Surfing Champion, Hula Masters, Educators and Advocates on Hawaii Women of the Century list
by Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY - August 14, 2020:
Is this a mana wahine?
In Hawaiian, mana wahine translates to “powerful woman,” and as a panel of experts worked to select Hawaii’s Women of the Century, they kept coming back to this phrase.
Did this woman motivate and inspire others to be courageous? How has she given back to Hawaii and its people? Is she committed to keeping Hawaiian traditions and stories alive? Those are the characteristics of a mana wahine, and it was crucial that every woman on the list fit them.
This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when American women won the right to vote, the USA TODAY Network is naming 10 women from every state, plus the District of Columbia, as “Women of the Century.” These women have made significant contributions to their communities, states and country with documented achievements in areas like arts and literature, business, civil rights, education, entertainment, law, media, nonprofits and philanthropy, politics, science and medicine, and sports. The women had to have been alive during the last 100 years -- 1920 to 2020.
Hawaii has a long history of powerful women, the most notable being Queen Liliʻuokalani, Hawaii’s only queen regent and the last sovereign monarch, who ruled from 1891 until the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. She is revered across the state, with numerous hula events held in her memory, and various centers and events named in her honor.
Queen Liliʻuokalani, however, did not possess one important piece of criteria for the Women of the Century project: She hasn’t been alive since 1920, the year the 19th Amendment passed (she died in 1917).
But her legacy lives on in many of the women on our final list, matriarchs of their families who fought to ensure that the Hawaiian language and traditions would not only survive in the modern era, but thrive. Most of the women on this list are Hawaii’s Hulu kupuna, highly prized elders who possess an inspirational spirit and wisdom that’s cherished on the islands. Some of the younger women on the list, like 27-year-old surfer Carissa Moore, aren’t yet old enough to be elders – but they’re on that trajectory.
Choosing just 10 women proved to be challenging given the number of amazing women who have called the state home. Some women almost made the list, like former U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman in the Senate and the first woman Hawaiian voters sent to the Senate. Puanani Burgess, a Buddhist priest, poet and cultural translator, who now embraces her role as “community Aunty,” also was a contender. Michelle Wie, the youngest player to ever qualify for an LPGA Tour event, inspired generations of aspiring golfers.
All are worthy choices but in the end, did not make our top 10. The final list is comprised of women who represent Hawaii with honor, pride and aloha, or love. To outsiders, aloha seems like a simple, friendly greeting; but to those who know Hawaii, it is a word rife with deep cultural and spiritual meaning. To represent Hawaii with aloha is one of the highest honors bestowed on a Hawaiian resident.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, also known as Kumu Hina, is a Kanaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiian, teacher, Kumu Hula (hula master), filmmaker, cultural practitioner, community leader and a modern transgender woman. She was the founding member of Kūlia Nā Mamo, a community transgender health organization established in 2003 to help improve the quality of life for māhū wahine, a traditional third gender person who exists between male and female.
Kalu spent 13 years as the Director of Culture at Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School in Honolulu, and was one of the first transgender candidates for statewide political office in the U.S. Previously, she served as the chair of the O’ahu Island Burial Council, which oversees the management of Native Hawaiian burial sites.
She now serves as community advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, where she helps Native Hawaiian inmates prepare to be productive members of society. Kalu co-directed and produced the film, "Lady Eva," and a feature documentary, "Leitis in Waiting," about the struggle of the Indigenous transgender community in Tonga. Both won awards at several film festivals and have been broadcast on stations across the world.
Her latest film, Kapaemahu, an animated short she co-directed with her longtime collaborators Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, premiered at Tribeca, and has qualified for an Academy Award nomination.
See full list HERE.