Queen Emma of Hawai'i

Hawaii's history is full of interesting stoires and personalities. One of the more beloved and influential characters is Queen Emma, who co-founded The Queen's Medical Center.

Emma, who was one-quater Caucasian, was born in January 1836 to High Chief George Na'ea and High Chiefess Fanny Kekelaokalani Young. Before her birth, though, baby Emma had been promised to her aunt through adoption, or the Hawaiian tradition of hanai. Chiefess Grace Kama'iku'i Young Rooke and her husband, Dr. Thomas C.B. Rooke were unable to have children, and raised Emma as their own.
Dr. Rooke was a young English surgeon who was serving as the court physician.
Grace was the only royal part-Hawaiian chiefess to marry a white man in her generation.
Growing up in Honolulu at Rooke House, Emma acquired a broad education influenced by her adoptive parents' backgrounds in both cultures. She became very well read, fluent in Hawaiian and English, and was famous for her accomplishments as a horsewoman. She also sang, played piano and danced.

At 20, Emma married Alexander Liholiho, who was also known as King Kamahameha IV. She became Queen Consort Emma Kalanikaumakaamano Kaleleonalani Na'ea Rooke. What's a queen consort? it simply means that she was the wife of a reigning king.

The Young queen soon became involved in matters of the court, particularly in humanitarian efforts and expansion of the scholarly library. Influenced by her hanai father, she encouraged her husband to establish a public hospital to help native Hawaiians.

Visitors to the Islands had brought diseases like smallpox with them that the natives had no defense against, and which were rapidly decimating the population. The king and queen personally gathered over $13,000 by going door to door in Honolulu, and in 1859, they established The Queen's Hospital. Dr. Rooke died only a few months before its completion. Named in Emma's honor, the hospital had 18 patient beds. Within a year, a large building was built with an additional 124 beds.

It took time to convince the Hawaiians to take advantage of the new hospital, as many prefered their traditional healing methods. The queen formed an organization to promote the hospital's services to the natives, and visited patients there almost daily whenever she was in residence in Honolulu. It is now called the Queen's Medical Center.

Queen Emma, often said, "People are the key to healing." The Queen's Medical Center has adopted a philosophy of care called Lokomaika'i, to honor that statement. Lokomaika'i translates as "inner health."

At her death, Emma left the bulk of her estate, some 13,000 acres of land on the Big Island and in Waikiki on Oahu, in trust for the hospital that honors her. The Queen Emma Foundation was set up to provide continuous lease income for the hospital. Some of its holdings include the land where the International Marketplace and Waikiki Town Center building sit.

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