Bernice Pauhi Bishop: Hawaiian Princess & Philanthropist

Bernice P. Bishop

Bernice P. Bishop

Bernice Pauahi Bishop was a Hawaiian princess and last descendant of Royal House of Kamehameha. She eventually became one of the most prosperous landowners in Hawaii due to her royal heritage. Her legacy contained generous endowments to the Kamehameha Schools, which continues to educate the children of native Hawaii to this day. Bernice became a much beloved patron of education and a cherished philanthropist.

By 1857, Bernice had already inherited from her family an estate of 16,011 acres.  Throughout her mid-20s, Bishop served her community in any way she could by offering advice and assistance to any who sought her out. She spent much of her time receiving visits from locals and neighboring islanders, and worked tirelessly to ease their troubles in her generous manner.

Aside from caring about her native Hawaiians and giving time and money to improve their stations in life, she was also a leader in several American charitable organizations, including the Stranger’s Friend Society, which aided sick travelers, and the Women’s Sewing Society, which provided clothing for the poor.

In 1883, Bishop was to inherit an even larger fortune, when her cousin Ruth Keʻelikolani, who was the royal governess of Hawaii, died leaving Bernice 353,000 acres of land. With the inheritance, Bernice became in possession of about 9 percent of the Hawaiian landmass, making her one of the most powerful and wealthy landowners in Hawaii.

Upon being bestowed the large estate, Bernice drafted her will, making individual provisions for a number of charities, friends and servants. The bulk of her estate, 378,569 acres, was held in trust for the purposes of opening two schools to be called the Kamehameha Schools. The timing and provisions of her will was fortunate though bittersweet as Bernice died a year later of breast cancer.

Today the schools have campuses on Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui, educating nearly 7,000 children annually.

Written by

Elizabeth Creekmore is a philanthropist, humanitarian, mother and Southern culture enthusiast located in Jackson, Mississippi.