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From Slave to Groundbreaking Educator in Hawaii

March 5, 2014

Betsey Stockton was a pioneer in education in the Hawaiian Islands.

Throughout “National Women’s History Month” (March) we’ll be highlighting some of the extraordinary women that have shaped the history of our Pacific Islands. Some of these women were of royal blood and made changes from the highest places of power, but today we’ll be taking a quick look at someone who was at the very bottom of American society of her time.

Betsey Stockton, born in 1798, was a slave of the president of Princeton, was freed and later commissioned as a missionary to the “Sandwich Islands” (the name then given to Hawaii). When she told of her desire to be a missionary, her master gave her her freedom and she was accepted as a member of the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missionaries. Arriving in 1823 with the 2nd Company of Protestant missionaries from New England, she went on to found the very first school for commoners (on Maui), teaching history, English, Latin and algebra. She is believed to have been the very first single woman and first African American woman to reside in Hawaii.

Although she did not stay very long in Hawaii, this school that she helped start was the beginning of public education in Hawaii. Her story is just one of countless women who have influenced these islands.

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