- In Haste with Aloha: Letters and Diaries of Queen Emma 1881–1885 ed. by David W. Forbes
Hawai'i historian David W. Forbes has once again produced a book of interest and importance, this time centering on Dowager Queen Emma's writings from 1881–1885, the last five years of her life, starting eighteen years after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha IV. One may think Queen Emma played no part in Hawai'i's history other than founding—with her [End Page 506] husband—what is today the Queen's Medical Center and the (Anglican) Cathedral of St. Andrew, but her daily life shows a woman of many abilities and accomplishments. A well-educated and worldly woman of privilege with several homes and numerous servants, she nevertheless willingly "pitched in" when needed, and also enjoyed a good gossip.
The book title refers to letters written in a hurry in order to get them to appropriate ships in time for scheduled departures. Most of her correspondence goes to outer islands. The most extensive are to Flora Wood Jones (called "Ihilani") on Maui, the daughter of a couple from Massachusetts. The two women shared church and school interests, plus Flora married an Englishman who taught French at the Anglican St. Alban's school, later 'Iolani School. Other Maui correspondents were Julia Hubbell Akana and Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Nahaolelua. Another favorite receiver of Emma's letters was Jane ("Jenny") Stillman of Kohala. Emma nearly always had permanent house-guests, young part-Hawaiian girls whom she helped educate, shepherding them through society and helping them find good husbands. Interestingly, she often refers to Hawaiians as "natives," as if she weren't one herself, plus there are the usual references of the time to her "China boy cook" and "Chinaman gardeners."
Chapter one provides Emma's family history (which explains her mainly British upbringing), and chapter two tells of her concerns regarding the smallpox epidemic of 1881. Brought aboard ships from San Francisco and Canton, Emma mentions half a dozen cases of the disease discovered at the Commercial Hotel located directly across the street from her home, Rooke House, located on Nu'uanu Street, which is bounded by Beretania and Bethel Streets and Chaplain Lane. (Rooke was the last name of her English physician adoptive father.) Then two of Emma's servants and some residents of Dr. Rooke's nearby first home were diagnosed and taken to Kaholaloa Hospital (which was situated on a reef island in Honolulu harbor and used as a quarantine station). Within days, Rooke House itself was quarantined. Emma is soon patching, mending, and renovating some of her old clothes for the female patients at the hospital. She sent three "great bundles of things": twenty holoku (floor-length gowns), five night dresses, six chemises, three petticoats, six stockings, one pea jacket, and two waterproof wrappers. Another bundle of linens, rags, and towels were sent to the then-named Queen's Hospital. At one point her gate is left open and she is admonished by Dr. Ferdinand W. Hutchison that too many people are going in and out; the gates must be kept closed, locked, and marked with yellow warning flags. More servants are sent to the quarantine station. [End Page 507]
Emma keeps track of everyone connected to both houses while also living a daily life of gardening, rearranging her jewelry—during which she finds her deceased son's piko, or umbilical cord, traditionally retained after the birth of a child, along with her deceased grandfather John Young's two last teeth—and learning to play tennis from a book. And eating. Emma enjoyed food: for breakfast (often at 11:00 am as she liked to stay up late playing cards with her guests and servants) she might have oysters and poi. Late evenings were always a good time for ice cream. Her friend Jenny Stillman Smythe said in 1940 that while Emma loved cooked breadfruit, she ate most anything that...