A few weeks ago, I was asked by a producer at Wondery if I’d be interested in being interviewed for the podcast American History Tellers about Hawaii’s last queen. I hesitated at first because my book on Hawaii had been published more than a decade ago. Agreeing to the interview would mean that I’d have to give myself a crash refresher course on my own book.
History Written by the Victors….
For an example of history being written by the victors, consider the case of Jane Lathrop Stanford, the victim of one of California’s most puzzling unsolved murder mysteries.
As co-founder and primary benefactor of Stanford University, Jane died of strychnine poisoning in 1905 in Waikiki. For nearly a century, the fact of her murder was successfully covered up.
The key figure involved in that cover-up was the university’s first president, David Starr Jordan. He was the victor in shaping how history judged Jane’s contribution as a leading educational philanthropist over the next hundred years or so.
Remembering Judy Yung
Judy Yung’s death this month marks the passing of a gifted and generous scholar. Her groundbreaking work in the history of Asian American women paved the way for a new generation of thinkers and writers.
Along with fellow San Franciscans Him Mark Lai and the Philip P. Choy, Judy Yung made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the Asian American experience. Her focus was on women, a group that had been largely been overlooked by scholars. Judy died on December 14 at her home after a fall, at the age of 74.
Honoring Hawaii’s Queen
At a time when statues are toppling across the nation, one work of public art stands tall.
It is the eight-foot-tall bronze of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’uokalani, who faces the state Capitol in Honolulu. This beautifully rendered artwork, by the American realist sculptor Marianna Pineda, is even more powerful today than it was when it was erected in the 1980s.
If anything, this regal public monument become even more beloved over time. To understand why, watch this PBS American Masters short documentary on the Queen that’s just been released. It’s a wonderful and very moving.
Who Should California Honor?
Father Junipero Serra. Christopher Columbus. Sir Francis Drake. Even Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics to the national anthem.
What do most of the statues being toppled across California have in common?
They’re figures from history who supported white supremacy. And they’re all men.
Five Generations at Cameron House
The Rev. Harry Chuck can trace his family’s history at 920 Sacramento Street back to the late 19th century.
That’s when his grandmother was sold into slavery by her impoverished family in China. Her owners sent her to San Francisco but she was intercepted by immigration officials before she reached one of Chinatown’s many brothels. They brought her instead to the Presbyterian Mission Home on 920 Sacramento Street, which was established in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1874 as a refuge for vulnerable women.
Donaldina Cameron (1869-1968) captured the nation’s imagination at the turn of the 20th century. She was an early anti-human trafficking pioneer who ran a “safe house” for vulnerable girls and young women on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown. A tall, auburn-haired woman with a Scottish lilt, she who fascinated headline writers and the public alike.
The local settings of my latest book…
The women who ran the Mission Home in THE WHITE DEVIL’S DAUGHTERS crossed the country for their work. They pursued sex trafficking cases and checked up on former residents in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
The charitable organization that supported them, the Occidental Board, was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area. And surprisingly, many of the places those 19th and early 20th century churchwomen founded are still around, providing education and social services to their local communities.
Seeking Refuge on the “Castle” Grounds
I’ve walked or biked past our local “castle” hundreds of times: Its Romanesque Revival campus perched on a hillside above my home town has a magical quality to it, particularly at dusk. In the days when our boys were reading J.K. Rowling’s books, it seemed as if Harry Potter might swoop through it spires any moment during a Quidditch match.
Disrupting the Business of Human Trafficking – Then and Now
In 1874, a group of women opened a “safe house” on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Because their work disrupted the thriving trade in women between China and America, they faced endless legal challenges and even sticks of dynamite placed on their doorstep. By offering a place for survivors of sex slavery and other forms of servitude to escape to and drawing public scrutiny to the crime, they threatened their century’s existing business model of human trafficking.