Island Queens and Mission Wives

How Gender and Empire Remade Hawai‘i’s Pacific World

By Jennifer Thigpen

180 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6883-3
    Published: November 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-1429-8
    Published: March 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1430-4
    Published: March 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4593-1
    Published: March 2014

Gender and American Culture

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In the late eighteenth century, Hawai'i's ruling elite employed sophisticated methods for resisting foreign intrusion. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, American missionaries had gained a foothold in the islands. Jennifer Thigpen explains this important shift by focusing on two groups of women: missionary wives and high-ranking Hawaiian women. Examining the enduring and personal exchange between these groups, Thigpen argues that women's relationships became vital to building and maintaining the diplomatic and political alliances that ultimately shaped the islands' political future. Male missionaries' early attempts to Christianize the Hawaiian people were based on racial and gender ideologies brought with them from the mainland, and they did not comprehend the authority of Hawaiian chiefly women in social, political, cultural, and religious matters. It was not until missionary wives and powerful Hawaiian women developed relationships shaped by Hawaiian values and traditions--which situated Americans as guests of their beneficent hosts--that missionaries successfully introduced Christian religious and cultural values.

Incisively written and meticulously researched, Thigpen's book sheds new light on American and Hawaiian women's relationships, illustrating how they ultimately provided a foundation for American power in the Pacific and hastened the colonization of the Hawaiian nation.

About the Author

Jennifer Thigpen is assistant professor of history at Washington State University.
For more information about Jennifer Thigpen, visit the Author Page.


Island Queens and Mission Wives explores the relationship of exchange between two cultures. . . . [and] provides a deeper look into the early days of colonialism in Hawai’i and a richer understanding of Hawaiian culture and diplomacy.”--Washington State Magazine

“An important contribution to the historiography of missions, colonialism, and Hawaii.”--Journal of American History

“There is much to contemplate here, not only for historians interested in the Pacific, gender, colonialism, or American religious movements, but also for those interested in the economics of barter, the politics of fashion and style, and the problems of historical interpretation.”--American Historical Review

“Carefully reexamines the familiar story of Hawaii’s transformation and gets her readers to look at it in a new way.”--The Historian

"Advances the scholarship on missionary and Hawaiian women. . . . Thigpen breaks new ground by investigating the generative encounters between the new groups."--NAIS

“An in-depth critical analysis of the gendered nature of diplomacy in this period in Hawaiian history. . . . [Thigpen] makes a convincing argument for the importance of both mission wives and elite Hawaiian women in these early encounters.”--H-Diplo