Volume 107 1998 > Volume 107, No. 3 > Institutionalising the leper: Partisan politics and the evolution of stigma in post-monarchy Hawai'i, by Pennie Moblo, p 229-262
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The history of Hansen's Disease in Hawai'i is best known through stories of the legendary Father Damien of Moloka'i (Stoddard 1901, Farrow 1937, Jourdain 1955, Beevers 1973, Daws 1973, Castillo 1992, to name a few). The depiction of the leprosy settlement as a pagan frontier of childlike natives saved by a heroic European, however, obscures the extent to which leprosy was tied to the political events of the late 19th century (Moblo 1997). The importance of the disease in historical discourse can be seen in the manipulation of the leper-Hawaiian following the overthrow of the monarchy by non-native businessmen. Challenged by the native community and Europeans sympathetic to the monarchy, the new regime demonstrated its resolve by rounding up and examining all persons suspected of having leprosy. People suffering from the infirmity were portrayed as a threat to society and to the survival of the native “race”. Hawaiians defied the new regime through non-compliance; people with leprosy were concealed in secluded districts, and leprosarium patients at Kalaupapa, Moloka'i, taunted authorities with frequent escapes and open disdain. The maligning of lepers included a policy shift from passive lenience to aggressive discrimination, and from soothing baths to the attempted extermination of the pathogen with harsh experimental drugs.


The Hawaiian Monarchy was established by Kamehameha I, who had gained ascendancy over rival chiefs by 1810. 1 He established the office of kuhina nui (Premier or Prime Minister), with power nearly equal to that of his own; and ruled in consultation with the local chiefs, who evolved as a body into a lawmaking council (Lydecker 1918). In pre-contact Hawai'i, the supreme chief, or Mō'ī, acted in concert with a council of other ali'i, chiefs; and the initial changes brought about by unification can be seen as the transformation of a traditional political system (Trask 1983, Valeri 1982).

The division of power was enshrined in the Constitution under King Kamehameha III in 1840. All land technically belonged to the descendants of the founder of the kingdom, held as the common property of the chiefs - 230 and the people under their administration. The Council of Chiefs became the House of Nobles, and an elected House of Representatives sat in council with them as the Legislature. The constitution restricted the authority of the chiefs and power began to shift towards foreigners, who were taking control of resources (Ralston 1984).

Initially, the House of Nobles had selected its own members, but Kamehameha III promulgated a more formal constitution in 1852, which allowed him to appoint nobles and ministers for life. Kamehameha III had employed G. P. Judd, an American medical missionary, as a minister since 1843 and allowed him to sit with the legislature and help formulate the new constitution. In 1846, Scottish businessman R. C. Wyllie and Americans William Richards and John Ricord joined Judd in the cabinet. The 1852 Constitution marks the appearance of foreign advisors as ministers, and a move away from the old system of local ruling chiefs towards the centralised control of a European design. Alexander Liholiho occupied the throne as Kamehameha IV, and was succeeded by his brother Lot in 1863. As Kamehameha V, Lot eliminated the kuhina nui, and shifted power to the king and his cabinet away from the elected representatives (Kuykendall 1953:127-33).

The increasing role of foreigners in government coincided with the rapid development of the sugar plantation system, which was facilitated by changes in land tenure known as the Māhele. King Kamehameha V died in December of 1872 and was succeeded by Lunalilo, whose reign was ended after less than a year by his death from tuberculosis in February 1874. Lunalilo left no direct heir to the Kamehameha line and ascendancy was put to a vote. David Kal kaua defeated the popular, pro-British, Queen-Dowager Emma; but the king turned against his American supporters to find counsel in Walter Murray Gibson, who had, with the motto “Hawai'i for the Hawaiians,” won popularity among the natives but evoked the malice of the Euro-American community. In 1887, power was taken away from Kal kaua by foreign businessmen, who forced him to sign what has subsequently become know as the “Bayonet” Constitution.

When Kalākaua's sister Lili'uokalani assumed the throne in 1891, she found herself pressured to restore native sovereignty by repealing the constitution that had stripped the Crown of authority and diluted the native vote to favour white residents. Hawaiian resistance to domination was voiced in petitions to the legislature calling for a return to the Constitution of King Kamehameha V. They demanded that only native Hawaiians be given cabinet posts, that the renewal of the Hawaiian race and culture be a priority, and that prohibitions be made on selling land to foreigners and on importing labour. Although the National Party was established to challenge the - 231 predominantly haole (white person, foreigner) Reform Party Government in the 1890 and 1892 elections, the Hawaiian sentiment regarding white domination was largely ignored. Many Euro-American residents believed that their superiority necessitated the suppression of “inferior” races (U.S. Congress 1895:870-78).

Political parties opposing Reform rule in the 1892 election included the National Party, the Hawaiian National Liberal Party ('Ao'ao Lāhui Hawai'i Liberala) and the Native Sons of Hawai'i. The National Party and Native Sons supported the monarchy and autonomy of Hawai'i; the Liberals were split with one faction aspiring to equitable representation in government, and the other to reinstate dominance to the crown. With the parties' objectives thus overlapping, the Legislative Assembly of 1892 — consisting of 23 Reform, 13 Liberal, nine National and three independent members — was an unstable body of shifting alliances and disaccord. It became impossible for the queen to appoint a balanced council, and the legislative session that opened 1 September 1892 introduced seven resolutions of no confidence, with four cabinets successfully dissolved, before it closed four and a half months later. The ministers were appointed by the monarch, but, once appointed, they had absolute control and bounced around like “a perpetual foot-ball in the hands of political parties” (Lili'uokalani 1990:234). A cabinet consisting entirely of Reform Party members that had been seated in November was voted out on 12 January 1893 and replaced with one headed by Sam Parker, a part-Hawaiian member of the National Party. The National Party was the principal group supporting the queen. On 14 January 1893 she intended to honour their petitions to promulgate a new constitution — an act that would give the Reformers, who anticipated annexation to the United States, the excuse for revolution (Kuykendall 1967:561,582,616).

Although historian Kuykendall (1967:401) cites the Crown's failure to accept constitutional limitations on the monarchy as the prime reason for the overthrow, witnesses attributed the action to the determination of the Hawaiians to regain voting rights and to the Reform Party's reluctance to accept their loss of power in the 1892 legislative elections (U.S. Congress 1895:556-63, 848-56, 914-29, 939-45, 985-96, 1005-17, 1041-43). The 1892 session closed with the legislators voting out the Reform Cabinet and appointing one more sympathetic to the queen. Three day's later, the monarchy would fall.

The Termination of Hawaiian Sovereignty

The day after the Parker Cabinet was seated, the new ministers were confronted with the overthrow of their queen. They had been warned by Lorrin Thurston, a member of the “Committee of Safety” that orchestrated - 232 the revolt, that they must prevent the queen from signing the constitution brought to her with the signatures of thousands of native Hawaiians who resented the 1887 provisions. Although the queen agreed to delay action on the document — as advised by her new cabinet — and announced that she would not sign it, the process of her dethronement had already begun, including the mobilisation of American marines from the U.S.S. Boston. On Tuesday, 17 January 1893 the queen was deposed by a non-Hawaiian 2 “Committee of Safety” and replaced by a “Provisional Government” under the presidency of Sanford Dole, a lawyer born in Honolulu to American missionary parents.

The following day, President Dole sent Special Commissioner Lorrin Thurston to Washington D.C. and by 15 February 1893 an agreement had been reached with President Benjamin Harrison that Hawai'i would be annexed to increase “the influence and interests of the United States in the islands” (U.S. Congress 1895:197-98). On 4 March 1893, Democrat Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as President, and he sent former chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, James H. Blount, to Hawai'i as his special commissioner to investigate the overthrow of the queen. Because of Blount's report, Cleveland withdrew the Harrison treaty because he felt his predecessor had been deceived by the Provisional Government of Hawai'i:

If national honesty is to be disregarded and a desire for territorial extension, or dissatisfaction with a form of government not our own, ought to regulate our conduct, I have entirely misapprehended the mission and character of our Government and the behavior which the conscience of our people demands of their public servants (Cleveland 1895:445).

Cleveland's advisors recommended that Lili'uokalani be restored to the throne, but annexationists in the United States Congress opposed the suggestion. The Hawaiian chargé in Washington suggested that the Provisional Government form a republic because that would be more politically acceptable to the American people. The Republic of Hawai'i, scarcely changed from the Provisional Government, adopted a constitution on 4 July 1894 (Kuykendall 1967:648-49). In 1898, with Cleveland no longer in the White House, Hawai'i was annexed to the United States, and became a territory in 1900.

The men who terminated Hawaiian sovereignty sought to demonstrate their right to govern in several ways. They attempted to show the queen unfit to rule, with attacks on her character that appear to have been based more on Victorian assumptions regarding the fragile and vulnerable nature of her gender and the purported promiscuity of Polynesian women, than on - 233 substance 3. They considered Hawaiians neither intelligent nor ambitious enough to properly govern themselves, and believed that this natural passivity would prevent objection to the change in rule were it not for agitators — “bad foreigners” and the hapa (part, fraction) Hawaiians. The hapa posed a significant threat because they inherited the purported superior intelligence of their white fathers while maintaining influence among the natives through their mothers (U.S. Congress 1895:510-11, 699, 706, 712, 728, 825, 840-41, 876-78).

According to government physician George Trousseau, the unrest was engendered by the bigotry with which Hawaiian-born Americans imposed their Constitution in 1887.

The revolution was made by Messrs. Dole, Thurston, W. O. Smith, C. L. Carter, Judd, etc., all sons of missionaries, who owe the whole of their social and pecuniary position to the natives…These people on the whole are good enough people, honest, I dare say on any subject in which their ambition or their interest is not directly connected. But they are all suffering from a very serious complaint, a swelled head, incurable I am afraid (Trousseau 1895:995-96).

Heads swollen or not, they harboured fears of malevolent forces composed of bad foreigners, hapa haole, and aboriginal mobs. Menacing too was that age-old pariah, the leper.


The partisan nature of the leprosy issue can be seen in two events that followed the overthrow of the monarchy. The first was the sending of troops into Kalalau Valley on Kaua'i to capture people with leprosy who lived there in self-imposed exile. The antagonistic methods employed by L. H. Stolz, the sheriff in charge, ended in his murder by the infamous Kaluaiko'olau (see below). The second revealing event, which followed almost immediately, was the public resignation of George Trousseau from the Board of Health because of their leprosy policy.

Leprosy victims had been seeking refuge at Kalalau for some time before the ill-fated campaign of 1893; of 84 people residing there in 1887, 11 had the disease. Similar unsanctioned asylums existed at Hāmākua on the island of Hawai'i and at Kula on Maui. 5 The people of Kaua'i repeatedly requested permission to establish a hospital in the valley, but the Government rejected the proposal. 6 When sugar planter Valdemar Knudsen offered to treat the sick in 1888, he was rebuffed, and in his place went Agent of the Board of Health C. B. Reynolds to capture them, although most escaped. No further - 234 action was taken against them, and the valley, with its abundant resources for agrarian subsistence, continued to be a haven for individuals with leprosy until 1893.

The advance into Kalalau and subsequent shooting of Stolz, taking place as it did just months after the overthrow of the monarchy, received partisan coverage from the press. The Daily Bulletin (1893a, 1893b, 1893c), which was owned by Hawaiians and non-American foreigners, published a prisoner's indictment that Stolz had used excessive force, and faulted the Board of Health for hasty and careless action. The Board of Health, calling the incident “the most atrocious and cowardly act ever perpetuated upon an officer while in the peaceful execution of his duty”, was predictably defended by the Hawaiian-born American publications, which condemned Kaluaiko'olau as a “leper bandit” and a “desperado of violent character” (Board of Health 1893-95:57, Hoogs 1893, Bishop 1893c). John Sheldon, who had been editor of the predominantly Hawaiian owned Hawai'i Holomua at the time of the invasion, published Kaluaiko 'olau's wife's version of the event in 1906. In the view of the fugitives, who were native Hawaiians, the Provisional Government was unlawful, hence, defiance of their policies could not be considered illegal (Frazier 1987). Jack London's (1912) short story, “Ko'olau the leper,” would later conceal the political context of the famous escape by portraying it as an individual act of rebellion.

Trousseau's rejection of contagion theory was taken as a political statement as well as a medical one. The international medical community was alarmed by the extreme anti-leprosy policy in Hawai'i, and Trousseau had been rebuked for his participation by a European colleague who cited a report by the National Leprosy Fund Commission in India. Trousseau was told to compare his own observations and the scientific data at his disposal with the India paper, and then reconsider whether he could continue to support a measure which was “a relic of the ignorance and barbarism of the middle ages” (Trousseau 1893). The article convinced Trousseau that the Provisional Government's ordinance of strict segregation was useless and unscientific, prompting him to abandon a policy he had helped develop as a former member of the Board (Board of Health 1868-81:61). He definitively declared that he was a non-contagionist, and that, although leprosy was communicable, it was probably less so than tuberculosis or syphilis. His position prompted the pro-annexation Hawaiian Star (1893a, 1893b), to call for the removal of the “avowed Royalist”, a label Trousseau repudiated. 7

The raid on Kalalau displayed the proclivity of the new government; although Hawai'i Attorney-General W. O. Smith (1893a, 1893b, 1893c, 1893d) originally opposed the march on Kalalau, he thought that it had been beneficial to the Provisional Government by demonstrating it had force. - 235 As haole leaders became increasingly stringent in their control, objections were voiced in petitions to the Legislature protesting the 1887 Constitution and the harsh leprosy policy. When peaceful means were ineffective, resistance was expressed in a more violent manner: mobs threatened to burn down pest-houses where suspects were held before sending them to Honolulu to be examined, patients and suspects absconded, and fugitives like Kaluaiko'olau shot lawmen.

By 1893, the majority of conspicuous cases of leprosy had been sent to Moloka'i; but the most defiant fugitives, armed to defend their freedom, secreted themselves into remote corners of the islands. Officers were periodically wounded carrying out segregation, as were their prey. George K. Kepoikai, a young taro farmer, was sent to the colony in 1891, escaped and returned home to Waiehu, Maui, where he lived openly in defiance of authorities, and was shot in the legs resisting recapture. Bounty hunters and informers, employed to secure people with leprosy from their secluded locales, were ostracised for cooperating with the authorities. In one case, even the man's wife reportedly “abused him like a pickpocket” after he helped apprehend fugitives at Wainiha on the island of Kaua'i (Wilcox 1893). In Honolulu, which had a large foreign population, the Board was more successful in propagating the fear of leprosy, and by 1895 people there were, in Mouritz's (1894) terms, “worked up” about it. As segregation and stigma increased, doctors were hassled with false reports. Some came from malice — neighbours wishing to discredit an adversary, or as part of a vendetta — but others were simply the paranoid by-product of volatile times.


The asylum at Kalaupapa was managed by a Moloka'i plantation owner, Rudolph Meyer, in charge of finances; and patients Ambrose Hutchison as Resident Superintendent, and William Notley, son of an English Reform Party legislator, as Hutchison's assistant. Hutchison and Notley were both half-Hawaiian, and although this made them somewhat suspect to the administrators, it was an advantage in mediating between Meyer and the predominantly Hawaiian community of patients. Hutchison was also Catholic, which displeased the new government and sometimes caused trouble with Protestant patients, but helped in managing the missionary-run homes. The administrative partnership of Meyer and Hutchison was extremely successful, owing to a relationship of mutual trust and loyalty. 8

Meyer, Hutchison and Notley all profited from their positions; in 1893, Meyer and Hutchison received salary raises. 9 Hutchison owned the only fish-net suitable for catching akule (scad fish), and he received a portion of the profits from fishermen who used the net and sold the fish to the Board - 236 of Health as rations. Some patients complained about Hutchison's conflict of interest in utilising his position as superintendent to purchase his own fish, but to no avail (Kamanu 1893, Meyer 1893f, Kahalehili 1897). Hutchison and Notley employed other inmates in their taro fields, and, although the large-scale Board of Health projects at Waikolu Valley always seemed to end in failure, there was continual reference to successful small-scale individual gardens. 10 The sale or barter of produce among patients was probably covert, because it was prohibited.

Since private businesses were limited to coffee shops and bakeries, petitions to open them were frequently submitted to the Board. Their success was dependent on sitting Board members' sanction, the financial ability of patients to undertake a business, and Meyer's disposition towards potential entrepreneurs. It was impossible to open a store without the favour of Meyer and Hutchison, because they were always consulted. The shops, which were officially instituted to furnish refreshments and revive new arrivals after their boat trip from Honolulu, became, as might be expected, popular inmate meeting places. Originally undertaken as native-Hawaiian ventures, by 1888 the shops were managed by Chinese patients, who profited considerably from them. Meyer believed they were profiting too much and shut them all down except one near the landing that was run by a Hawaiian.

The patients were able to improve their economic situation by raising livestock, although Meyer had done his best to discourage individual husbandry. Hogs continued to be raised until the Board stopped allowing farmers to import rice bran for feed, while failing to keep an adequate amount for sale at the Moloka'i store. The Government further discouraged husbandry by requiring that farmers pen their animals and, because growers were unable to obtain food for them, raising hogs became unprofitable.

Meyer, to whom economising had always been the primary concern, became even more miserly when the Government took an official view that leprosy was incurable. When the patients requested that a second store be built at Kalaupapa Village because getting to the one at Kalawao presented a hardship to the disabled, he responded that one store met their needs and that two stores would double expenses and require twice the supervision without increased benefit to the people. He further remarked that it did not make much difference where the store was located because the people all had horses and would ride, even if the distance was very short. “The horse is probably the greatest sufferer, if there is any suffering at all…But even if some had to walk a little, I think it would only be a good exercise and do them some good” (Meyer 1893e). 11

Meyer's remarks, which appeared in the newspapers, brought an angry response from English patient Jonis L. Way.

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When a man says it is good exercise for a sick person to walk four miles to get meat twice a week in all weather between the hours of Midnight and six A.M. we cannot expect much improvement in our condition so long as he has all the say in the future. No man not residing here, more or less, can form an idea of the hardships attending such harsh treatment (Way 1893).

In the interest of cutting costs, Meyer suggested that it was a mistake to allow everybody in a place such as a leper settlement to have a water tap in or near their homes; the Board should withhold clothing rations from people who could afford to buy their own; and inmates unable to maintain houses should be put in group homes (Meyer 1893e, 1893j). He also encouraged the Board to pressure the popular Japanese physician Masanao Goto into resigning because Meyer felt his bath treatments involved “considerable expense for nothing” (Meyer 1893c).

With the Hawaiian legislature dissolved by the Reform Government, there was no one to act on the patient complaints; when inmates wrote to the Board, their letters were referred back to Meyer, whose standard response to proposed changes was that the Board could not afford to set a precedent. It was his argument against such diverse requests as allowing Hawaiians to have water pipes laid to their homes, building houses for individuals, approving kōkua (helpers, family members who assisted inmates) ingress and egress, and allowing Father Conrardy to keep a cow (Meyer 1893f, 1893g, 1893h, 1893i, 1893j, 1894b, 1895a, 1895d).

When Rudolph Meyer died in June of 1897, C. B. Reynolds, a naturalised citizen who had served as an agent of the Board of Health for a decade, was appointed superintendent. Reynolds took over both the financial duties that had been Meyer's, and those of the resident superintendent that had been Hutchison's. Ambrose Hutchison continued briefly as Reynolds' assistant, but the two strong-willed men clashed and in November Hutchison tendered his resignation. Hutchison worked until the end of the year, when another patient, William Feary, was designated his replacement, and Notley was relieved of his position. It was rumored that the haole patients had asked that Hutchison and Notley be replaced.

The reaction to the changed administration was mixed. Kalaupapa physician Richard Oliver initially thought that everything had improved under Reynolds and that there was a better feeling amongst the people. Notley was piqued by his dismissal, and British patient Louisa Todd found Reynolds imperious. John Unea, the Moloka'i store manager, believed everything was going well under Feary, but J. K. Kainuwai claimed the new assistant was overbearing, had a hot temper, and acted outside the law. Hutchison had run the community for seven years, although he had been - 238 close to death several times and was crippled by his disease. A tenacious man then about 40 years of age, he was, within a few months, contesting the authority of Reynolds and Feary.

Managing Resources

In 1895, 30 years after Kalawao and Waikolu were purchased for the first exiles, the last of the original land-holders were to be evicted from Kalaupapa Peninsula. The Board had considered it crucial to get rid of the kama'āina (native to a place), who had made a farce of segregation by entertaining inmates and their families in their homes, allowing the integration of “clean” with “polluted,” and mocking the authorities who were powerless to take legal action against all but the few actually caught on Board property. Covert communication between patients and their relatives had been taking place since 1870 when legislation was passed requiring permits to enter the asylum. Although Hawaiian disregard for the law had been an annoyance to former boards, the extreme position of the “missionary” Reform regime with regard to the dangers of contamination made absolute segregation essential.

With the help of King Kal kaua, the kama'āina had resisted expulsion when the Board began its expansion into the eastern part of the promontory and Kalaupapa Village in 1884, and they fought this final encroachment. In January 1894, a Government committee appraised the remaining property and posted notices declaring their intention to purchase the whole of it. All but a few of the owners refused to take the money offered, stating that they had nowhere to go, and they consented to leave only if provided with arable land elsewhere. In August, the Minister of the Interior sent a list of parcels on Moloka'i that might be exchanged for the Kalaupapa land, but the people refused, stating that they could not make a living on what was offered. The landowners held firm, and in October, Meyer sent the money he had been given to pay for the property back to Honolulu. The following month, arrangements were made to move the kama'āina to 'Ualapu'e, east Moloka'i. The tract, which was a bit less rocky than Kalaupapa, was acceptable to most of them; although one man objected on the grounds that because it was Crown land, his property would be taken away when Lili'uokalani was restored to the throne. Confident that would never happen, Meyer assured him that he “could safely accept the land and live there unmolested to the end of his days” (Meyer 1894c). By the end of the year, the visitors who had been staying at Kalaupapa had moved, and in February of 1895, the kama' āina, except a few so elderly the Board did not have the heart to make them leave, and a couple working for Father Wendelin, were gone. 12 It had taken the Board three decades to achieve segregation of its leprosy patients. Only - 239 those kōkua deemed essential in maintaining the settlement or favored by the government, and a few illicit visitors, remained. The Board of Health was legally in control of the whole peninsula.

Having successfully captured most known cases of leprosy, the Board was able to turn their attention towards developing the colony. Water was an immediate need, and a new reservoir was constructed by the patients in 1894 under the supervision of C. B. Reynolds. Reynolds was impressed with the work, praising Hutchison and Notley for keeping materials supplied, and with the inmate labourers who, “although many of them were short of fingers, made good use of what they had” (Reynolds 1894).

A second critical need was for firewood. Restricting the movements of the inmates to the peninsula had resulted in deforestation around the settlement, while the initiation of heated bath therapy greatly increased the demand for fuel. Hutchison began experimenting with tree planting in 1893, but met with little success because his administrative tasks left no time to care for seedlings properly. He asked permission to employ men to run a nursery, and in 1895 this was granted. The Board usually offered employment to foreign patients so that they could buy western foodstuffs and other items considered necessary to their life style that were not provided by the Government. Hutchison found a dedicated forester in William Clark, an American patient who had been working at the Moloka'i store.

Clark's initial efforts frequently met with failure. He planted seeds left him by Reynolds, but the seedlings, swamped by heavy rains, died. He submitted a list of plants he wanted to try growing and sought assistance from the Honolulu forester on species that failed, but fruition was hampered by fierce winds and salt sea spray. Disregarding the harsh weather, Clark, with assistants from the settlement jail, persisted in planting tens of thousands of seedlings on the peninsula and in the adjoining valleys. He also planted mango, avocado, pear and date, and rooted mulberry cuttings, hibiscus and other flowering shrubs for fellow inmates to cultivate.

Food appears to have been in steady supply under Hutchison's management except for the shortage of poi (fermented taro) and other staples during the 1895 quarantine because of a cholera epidemic in Honolulu, when patients suffered intestinal disorders from eating large amounts of flour in place of poi. After the death of Meyer in 1897, inmates were again allowed to grow taro at Waikolu Valley, but the work was difficult because the valley had been ravaged by Moloka'i Ranch cattle and wild hogs. The supply of food largely determined the success or failure of the Resident Superintendent, and Ambrose Hutchison, who had fostered relations with taro growers in the valleys near Kalaupapa, allowed the threat of famine to undermine the control of his successors when he resigned as superintendent.

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When, in April of 1898, grower W. L. Wilcox said he would be unable to fulfill his contract to supply taro on account of scarcity resulting from blight and drought, Reynolds tried to get bread from Honolulu. The bakery informed him they could not provide it, so Feary started pulling taro from Waikolu and ordered a large supply of flour. A patient committee was formed to investigate the possibility of getting food, and it was rumoured that Hutchison had received letters indicating there was plenty of taro on Moloka'i. When Feary asked Hutchison if this was the case, the former superintendent denied it. A few days later, however, Feary hurriedly left the colony, without bothering to get permission, and travelled to Wailau and Pelekunu valleys. When he returned, he apologised for having violated the rules, explaining that he had been put under such pressure by the people after their meeting with Hutchison that, when the committee informed him that there was taro in the neighbouring valleys, he had promptly gone to investigate, fearing a disturbance. He returned with 744 bundles of poi; the following week, he received 750 more bundles and had 40,000 taro tops for planting. Although the food shortage was abated, the challenge from Hutchison continued.

Managing Recreation

In the early days of settlement life, exiles had amused themselves with parties and excursions into the valleys. These social gatherings were discouraged by administrators because they often included imbibing alcohol and hula dancing, which was readily identified with pagan ritual. Father Damien had attempted to wipe out the practice — a mission vividly recalled by Ambrose Hutchison:

Often on his round of mercy [visiting the infirm], he is attracted by the noises of the “uliuli” (gourd rattle instrument used in the “hula”, Hawaiian dance) and voices of hilarity [when] women and men came together to have a good time feasting on “uala uwiuwi” (fermented sweet potatoes)…[which] lead him to the house where the feasting is going on. When the warning is given by someone in the crowd that Father Damien is coming, the hilarious feast [would] abruptly break up making quick get away from the place through the back door to escape his big stick, for he would not hesitate to lay it on good and hard on the poor hapless person who happened to come within reach of his cane, while Father Damien enters the front door of the deserted house, gives the calabash a whack with his stick, spilling the contents…on the matting, following the crowd out of the back door frantically shaking his cane at them (Hutchison n.d.).

Damien was assisted in his crusade by Board of Health rulings against evening merrymaking.

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The disapproving attitude towards inmates socialising was challenged in 1892 when an English nurse, who had adopted the name Sister Rose Gertrude and volunteered her services to the lepers of Hawai'i at Kaka'ako Station, contributed funds from British citizens for the construction of a “reading room” or social hall. Meyer strongly disapproved of such frivolity, stating that the money would be better spent building wards for the group homes. Foreign funds were not within his jurisdiction, however, and Beretania Hall, intended as a place of recreation and instruction, was opened on 26 December 1892. The Protestant monthly, The Friend encouraged its readers to donate books, illustrated papers, games, and a magic lantern for the entertainment of the inmates (Bishop 1893b). The Hall was the property of, and controlled by, the Board of Health. A young half-Hawaiian patient, Demetria Pierce, immediately applied for permission to give free “performances” (nature unspecified) for the entertainment of his fellow inmates. Meyer (1893a) approved only if performances took place during the day so as to avoid “disorder or immoralities.” It was not until 1894 that the Board of Health finally consented to the request of patients to have evening concerts.

The Kalaupapa chapter of the Y.M.C.A. was formed in 1887; in 1893, a building committee was appointed to solicit donations; and the following year the community dedicated a hall near the Evangelical Church. Independent associations also appeared such as the one organised by John T. Unea, who wrote to the Board of Health asking for hats discarded by the Hawaiian militia to complete the uniform of the Hui Naita, “knight club”, a benevolent society for boys.

Nearly every report of an official visit to Kalaupapa describes an enthusiastic greeting from a small but lively tin flute ensemble, and in 1892 Henry Berger, the Royal Hawaiian Band Master from Honolulu, helped the patients organise a brass band. The following year, they were supplied with uniforms and a teacher, motivating the musicians to practice diligently every weekday evening for two and a half hours. Five hundred dollars were raised in Honolulu to furnish new instruments for them, but these went to the Royal Band, who passed their seasoned horns on to the patients. The substitution seemed fitting to Brother Dutton, who suggested that although their secondhand instruments had been through considerable service, they were quite suitable for settlement use. “To have a fine new set, and the National Band playing before admiring crowds with old battered ones would have appeared unfair and inappropriate” (Dutton 1896). The band was a source of pride to the community, and they petitioned, unsuccessfully, the Board of Health that its members be paid.

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Internal Conflicts and Inequalities

As the settlement grew in population and regulations became more numerous, restrictions created divisions within the community. The most marked were those between the staff — consisting of the Catholic missionaries, doctors and non-leprous administrators — and the patients and their kōkua, who were classified as lepers when it came to individual rights. Alcohol, kava, and opium were all forbidden to the inmates, but Prussian Father Wendelin was allowed to import cases of wine from California. While petitions for kōkua were turned down for disabled inmates because it was more convenient to have them living in the group homes, staff were allowed servants to cook and do their laundry. Freight sent to patients was subject to inspection and would be sent back to Honolulu if it arrived without a permit. The rules did not apply to the foreign clergy, who could hardly be asked to suffer such insult.

As the non-Hawaiian population grew in the islands and the diagnosis of leprosy became more precise, increasing numbers of foreigners were sent to Kalaupapa. Before Father Damien contracted leprosy, it was assumed that white males had contracted the disease by having sexual relationships with unclean Hawaiian women. Even Damien was not exempt from this charge, and following the announcement of his having the disease, rumours circulated that he had violated his vows of chastity. Although he was hurt by the slander and denied the charges, his belief that leprosy was usually transmitted sexually remained unchanged. 13 A theory less maligning, at least to Damien, was that he owed his illness to having adopted native habits that had weakened him.

Some haole, when they were diagnosed, employed pressure from prominent citizens to intimidate the Board, as in the case of P. J. Voeller, an American grocer. Voeller belonged to the Harmony Lodge of Oddfellows, which engaged doctors to challenge the diagnosis of leprosy made by the government bacteriologist, L. F. Alvarez. When the Board failed to give in to the lodge members' threats to sue, Voeller was secreted aboard a ship bound for the United States (Magoon 1898, Board of Health 1897-98:163). Sixteen haole men were sent to Kalaupapa in the first 20 years and although some had either learned to make do with Hawaiian rations or provided their own food, a few of them complained of being neglected. No white female lived at the settlement until 1892, when a Portuguese woman was sent. In 1894 there were one English and two Portuguese women confined there.

White patients could avoid being sent to Kalaupapa by going to the United States, Japan or Germany for treatment. Foreign suspects were offered repatriation if their home countries would accept them, and if they could find transport and pay the expenses; many Asian, as well as European and - 243 American, patients left Hawai'i. Trousseau encouraged foreigners with leprosy to return to their homelands and went so far as to pay for those unable to come up with the fare themselves (Board of Health 1883-88:105-6). The Board had, for the most part, left haole who contracted the disease to segregate themselves, but when Board of Health President Nathaniel Emerson became adamant that all lepers be locked away, it became increasingly difficult to ignore them. Presented with a list of foreigners with the disease in 1888, the Board 14 came to the conclusion that whites would have to be isolated like other lepers (Board of Health 1883-88:175).

Although whites suffered the stigma of contracting leprosy, the Board members did not think they should be asked to live at the level of natives. When whites were sent into exile they were more readily given leave to settle business matters or to receive medical attention than were Hawaiians (Board of Health 1889-92:276). An American patient, A. W. Carter, demanded preferential treatment on the grounds that because foreigners paid a greater amount in taxes, they should be given more attention (Meyer 1887, 1888; Carter 1888). Haole exiles were provided with individual homes equipped with plumbing, and received special food allowances. Employment was offered to them in order to offset the additional expense of items that were considered essential to them and not to Hawaiians. To provide for those who had no work, or would not work, a fund for poor and indigent foreign lepers was set up by prominent businessmen. White patients who declined to live in group homes or share their living space were given their own accommodations, but Hawaiians who complained were considered troublemakers. When Hawaiian school teacher Thomas Nathaniel requested a house like the one English woman Louisa Todd had been given, Meyer declared him insufficiently intelligent to realise that the Board could not to expect Todd, with her disparate upbringing, to live with the Hawaiians (Meyer 1895f).

While the haole claimed they were being cheated because their ration tickets were not of equal value to the poi received by Hawaiians, the native patients perceived the situation differently. Josiah Haole was enraged at the double standard when his wife was refused permission to be his kōkua at Kalaupapa. The Board said that if they granted her the privilege, than everyone would want to go, causing a disturbance in the community. Haole pointed out that they had allowed a part-white woman to visit her mother-in-law at the settlement without the Board of Health being swamped with visitor applications. He further noted that the Board overlooked the rules when two lawyers asked that a blind white boy be permitted to leave the island to settle his property affairs and to have his eyes treated. Because the white lawyers' request was granted, Haole complained:

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I fail to see that you have a rule that the white man only is privileged to come in here, and they only are privileged to go from here, as if it is a white man's country. It is not. This is a Hawaiian Government, with a Hawaiian people and Hawaiian… customs and it should follow that the interests of Hawaiians should be looked after. Therefor, if they (meaning white men) are permitted to enter and to leave this settlement for a short time, why should not my wife… receive the same privilege? (Haole 1894).

Haole asserted that his wife should be allowed to help him settle real estate and personal property matters. She was eventually given permission to join him, because it was thought that he would put more of his time into working in the Moloka'i store if she was there to assist him.

Part-Hawaiians were generally treated as natives. Although $5 a month from the indigent leper funds were originally awarded to a hapa named George Brooks, who had been a bookkeeper for sugar baron Henry P. Baldwin, in 1896 the money was designated for foreigners only, and Brooks was dropped from the list. Brooks asked an American inmate, J. H. Babcock, to state his case to W.O. Smith, Board of Health president, and wrote to his former employer, who was the major contributor to the fund. Baldwin (1896) immediately sent $25 to Brooks, and an angry letter to the Board of Health informing them that the object of the fund was to aid those accustomed to living on “white man's food”, who “in consequence cannot live on the Gov[ernment] rations.” George Brooks, he said, was such a case and he thought there might be other half-white men who should have assistance. In contrast, native Hawaiian objections to receiving foreign foods like flour, rice, or hard bread in place of taro were ignored.

Rivalry between Protestant and Catholic clergymen (for example, the Protestant allegation that Damien lured their members away with material goods) was aggravated by the publicity afforded Damien in the United States and Europe following his death. Catholic authority over the boys' and girls' residences caused the Protestant government concern about rival proselytising, but there was no better way of administering the homes. The only alternative was to let Hawaiians run them, but they were seen as “a weak and ignorant population, incapable of controlled self government” (Bishop 1893a). Hawaiian Protestant ministers who complained about the Catholics were simply told that the Board could not intervene in sectarian disputes (Board of Health 1897-98:172).


The promising treatment for leprosy developed by the Goto family of Tokyo was investigated in 1879 for potential application in Hawai'i by Luther - 245 Gulick, who reported evidence of mitigation of the disease in patients under their care. In 1881, King Kalākaua made further inquiries of Doctor D. B. Simmons of Yokohama, who concluded that, although the medicated baths undoubtedly relieved a number of cases, he thought the disease would recur. Charles Neilsen, resident physician at Kalaupapa, responded contentiously, calling Goto a charlatan and vile pretender. His objection to the employment of the Japanese herbalist was based on the grounds that Goto's hospital had no medical men engaged in investigating the disease, and Neilsen was sure that salvation lay in Western research:

Through the study of pathology or through the scientific means known to med[ica]l men as the only source left us to verify our diagnoses, treatment &c without which all theory is but speculative, uncertain and apt to mislead one from the true source of knowledge which modern science now teaches (Nielsen 1881).

His remark underscores the major controversy regarding treatment of leprosy during the last two decades of the 19th century: whether efforts should be focused on relieving the symptoms of the disease, or whether resources should be employed in annihilating it. Kalākaua, under considerable pressure from his people, chose the former, but the haole-controlled government was committed to the latter.

In 1885, the monarchy employed Goto to introduce his treatment at Kaka'ako Hospital in Honolulu. Settlement physician Arthur Mouritz urged Father Damien to try the baths and the priest returned to Kalawao with great optimism. He built a bathhouse for himself, and encouraged others to do the same. Most people found tremendous relief in the warm baths as their open sores started to heal, and in March of 1893 Goto went to the colony himself to initiate experimental bathing establishments at the homes. The treatment became so popular that the entire community was demanding to be allowed to soak, and the Board, fearing the expense, tried to limit its use. Not only was the medicine expensive, but the acceptance of an Asian doctor over their own was embarrassing to the Board. Their attempts to restrict treatment was impractical, however, as Father Conrardy expressed in a plea on a patient's behalf:

Just think, Sir, of a man separated by force from his wife & children whom he leaved [sic] in misery with the idea that he would get well, was he allowed to follow Dr. Goto treatment, who is acting with the board sanction and that medicine which is at hand is kept away from him. This is enough to drive a man to despair (Conrardy 1893).

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Meyer (1893d), usually quick to side with the Board, admitted that the treatment had improved the external condition of the lepers even if Goto had not cured anyone and, for that reason, “it might be cruel to deny it.” Ultimately, the Board had little choice but to allow all who were able to provide themselves with bathing apparatuses to receive medicine. It did so reluctantly, and Hutchison was told to dissuade people from equipping themselves. Within a few months, half a dozen people had their tubs and furnaces in order and were under Goto's care, while others were in the process of constructing them. Thomas Nathaniel had tried Goto's baths at Kaka'ako, and was delighted to become his assistant at the settlement. He reported that a number of patients appeared almost cured, but Hutchison thwarted treatment at the hospital because he allowed the patients to run out of firewood. The Sisters were never out of fuel, it seemed, a factor Nathaniel attributed to Hutchison's belonging to the Catholic faith. The superintendent also neglected to order supplies of medicine in a timely manner, probably in accordance with instructions from Meyer (1895b), who remarked that “it will not hurt [Goto's] patients to be without it, even if it takes a good long time before a fresh supply arrives.”

Mouritz approved of the treatment and encouraged the Board to allow ample time for Goto to attempt a cure. When he visited the asylum in March 1894, Mouritz found Fanny Harper much improved, believed positively that her eyebrows were growing again, and anticipated her discharge, although he was unsure whether people in Honolulu would associate with a cured leper. Meyer (1894a), who also saw Miss Harper, declared her much worse off and the treatment a “profound humbug.” Mouritz recommended that Harper continue treatment for another year, while Meyer, convinced that leprosy was incurable, was once more economising for the Board. By August of 1894, the Board had decided to get rid of Goto and terminated his engagement in April 1895, although his bath medicine continued to be supplied for a while longer.

Defeating leprosy was not so crucial to patients as it was to the Board. They took the various treatments not because they expected miracles, but because they wanted to feel better. J. H. Babcock (1896) expressed the views of many when he pleaded, “All of us who have taken the Japanese treatment know that it has alleviated our suffering. The bathing medicine is all that we ask for. If the board refuses to supply the medicine, we will have to give up all hope.”

Although Goto's baths were the most popular of the treatments available, there were others. The Catholic Sisters used wet packs, and Doctors Oliver at Kalaupapa and Wood in Honolulu developed their own bathing concoctions. Traditional Hawaiian healers continued to play a part, albeit - 247 covert, in the care of leprosy patients.

In spite of leprologist Edward Arning's (1888) warnings of cultural barriers, and Kalaupapa physician Sidney Bourne Swift's (1891) research failure, W. O. Smith, who assumed the office of president of the Board of Health in 1893, favoured conducting medical experiments in Hawai'i. Meyer knew that absolute control over patients could never be attained at Kalaupapa, and the research hospital was established at Kalihi in Honolulu. In 1895, when Goto's services were terminated, the efforts of the Board were turned toward the eradication of leprosy. They were unable to recruit a bacteriologist, so L. F. Alvarez volunteered to qualify himself in the discipline. Twelve boys were selected from the Baldwin Home to be the subjects of the Kalihi experiments.

The death of Father Damien, and the much publicised mission of Sister Rose Gertrude, had attracted a great deal of attention in Europe, and in 1895 and 1896 applications from such distant locations as Russia, England, and Italy poured into the Board of Health from people who wanted to follow in the footsteps of their hero and heroine. Among them were trained nurses and doctors, but outsiders were unwelcome in the islands. Meyer reflected the insular reaction to Europeans when he commented:

In my own humble opinion, all these people who are so very anxious to go to distant lands for the good of suffering humanity of another race ought to be reminded that charity commences at home and if it is truly their desire to do their fellow men good, they need not travel thousands of miles, they find enough to do in their immediate surroundings of people of their own race (Meyer 1895e).

The haole Government, bent on developing the islands and concealing leprosy, did not want to call attention to what they considered a disgrace. They had received enough criticism from Robert Louis Stevenson's (1890) “Father Damien: an Open Letter to the Reverend Doctor Hyde of Honolulu,” from the reaction to Father Conrardy's critical letters that appeared in American newspapers, and from Sister Rose Gertrude's resignation — leaving aside the questionable legitimacy of post-monarchical government.


The laws imposed in the early years of Reform Party control, set the leper apart from the rest of society. Lepers were considered extremely dangerous, and those who chose to be with them took on their shame. The selection of Emerson as president of the Board of Health reflected the imperious attitude of the Reform Government.

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If this [Hawaiian] race is ever to be rescued from the slough into which it is sinking, the fatal lethargy that stupefies them must be dispelled, the instinct of self-preservation must be awakened, and it must be written upon their hearts, as with the point of a diamond, that to voluntarily contaminate oneself with leprosy is a crime (Emerson 1888:17).

Clear remnants of an American missionary heritage is evident in the concept of a self-destructive native who could only be rescued by the superior race. The criminalisation of leprosy became policy. At the illicit leprosy settlement on Kaua'i, some people were in favour of having the lepers removed, while others were against it, and some again indifferent. Sheriff Stolz (1893), however, found intimacy between lepers and non-lepers at Kalalau “simply abominable.”

Regulation and Resistance

Regulating access was essential to controlling the community, but even the purchase of the land and removal of the kama'āina did not stop illicit visitors. When Meyer destroyed all but one of the trails to the peninsula and put a gate at the top of the cliffs on the one remaining, vandals broke its lock.

One sign of increased institutionalisation was in the change in house ownership. In 1890, the Board of Health owned 193 buildings, and the patients, 237. By 1899, the number of inmate-owned cottages and shops had risen to 302, but the government boasted 449 structures (196 of them patients' houses). The churches — Catholic, Mormon, and Protestant — together owned 11 buildings, and although the Catholics ran Baldwin and Bishop Homes, these establishments were the property and responsibility of the Government. Besides undertaking an ambitious construction program, the Board purchased the homes of the evicted kama'āina and of patients who died, and gained title to houses when inmates could not afford to maintain them. When the owners accepted assistance from the Board of Health, they were required to take in a roomer, and eventually, to turn their property over to the Government (Baldwin 1895, Meyer 1895c, Reynolds 1898). The Board had passed a resolution in 1891, requiring that all buildings put up by private parties revert to the Government after the death of the occupant. Meyer warned that the legal heirs should be indemnified or people would stop building, and allowing people to provide themselves with homes had been a great savings to the Board. Property depreciated quickly in a leper settlement, as can be seen in the case of Hawaiian sugar planter Thomas Hughes, who contracted the disease and was sent to Moloka'i in 1889. His Masons' Lodge built him a house at a cost of about $300, and after he died, a little over a year later, the home was purchased by the Board for $100 - 249 (Meyer 1891).

As the Catholic-administered homes were expanded, pressure on inmates to enter them was increased. Charles R. Bishop Home, established in 1888 with funds donated by the wealthy capitalist for whom it was named, was officially for “girls and unprotected friendless females.” The “unprotected friendless” comprised inmates who were not physically or financially able to care for themselves, including minors with relatives in the community. Many people refused to live in the homes, even when their own houses were disintegrating, their bodies were incapacitated, and they were denied komacr;kua. They survived with the help of fellow inmates.

Because it was assumed that Polynesian girls were subject to temptation, virtually all young women were compelled to live under the supervision of the Sisters of St. Francis. In 1894, a donation from Henry P. Baldwin paid for a new boys' home to replace the one that had been maintained by Father Damien and Brother Dutton. The homes, run as they were by religious orders, were designed to maintain Western morality. Their strict environment was often in conflict with the will of the residents, particularly the young women, and rebellion was recurrent. In 1895, the girls became so unmanageable that Hutchison resorted to putting some of them in jail as a lesson. Meyer suggested a small prison be built at each of the homes, but later abandoned the idea. One young woman, Annie Marie Pa'a'āina, wrote a letter to the Board asking that she be allowed to live with her own mother, but Mother Marianne, concerned for her spiritual and moral welfare, refused to let her go. Marianne was sure that girls who left the shelter of her roof were lost to iniquity. “Our girls have their occasional wild spells, five have run away during the last two months, this causes us much deep sorrow, because we know that they go to destruction when they leave the home. Poor children” (Kopp 1897).

Father Wendelin found the blatant antagonism of the girls towards the Sisters intolerable. Grown girls could be dismissed in cases of insubordination, but he feared that if minor children had their own way, they would indulge in their immoral hulas, call for boys and insult their guardians. The Sisters found themselves in an “unbecoming position amongst a crowd of rebelling children and without any energetic protection from the local authorities, who are not empowered to use means sufficient to break this rebellious spirit” (Moeller 1895). The girls were between 14 and 16 years of age, and it was nearly impossible to keep them prisoner; yet if they were dismissed, Wendelin feared the Sisters would have no role at the settlement and the children no protection. Forcefully removed from their families and friends, the girls had nothing to lose aside from respectability as defined by the foreigners responsible for their incarceration.

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In addition to the overt rebellion of youth, an older and more self-destructive sort of resistance persisted: the production and drinking of alcohol. In 1896, an epidemic of drunkenness broke out, finding its way into the homes. After patiently trying to reform the offenders, Dutton discharged from Baldwin Home those he could not influence; within a year he had expelled 40 men and was questioning the wisdom of the tactic. The evicted men settled down near the Home, and, it seemed to Dutton, took special delight in enticing their former comrades to stray.

Leaving the colony was the paramount act of defiance, and offenders made their illicit visits to friends or relatives brief so that it was nearly impossible to catch them. One band of renegades succeeded in regularly poaching sheep and cattle from the Moloka'i Ranch, and such insolence under his very nose made Meyer impervious to their appeal for clemency.

Their plea of having no hands or fingers is, as they are lepers, but natural, but their feet and hands are sufficiently good to allow them to scale the pali, kill cattle, sheep & hogs and appropriate to themselves whatever their fancy dictates.…For such thieves and robber as this gang has proved to be, there is but one suitable place, and that is the prison and chain gang, and I sincerely hope that the Board of Health may not be moved by their appeal to intercede for them and procure a pardon. They do not deserve it (Meyer 1895f).

Akoi Akamu and his band of outlaws remained in the Kalaupapa jail.

Although Meyer had frequently visited Kalawao in its early years,he later became a strict segregationist; possibly Damien's illness had made him feel vulnerable. Meyer shared Emerson's misgivings regarding kōkua and tried to discourage healthy people from descending the cliffs to the condemned peninsula. The Hawaiians continued to apply for permits to visit, and went without them when refused. George Kekipi of Kamalō, Moloka'i, complained that Meyer had obstructed his call to administer religious instruction at Kalaupapa. Meyer tried to convince him that it was wrong for a family man to mix with lepers, and that evangelical work could just as well be done by some other intelligent and equally pious man. He suspected that Kekipi only wanted to communicate with his patient-son, and had warned him previously that he would not issue any more permits for him to go down. When the man returned, however, having come a long distance, Meyer took pity on him and let him go once more, but told him that it was the last time and that he must thereafter apply directly to the Board of Health for permission (Meyer 1893b).

After laws passed in 1888 prohibited people with leprosy from travelling on the larger passenger boats, the attitude of the public shifted from one of - 251 sympathy for the “poor unfortunates” to one of fear and aversion. Sometimes suspected lepers were held for weeks waiting for a boat that would transport them to Honolulu for examination. As if embarrassed by their cargo, captains taking exiles to Moloka'i thrust them from their ships in the dead of night, “just dumping them ashore like so much freight” (Meyer 1896a).Leprophobia was well developed at foreign-dominated Hāmākua, Hawai'i by 1897; 15 aged and feeble lepers were sent at whatever risk to the invalid because the idea of a special hospital for them in the district was out of the question. At Honoka'a Landing, a special box had to be constructed for suspected lepers, because an objection was made to their occupying the one used for boarding ordinary passengers (Greenfield 1897a, 1897b).

In 1896, Kalaupapa resident Thomas Kainikawaha Nathaniel was suffering from toothaches but was unable to get care. Two of his teeth had so rotted that only the roots remained, and fillings had fallen out of two others. He wrote to Charles Wilcox, secretary of the Board of Health, asking for some relief and received a reply that no one would touch him (Nathaniel 1896a, 1896b; Wilcox 1896). Wilcox explained that prejudice against lepers had become so great that any dentist who attended him would lose all his business. Nathaniel had already sold his house and other property in order to obtain the services of a dentist and had enough money to buy his own instruments.

Oliver tried to extract the troublesome stumps, which would not budge, and informed Emerson that the decayed teeth could be filed with little trouble by an ordinary dentist (Oliver 1896a, 1896b). In February, Nathaniel was finally allowed to go to Kalihi Hospital to have his teeth cared for, in part because it was suspected that he no longer had leprosy. Meyer,of course, disapproved,stating that other lepers would be asking to have their teeth fixed (Meyer 1897a, 1897b). Nathaniel had not been denied treatment because of oozing ulcers or disfigurement. He had no unsightly sores and bore such a light case of leprosy that Alvarez was confident that Nathaniel would be reclassified as a “suspect” when he appeared before the examiners at Kalihi. Only the microscopic examination of skin tissue gave him away as a contemptible leper (Nathaniel 1896a, 1896b; Wilcox 1896; Oliver 1896a, 1896b; Meyer 1897a, 1897b; Alvarez 1897a, 1897b).

The Hawaiians had their own ideas about disease. Herbal practitioner Me'ekapu believed leprosy resulted not from carelessness on the part of the victim, but from the inheritance of tainted blood passed down from parent to child (Me'ekapu 1886). Some Hawaiians petitioned to be sent to Kalaupapa, assuming that because their children had the disease, they too must be tainted. This view is expressed in the requests of J.U. Kukalau and Kūhao:

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I wish to state truly before you all that my sons Kelii-ilihune and Kaulana were the issue of myself and my wife, and that both sons were taken to Kalawao, Molokai, A.D. 1888, and died there sometime between 1888 and 1890. Both my children and now my wife have been sent to the Leper Settlement as lepers, and I believe this disease (leprosy) is in my system. If I were to marry again I may cause leprosy to break out in another person, therefore I ask that I be permitted to go to my wife Nakeu at the Leper Settlement, Molokai (Kukalau 1897).

Kuhao, a native Hawaiian by birth desires to accompany his wife Hookano to the Leper Settlement at Molokai, and to remain there as a kokua. Kuhao has been married to Hookano (w) for twenty seven years, that several children have been born to them…all of whom have been sent to Molokai as lepers. That said Kuhao feels that in as much as he has produced leprous children and his wife has been pronounced by the Board of Examining Physicians a leper, that he himself must be impregnated with the leprous germs to produce such fearful results, so in order to avoid any evil results to others would he be left behind, that he be allowed…to render such assistance to his wife and children at the Leper Settlement as may be necessary, and to do such work for the board as it may see fit to intrust him with (Hopkins 1897).

These petitions reflect the traditional Hawaiian concept known as 'ea, the genetically transmitted disposition for illness that resulted in the eruption of infections later in life (Kamakau 1964:103-4). It was considered a precondition for acquiring introduced diseases like leprosy. The Board members took notice of the letters from Kukalau and Kūhao and recommended they be examined. When it was found that, by Western medical standards, the men were free of the disease, i.e., of the bacterium causing leprosy, their requests were denied.

The special status of the people at Kalaupapa was marked with a loss of rights, including access to opium, alcohol and kava. Opium was primarily taken by Chinese patients, although some Hawaiians sought relief through its use. Alcohol had been imported by foreign patients and the Hawaiians made their own. In 1893 the Board ruled that the transport of the traditional island beverage, kava, to the colony would no longer be allowed, because some unnamed medical men believed its use predisposed the system to leprosy. Because earlier Boards had not considered it a danger, however, patients had been growing the root themselves and had to be prohibited from dispensing it. Existing kava licenses were revoked, the deputy sheriff was informed that the sale of the root within the boundaries of the Leper Settlement would be prohibited, and Hutchison was instructed to prosecute offenders. The ruling seemed absurd to the patients, as Nathaniel stated:

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In reply to the petition for sale of awa under license at the Settlement…the board has denied…[it] for good reasons known to the board. Although the letter [from the board] state[s], “that persons addicted to the use of awa [kava] are not prevented from using awa grown at the Settlement.” Now the question comes in, How can people get awa here when the growers are not allowed to sell it? It is a great hardship for lepers who are awa drinkers to be deprived of awa when you well know that awa relieves the disease. Why allow awa licenses to outside districts when it does the people no good and refused to allow it here when it benefits suffering humanity. The majority of the people who use awa here do not take it because they like it, but to relieve their sufferings and I have known this to be a fact (Nathaniel 1895).

British patient J. L. Way had a similar complaint against the prohibition of alcohol:

Permit me to respectfully ask for what reason I am not permitted to import a little wine for my private use. Is it because I am considered an intemperate man? if so, I beg to say I have never been one and have no intention of becoming one. I do not pay personal taxes, but I pay nearly $250.00 per annum property tax, therefor the reason cannot be because I am considered a pauper. Neither have I been convicted of crime. I am, therefore, at a loss for a reason of refusal. The Frenchman 16 who recently died was permitted wine. There being upwards of 150 bottles on hand at this death (Way 1894).

Realising they could have a legal suit pressed by a patient with Way's resources, Oliver was authorised to allow certain patients permits to use wine for medicinal purposes. He issued such a permit to Way, stating that since the Englishman had to discontinue the Goto treatments, he had been feeling weak and low. Father Wendelin, of course, continued to receive his wine shipments from California. The Board also advised Hutchison not to prosecute persons selling kava at Kalaupapa.

The Government was more successful in controlling the patients' lives in other ways: through the inspection of freight and limiting access to Waikolu Valley and to mountain supplies of wild fruits and firewood. Travel to Waikolu and the cliffs had been denied on the basis that it would make it too easy for patients to escape or get ti (Cordyline) for making alcohol, but it is less clear why there was a prohibition on the importation of rice bran for hog feed, unless they were intentionally making patients dependent on government rations. Dependency made inmates more controllable and preserved the image of child-like natives incapable of caring for themselves.

There were other laws that preserved the stereotype. Regulations preventing marriage to lepers and the exclusion of mates as kōkua, made it - 254 nearly impossible for patients to live what the missionaries regarded as a moral life. Adults whose spouses were forbidden to join them were expected to live in celibacy. The prohibition against marrying non-lepers meant that kōkua whose mates had died were faced with the decision of either moving back into a population in which they were increasingly seen as polluted and dangerous because of past association with lepers, or of living illicitly with another patient. In 1895, Father Conrardy suggested that the Board could help improve morality by: 1) waiving the fee for marriage licenses, 2) allowing him to issue licenses, and 3) allowing kōkua living in the community to marry patients. In response to this proposal, he was publicly censured in the newspapers and told to attend to his clerical business. The puzzled priest wrote back stating that he was unsure what his clerical duties were, if not promoting morality (Conrardy 1895a, 1895b, 1895c). The Board waited until the Catholic executive, Bishop G. Ropert, left for Europe to inform Father Conrardy his services were no longer needed on Moloka'i (Conrardy 1895d).


The emphasis on control of Hansen's Disease prevailed in the period of instability after the overthrow of the queen. As the Government gained acceptance and a republic was established, the leper was transformed into a pariah suspended between institutional support and independence. Unable to profit from gardening at Waikolu or raising livestock, men were forced into dependency as they waited for their government rations. Limited entertainment was permitted when organised by the churches and under supervision of the Board. The patients were allowed to own their homes, but denied jurisdiction over them. Further structure was imposed by drawing lines of stratification within the community: non-leper was distinguished from leper, and white leper from non-white leper. A medical system evolved that paid little attention to people, and concentrated on the conquest of a pathogen. The denial by a white administration of bathing facilities to the conceptually dirty native leper is an intriguing bit of irony. It would appear that Hawaiians could no longer be made clean and were doomed as cultural dross.


I am indebted to the librarians and staff of the Archives of Hawai'i, who made this research posssible, and to the JPS reviewers, whose comments helped bring it to print

- 255 Page of endnotes

- 256 Page of endnotes

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  • Alvarez, L. F., 1897a. Letter to C. B. Reynolds 7 May. Board of Health Files, Box 23, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1897b. Letter to C. B. Reynolds, 11 May. Board of Health Files, Box 23, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • Arning Edward, 1888. Letter to N. B. Emerson, 10 May. Board of Health Files, Box 35, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • Babcock, Jonathan H., 1896. Letter to W. O. Smith, 13 February. Board of Health Files, Box 22, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • Baldwin, Henry P., 1895. Letter to W. O. Smith, 4 May. Board of Health Files, Box 20, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1896. Letter to C. Wilcox, 14 August. Board of Health Files, Box 23, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • Beevers, John, 1973. A Man for Now: The Life of Damien de Veuster, Friend of Lepers. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
  • Bishop, Sereno E., 1893a. Helpless collapse of royalty. Friend, 51:13.
  • —— 1893b. Our leper friends. Friend, 51:14.
  • —— 1893c The leper war at Kalalau. Friend, 51:56.
  • Board of Health, 1868-81. Minutes. Volume 2, Archives of Hawai'i.
  • —— 1881-88. Minutes. Volume 3, Archives of Hawai'i.
  • —— 1889-92 Minutes. Volume 4, Archives of Hawai'i.
  • —— 1893-95 Minutes. Volume 5, Archives of Hawai'i.
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  • —— 1895c. Letter to W. O. Smith, 15 April. Board of Health Files, Box 21, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1895d. Letter to C. Wilcox, 31 October. Board of Health Files, Box 21, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
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  • —— 1893b. That Kalalau affair. Daily Bulletin, 1 July.
  • —— 1893c. Paoa has a story. Daily Bulletin, 12 July.
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  • —— 1893b. Objections considered. Hawaiian Star, 30 August.
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  • —— 1932. Letter to Arthur Mouritz, 9 April. Board of Health Files, Box 34, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
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  • —— 1891. Letter to C. Wilcox, 5 June. Board of Health Files, Box 16, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1893a. Letter to C. Wilcox, 18 January. Board of Health Files, Box 18, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1893b. Letter to C.Wilcox, 16 March. Board of Health Files, Box 18, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1893c. Letter to W. O. Smith, 7 April. Board of Health Files, Box 18, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
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  • —— 1893f. Letter to C. Wilcox, 25 May. Board of Health Files, Box 18, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
  • —— 1893g. Letter to C. Wilcox, 27 July. Board of Health Files, Box 18, Archives of Hawai'i, Honolulu.
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1   Although Kamehameha had control over most of the islands after winning the battle for O'ahu in 1795, the unification of the islands was not complete until an agreement was reached with the chief of Kaua'i 15 years later (Kuykendall 1938:50).
2   The “Committee of Safety” included six Americans (H. E. Cooper, F. W. McChesney, W. C. Wilder, T. F. Lansing, J. Emmeluth, and J. A. McCandless); three Hawaiian-born Americans (W.O. Smith, L. A. Thurston, and W.R. Castle); two Germans (C. Bolte and E. Suhr); and three British subjects (J.A. King, A. Brown and H. Waterhouse). King had listed his nationality as American before the overthrow of the monarchy, but appears as British or Scottish on later documents (King 1893-95). According to Kuykendall (1967:587), the committee was originally composed of five Americans, four Hawaiian-born Americans, two Germans, a Scot (Brown) and a Tasmanian (Waterhouse). A.S. Wilcox, a Hawaiian-born American, was replaced by Emmeluth when the former returned to Kaua'i.
3   Lili‘uokalani’s purported involvement with Marshal Charles B. Wilson was denied by those employed within the palace; see interviews with G. Trousseau and F. Wundenberg (U.S. Congress 1895)
4   Goffman (1961:xiii) has described the total institution as “a place of residence and work where large numbers of like-situated individuals, cut off from wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.”
5   The community at Hāmākua was growing kava and taro, which they traded with people living along the coast. Although the “best residents” of the district petitioned for their removal, their sanctuary was so effective hat they were discovered only with the assistance of paid informants and bounty hunters (Board of Health 1881-88:220).
6   The Board of Health condemned the plan because they said it would: 1) establish a bad precedent; 2) inflict hardship on the healthy citizens of the district; 3) although the natural resources of the valley could sustain a population of 500, bring the danger of shortages which could not easily be relieved because it was accessible for landing supplies from boats and vessels only for six or seven months of the year; 4) make it difficult to remove the healthy children, who formed not less than 30 per cent of the population; 5) prevent any guarantee that segregation would be obtained; and 6) eventually become a burden to the board (Emerson 1888).
7   In a statement to J. H. Blount, Trousseau declared:
I have been and am to this day a staunch believer in republican institutions, always fought against monarchy, so did my father; I am a great admirer of the Untied States Republic. Was I not a Frenchman, I would like to be an American. Indeed if you decide on annexing the islands, in the straightforward, dignified way in which I know it will be done, I will probably be one of the first to swear the oath of allegiance to the United States (U.S. Congress 1895:983).
8   When, in 1889, the Board proposed making C. B. Reynolds superintendent, Hutchison told Meyer that he would resign. Meyer reportedly told the Board that he would refuse to continue as financial agent without Hutchison, and Thomas Evans, not Reynolds, was appointed superintendent as a result (Hutchison 1932).
9   Meyer received a salary of over $2000 per annum for his service as financial agent to the Board of Health. In addition, he managed the Moloka'i Ranch, which supplied beef to the settlement when contracts were not awarded to competitors. He also held positions with the postal service, road board, school board; and he owned a farm and a sugar plantation with a mill. Hutchison's salary, $600.00 in 1890, was raised to $804.95 in 1893. The total cost of the “Segregation, Support and Treatment of Lepers” in 1893 was $225,000 (Smith 1893e:50).
10   Meyer tried to prevent the Board from expanding the water works in Waikolu Valley, which abutted his property, and which, he claimed, had never been considered part of the Leper Settlement (Meyer 1896b). After Meyer's death, his cattle had to be run out of the valley before taro could be replanted there (Hutchison 1897). His use of Waikolu for grazing cattle may explain why Meyer declared taro crops a failure and allowed them either to be pulled before they ripened, or to rot in the ground.
11   Among the 1300 patients and kōkua, there were about 500 horses.
12   In December of 1894, Hutchison told the 63 illegal visitors they had to leave or they would be prosecuted. Nine people from other parts of Moloka'i were arrested a week or so later, which gave the remaining offenders the incentive to leave. By the end of the month, all but three were gone (Meyer 1894d, 1894e, 1894f). Father Wendelin Moeller was priest to the Franciscan Sisters in charge of the Bishop Home for Girls (Mouritz 1943:66-67).
13   Damien claimed:
The great majority, if not the total number of all pure natives, have the syphilitic blood very well developed in their systems…The Hawaiians in general…are reputed to be very licentious, and having thus unscrupulous familiarities, without fear of danger, they often become diseased (De Veuster 1886:38-39).
14   The members of the Board were N.B. Emerson, L. A. Thurston, S. M. Damon, and W. E. Rowell.
15   Census data for the district list 927 Hawaiian, 239 part-Hawaiian, 884 Hawaiian-born of foreign parents and 3630 foreign-born residents (Table 3, Hawai'i 1897).
16   Alex Corniot, who had died at the settlement in 1893.