Skip to main content

Three Women Editors

Helen G. Chapin, Courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society

Like their American counterparts, women successfully edited and published early Hawaiian and English newspapers. The first was Elizabeth Jarves, who arrived as a newlywed from Boston in 1839. Her husband, James Jarves, founded the Polynesian in 1840, perhaps the most famous nineteenth-century paper. While James took jaunts about the Islands and even trips back to America, Elizabeth ran the weekly journal. The Jarveses left Hawai‘i in 1848 so that he could pursue a diplomatic and writing career.

Mrs. Jarves was in the tradition of following in a husband’s footsteps. Less so was Emma ʻAʻima Nāwahī of Hilo, descendant of a Hawaiian chiefess and a Chinese sugar mill owner. She married Joseph Nāwahī, legislator and artist who opposed annexation, and together they started Ke Aloha Aina (The Hawaiian Patriot) in 1895. Joseph died the next year in San Francisco, and Emma carried forward the bilingual weekly until 1910.

Theresa Owana Kaʻōhelelani was the most flamboyant of the three. Her first marriage to Alexander Cartwright, father of American baseball, ended in divorce. Her second, to Robert W. Wilcox, was successful. Together they published several papers. While he served as delegate to the U.S. Congress from 1901 to 1903, Mrs. Wilcox ran Home Rula Repubalika, the journal backed by former royalists. The Wilcoxes were national news. After her husband’s death in 1903, and left with two young children to rear, her later years were not as happy. But like Elizabeth Jarves and Emma Nāwahī, Theresa Wilcox was a notable woman in Hawaiian history.