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Mount Holyoke Missionaries in Hawaii

Missionary work carried out in the Sandwich Isles by Mount Holyoke women prompted cultural exchange between the native population and other immigrant groups. Mount Holyoke missionary activity hastened the fate of Hawaii and its incorporation by the United States. The Mount Holyoke missionaries in effect were the first White immigrants who had significant influence over the native population through the establishment of Christian schools modeled after New England ideals. The rampant proliferation of Christianity acted as tool in the construction of the evolving identity of people living in the islands. Though many of the effects of Missionary activity in the islands were positive, unintended events occurred which served to further weaken the Native population’s autonomy.

Western Missionaries Initial Impression of Native Culture: The missionaries' initial view of the natives was less than favorable in the sense that the Native Hawaiians were viewed as ignorant heathens. However, the missionaries felt that the natives did maintain a level of intelligence which allowed for potential conversion and improvement. The slightly condescending perspective of the Missionaries may be an indication of the Western superiority complex which entailed an element of an obligation improve the natives. To read more about the Missionary View.

New England Christian Ideals of Education Spread to the Isles: Mount Holyoke missionaries were extremely successful in founding schools modeled after their alma mater. The schools provided a forum for cultural exchange and the promotion of New England Protestant ideals. The influence of Mount Holyoke women on their pupils in Hawaii is evident through the high conversion rates and decline in the prominence of the Native culture. Some examples of the positive effects of Missionary influence include increased access to education and a more egalitarian dynamic between the sexes due to the abandonment of the native religion which subjugated women. To read more about Educational Ideals.

Weakening of the Native Way of Life: Although there were many positive affects of Missionary involvement in the Hawaiian Islands, there were many negative consequences which further undermined the Native way of life. Missionaries and other immigrant groups brought foreign diseases which significantly contributed to the decline in the local population. Additionally, the balance of power was shifted in favor of the United Stated due to the introduction of American capitalists’ organizations i.e. Dole. Furthermore, the Monarchy's embracement of Christianity and American Culture consequently lead to a decline in the prominence of the Native way of life and further hastened the annexation of Hawaii by the United States. To read more about Native Adversity.



This page was created by [name student] '[grad year] in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 - [e-mail]