas, the Gulicks voyaged to Hawai‘i in 1828 and lived there for the next forty-six years, actively proselytizing and working to change the islands. On Kaua‘i, they helped to ensure the success of Hawai‘i’s first sugar plantation and acquainted Hawaiians with inventions such as the wagon. On Moloka‘i (later the site of a leper colony) the couple struggled merely to survive. And on O‘ahu, they took up ranching and helped to found Punahou School, the alma mater of President Barack Obama. While laboring in Hawai‘i, the Gulicks interacted with kings, queens, and other historically important figures, and Putney chronicles those relationships. He also explores issues of race and gender, and sheds new light on the democratization of government, the spread of capitalism, and the privatization of land. From these last two developments, a number of missionaries grew immensely rich, but the Gulicks did not, and neither did their descendants. A group that includes influential missionaries, educators, and physical fitness experts, the descendants of Peter and Fanny have had numerous books written about them, but Putney is the first to write extensively about the progenitors of the Gulick clan.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Front Matter

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

I received invaluable help on this book from numerous individuals, and I would like to thank them. I would also like to thank the many institutions whose resources enabled me to do research on Peter and Fanny Gulick. At the outset of my research, I contacted many of the couple’s living descendents, asking them for permission to use their family’s papers at Harvard...

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pp. 1-11

Of all the reform-minded families in American history, few were more active than the Gulicks. A large clan of Dutch origin, the Gulicks (pronounced Gyew-licks) are probably best known in the United States today as the founders of the Camp Fire Girls. But the family used to be known mainly for their Protestant missionary work, which they did for a remarkably long...

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pp. 12-34

For most of their history, the native inhabitants of Hawai‘i lived in a relatively isolated state, but this began to change when the English explorer Captain James Cook “discovered” the Sandwich Islands, as he called them, in 1778. Other Westerners soon made their way to the islands, and they brought guns, some of which ended up in the hands of a powerful Hawaiian...

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pp. 35-53

When the Gulicks moved to Wai-mea, Kaua‘i, they encountered thousands of Hawaiians in the area (whose population was 3,883 in 1833). They also found the village to be “a hot, dry, red, dusty, and desolate place,” because it was shut off by the mountains of Kaua‘i from moisture- bearing trade winds. Without those winds, Wai-mea struck the Gulicks’ son Orramel as “the...

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pp. 54-76

Described by the Gulicks’ son Luther as “one of the pleasantest localities on those diamond-isles” of Hawai‘i, the village of Kō-loa, Kaua‘i, was well known for its sugarcane. Brought to Hawai‘i by the islands’ first settlers around 800 A.D., sugarcane grew naturally in Kō-loa (which means “Great Cane”), because the village received plenty of rainfall. It also boasted “fields...

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pp. 77-85

When the Gulicks arrived in the village of Ka-lua-‘aha in 1843, they found it much different from their former station, Kō-loa. There commerce flourished and freshwater was plentiful. But neither of those things abounded in Ka-lua-‘aha, which was the only station of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) on the rugged, mountainous island...

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pp. 86-115

Throughout their stay in the Wai-a-lua district of O‘ahu, the Gulicks lived in the country, but their house was only a third of a mile “as a bird flies” from the village of Hale-‘iwa, which was on the south side of the Anahulu River. On the north side of the river was the Gulicks’ land, where the family lived from 1846 to 1856. During that time, they enjoyed the “very pleasant”...

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pp. 116-144

The Gulicks moved to the outskirts of Honolulu, Hawai‘i’s capital, in 1856, and they lived there for the next eighteen years. During that time, Honolulu expanded rapidly, and today it encompasses the site where the Gulicks built their house. When the house was built, however, it lay two miles outside of Honolulu in an area called Makiki, which was separated from the capital by...

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pp. 145-152

When Peter and Fanny moved to the empire of Japan in 1874, they fully expected to die there, and they thought that death would come very shortly. But Peter lived in Japan for three years, and Fanny lived there for nine years. For most of that time, she lived on Kobe Hill in the city of Kobe, but initially she and Peter lived in Osaka, which was one of Japan’s “treaty ports...

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pp. 153-161

Peter and Fanny Gulick were a remarkable couple, and they led historically important lives. At first they seemed destined to live prosaically in the United States, but they got caught up in the reformatory fervor of the Second Great Awakening, which inspired them to become Christian missionaries. As such they proselytized for nearly five decades in Hawai‘i, where in spite of their...


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pp. 163-164


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pp. 165-198


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pp. 199-207


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pp. 209-218

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760345
E-ISBN-10: 1613760345
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497351
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497358

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 25 illus.
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794925392
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Missionaries in Hawai'i

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Subject Headings

  • Missionaries -- Hawaii -- Biography.
  • Gulick, Fanny, 1798-1883.
  • Missionaries -- Japan -- Biography.
  • Gulick, Peter Johnson, 1796-1877.
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