Abigail Campbell Kawānanakoa was born on 1 January 1882 in the Campell House on Emma Street in Honolulu as the daughter of James Campbell, a wealthy industrialist from Ireland, and Abigail Kuaihelani Maipinepine Bright. Abigail was their eldest surviving daughter and one of the four (out of eight) surviving children of her parents.
Abigail was educated at private schools in Honolulu before she joined her father in California, where he was doing business. In California, she attended the College of Notre Dame, and she graduated in 1900. During this time, she converted from Protestantism to Catholicism. Her father – who was 32 years older than her mother – died in 1900 at the age of 74 and he had been one of the largest landowners in Hawaii, and thus he left a large estate.
In 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown, but Abigail still received the courtesy title of Princess when she married Prince David Laʻamea Kahalepouli Kinoiki Kawānanakoa – the son of Victoria Kinoiki Kekaulike – on 6 January 1902. He had been granted the title of Prince and style of His Royal Highness in 1883 by King Kalākaua, and he was declared the third heir – after then princess Liliʻuokalani and princess Kaʻiulani – to the throne. Abigail married David at the Occidental Hotel in a ceremony performed by Archbishop Riordan. Her mother made sure Abigail’s assets were protected as David was known to be a spendthrift, and he had agreed to a prenuptial agreement. Abigail’s mother had remarried to Colonel Samuel Parker in the same hotel just two days before.
Abigail and David went on to have three children together: Abigail (1903), David (1904) and Lydia (1905), but it was to be a short marriage. Prince David died of pneumonia on 2 June 1908 – he was still only 41 years old. He had converted to Catholicism a year before his death. Prince David left his estate to his son David and daughter Lydia. The eldest daughter was probably left out as she was one of the heirs of her grandmother – having been officially adopted by her the same year of her father’s death.
There was more heartbreak to come for the elder Abigail. Not only did she lose her husband, but her mother also died that same year in October – of heart failure following a breast cancer operation. The Campbell estate was worth 3 to 4 million dollars, and her mother held a lifetime interest in it, and she was entitled to one-half of the income, while the other half was divided among her four daughters. Her half reverted to the estate upon her death, and the income was divided among her heirs. In addition, she also left a large estate, independent of her first husband’s estate, and it was her granddaughter Abigail who was one of the heirs of this estate.
Unfortunately, not much is known of the elder Abigail’s life from 1909 until 1924. She was reportedly booked to travel on the Titanic but cancelled her booking before the sailing. She would later organise a collection that raised some $1,000 from the women of Hawaii, which was given to the Women’s Titanic Memorial Association. She became more politically after 1922, upon the death of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, her brother-in-law. Abigail was a Republic like him and her stepfather Samuel Parker, and she was a keen party worker. Abigail became the first woman from Hawaii to serve on the party’s national committee and stayed on from 1924 until 1936. She first registered to vote on 8 February 1922, following the passage of the 19th amendment of the United States Constitution. She was an active supporter of women’s rights in Hawaii and was an advocate for jury service for women. After her brother-in-law’s death, she effectively became the leader of the Native Hawaiian community, and she often acted as an official hostess for visiting dignitaries.
In 1933, her son David was convicted of the manslaughter of a young woman named Felicity Connors due to reckless driving, and he was given a suspended sentence. In 1937, his common-law wife Arvilla Kinslea was found stabbed in the neck. He was in violation of his probation by even living with her and was quickly arrested.1 He eventually pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years which would run consecutively with the suspended sentence of the Felicity Connors manslaughter.2 It is unclear when he was released, but his obituary later stated he served in the United States Navy and the Coast Guard during the Second World War, making it unlikely that he served the full ten years.
In 1936, the Paradise of the Pacific noted: “Much as a loving and beloved queen champions the welfare of her devoted subjects and loyal admirers, Princess Kawananakoa has many a time and oft interceded for the humbler citizen in the now complicated and more or less mysterious American political game which became part of one-time royal Hawaii’s simple and happy (if not always scientific) government.”3
During the Second World War, Abigail lent her beach house to the United Service Organisation for use as a recreation centre for the American armed forces and also leased her home in Honolulu to the Service Women’s Club. Unfortunately, she did not live to see the end of the war – she died in Honolulu on 12 April 1945. She was interred in the Mauna ʻAla Royal Mausoleum three days later beside her husband. During the service Edward Kahale, pastor of the Kawaiaha’o Church said, “Within her great and generous heart, within her amazing breadth of mentality, her infinite sympathy, her dauntless courage and her unshakable constancy in the wise leadership of the people of her race lay her most significant patent of royalty; hers by Divine inspiration.”4 The Senate of the Territory of Hawaii passed Senate Resolution 46 on 16 April and honoured her by noting, “in her death, Hawaii has lost the last link with the Hawaiian Crown.”5
Through her two daughters, she had four grandchildren.6
- Kawananakoa, Accused as the Killer of Girl, Is Held to Have Violated Parole
- Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter, but May Get Quick Release From Prison Board
- Princess Abigail Kawananakoa: the Forgotten Territorial Native Hawaiian Leader by Richard A. Hawkins p.173
- Death Rites and Hawaiian Royalty by Ralph Thomas Kam p.174
- Death Rites and Hawaiian Royalty by Ralph Thomas Kam p.173
- Read more: Princess Abigail Kawananakoa: the Forgotten Territorial Native Hawaiian Leader by Richard A. Hawkins