Archive Materials



Founding Years




Gracious Living

Broader Diversity

Forward Looking





Student Life

Historical Contexts

Wider World



Mary Ella Spooner

An Individual Perspective


Mary Ella Spooner c. 1872 Courtesy of MHC Archives and Special Collection


Mary Ella Spooner was born in Oakham, Massachusetts and graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1872. She traveled to Hawaii in 1884 and worked as a teacher and eventually became President of Oahu College (Punahou) located in Honolulu. She published a series of letters in her autobiography, "The Life of a Farm Girl" documenting her travels and experiences throughout Hawaii. She left Hawaii in 1891.

Personal Perspective of the Natives: In a letter from Mary Spooner to her friends in America dated, October 27, 1884, she describes the Native population. "The complexion of this Hawaiian race is darker than that of the mulatto. Some are fine looking and appear to possess intelligence; but the mass are indolent and without ambition of any kind. Their imperfect knowledge of English renders most branches of study beyond their comprehension, but in mathematics they excel. There are only four or five pure natives in the College and those will probably be dropped at the end of this month, as their mark is so low."

Spooner's Explanation of the Deteriorating Race: In the same October letter, taken from her autobiography, Spooner explains some of the reasons behind the decline in the Native population. "The native race in this city numbers 10,000, but it is fast decreasing. The causes for this are several. They are peculiarly susceptible to disease, and as they do not live upon hygienic principles, death is more apt to ensue than would otherwise be the case. Leprosy, too is fast consuming their vitality, and the government is very lax in forming laws of exclusion. There are lepers abroad in the streets of this city, today, and on Kanai, Molokai, a neighboring Island, they are numerous."

Impressions of Government: “Over six hundred invitations were issued to the reception of Mr. And Mrs. Damon. Among the noted persons who were present were the King (Kalakaua) and the lady to whom the throne really belonged but whose head did not ache to wear a crown, so she refused it. Her name is Mrs. Charles R. Bishop, and (which is important to me) I had an introduction to her, and she invited me to visit her grounds with Miss Ward. I did not meet nor even see His Majesty. Affairs of government are in a pitiable state and grow worse in geometrical progression. The King is in special bad repute now because he has just removed several reliable men from office for no good reason.” “Judge Judd is in the Chief Justice. His father was from the States, and some of his ancestors were missionaries.”

Atlas Home Page


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