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  • Light in the Queen’s Garden: Ida May Pope, Pioneer for Hawai‘i’s Daughters, 1862–1914 by Sandra E. Bonura
  • Derek Taira
Light in the Queen’s Garden: Ida May Pope, Pioneer for Hawai‘i’s Daughters, 1862–1914. By Sandra E. Bonura. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2017. x + 319 pp. Notes. Illustrated. Index. $32.00 cloth

In her book, Light in the Queen’s Garden, Sandra Bonura introduces us to Ida May Pope, a “guiding light for Hawai‘i’s daughters” (p. 4) who tirelessly advocated for improvements in Native Hawaiian female education and social conditions at the turn of the twentieth century. The strength of Bonura’s book lies in its straightforward, chronological narrative of the tumultuous final years of the Hawaiian nation, the brief Republic of Hawai‘i, and the early years of American occupation as seen through Pope’s eyes. This is an important intervention. The vast majority of historical literature on this time period covering Americanization privileges white male perspectives. Bonura’s work adds a new, complex layer to this process. With access to rare and rich primary sources, the author portrays Pope as a compassionate “pioneer” and hero dedicated to improving the livelihood of Native Hawaiian women by increasing their access to educational and professional opportunities and socializing them to white middle-class culture. Whether Pope was battling entrenched patriarchy, personified in Charles E. Bishop, or lobbying for financial support for her educational and social welfare programs, Bonura effectively casts Pope as a persistent and dedicated force, fighting to improve the lives of Native Hawaiian girls in the ways she thought best. More broadly, Light in the Queen’s Garden helps us to better understand the mindset and conviction of white female Progressives in Hawai‘i—how they saw the islands’ Native population in chaos and in need of structure and order. These reformers, like Pope, were ambitious individuals with a strong sense of purpose for improving the lives of others through education and social policies grounded in empirical research. As such, Bonura’s examination of Pope represents an important development in understanding how white female Progressives actively contributed to the Americanization of Native Hawaiians at the turn of the twentieth century.

Despite these significant contributions, a critical history Light in the Queen’s Garden is not. Instead, Bonura’s book represents a celebration of Pope’s life in Hawai‘i as a white-mother savior helping a downtrodden, vulnerable native people. While Bonura certainly amassed an impressive collection of letters and documents, her book lacks the historiographic depth necessary for situating the life and actions of Pope with those of other white American female Progressives of her time. Bonura depicts Pope in the ways she herself would have wanted to have been remembered: a motherly matron, considerate friend, a champion of causes for Native Hawaiian women, and devoted sister. Missing is a critical discussion of how Pope’s life and career as a single, evangelical, college-educated, white woman school administrator [End Page 162] from the Midwest during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era affected her teaching strategies and ethnocentric understandings of her Native Hawaiian students. Bonura does briefly cover Pope’s early life and educational background but her discussion fails to explore how macro developments—western spread of evangelicalism, settler expansion and conquest, the professionalization of teachers and teacher-training, the rise of social science and empirical research, and the expansion of higher educational opportunities for women—would have shaped and informed Pope’s views on race relations, gender norms, instructional practices, her educational philosophy, and reform. Inclusion of such a discussion would have helped readers understand how the intersections of race and gender dictated the educational and professional opportunities for women of color during these years. It would have also helped explain how both race and gender influenced the ways in which Pope conceptualized the abilities of Native Hawaiian women and defined success for “her girls” at Kamehameha Schools and Kawaiaha‘o Seminary. As a result, inclusion of these larger historical trends would have revealed Pope to be a much more complicated figure who supported U.S. imperial interests and introduced American racial hierarchy and gender...


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pp. 162-164
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