Category Archives: Press

The Star Advertiser: Women led way in Kingdom of Hawaii

By Ann S. Freed and Juanita Mahienaena Brown Kawamoto | The Star Advertiser

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated this year on Aug. 26, celebrating the achievements of women activists since the right to vote was enacted on Aug. 18, 1920. But in Hawaii that right only partially restored what had been the birthright of women in the Kingdom of Hawaii when it was a constitutional monarchy.

As Healoha Johnston, curator of women’s cultural history at the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), explains, Hawaii’s women didn’t realize that the right to vote didn’t automatically guarantee they could also hold office. Before annexation, they experienced a different reality. In 1898, in the independent kingdom Hawaii, women were chiefessess, ambassadors, judges on the Supreme Court, governors and monarchs. By 1890 there were more than 80 Hawaiian embassies worldwide and many of the ambassadors were women.

What is also not well known is that the constitutional monarchy was created with the strong influence of Hawaiian matriarchs. The mission of the monarchy was to preserve Hawaiian culture and independence through diplomacy. In addition Hawaii’s queens were acknowledged internationally as heads of state.

In 1866, Queen Emma visited President Andrew Johnson’s White House to promote Hawaii as an independent nation. Then in 1887, Queen Kapiolani returning from an official visit to the English monarchy, donated a wa‘a, or canoe, “as a gift between two nations.”

But the “right to vote” in the territory of Hawaii created a paradox. Under this new system, women in positions of power, such as Judge Emma Nakuina, could no longer vote on territorial matters.

This paradox was even more ironic given the history of the suffrage movement in Hawaii. Shortly after the overthrow, Nakuina and her protégée Wilhelmina Dowsett began organizing for women’s right to vote on the islands. Dowsett, the daughter of a German immigrant and a Native Hawaiian woman with royal ancestry, spearheaded the fight for suffrage in Hawaii. As a member of a wealthy family with ties to high society, Dowsett leveraged her connections to create the National Women’s Equal Suffrage Association of Hawaii in 1912.

In the following decade, Dowsett and a multiethnic coalition of Hawaii’s women organized speeches in churches, created petitions and held rallies. They wrote countless columns in Hawaiian newspapers and became a key space for communicating about the suffrage debate.

These women saw suffrage as one key part of a larger fight for Hawaiian independence, and the ability of women to participate in their home’s future. This was a way to once again have a voice in determining the rights of the people. They thought that political clout would be restored with the vote.

Sadly, not so much. Clearly, with women in Hawaii earning 80% of what men make and the estimated even-larger pay gap for Native Hawaiian women, we still have a long way to go, both in the restoration of Native Hawaiian rights and the rights all Hawaii’s women.


Ann S. Freed is with the American Association of University Women, Hawaii; Juanita Brown Kawamoto is with the Hawaiian Affairs Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

Mahalo and Welcome: Aviation Scholarship Passes to New Generation

AAUW Honolulu is grateful to Janet Morse for her hard work and leadership as the chair of the AAUW Honolulu Tweet Coleman Aviation Scholarship Committee since 2013. Janet joined AAUW Honolulu as a recent college graduate in 1960, and has gone on to serve in many AAUW positions. She is a past president of AAUW Hawaii, as well as the AAUW Windward Oahu and Honolulu branches, and a former member of the national AAUW Leadership Committee. 

“It has been exciting to experience the growth in applicants and awards, amazing to work with the founder Tweet Coleman and inspiring to meet the future female pilots,” she said.

Under Janet’s leadership, the Tweet Coleman Aviation Scholarship has matured and become more popular, with a record number of 24 applicants in 2021. Janet believes the high number of applicants reflects AAUW Honolulu’s growing reach into the aviation community as well as increased encouragement by airlines. She noted that two of this year’s applicants are flight attendants. Janet has carefully cultivated her team members and is now passing the reins to Nobi Butin, although she will continue to be an active member of the committee. MAHALO, JANET!

Nobi Butin has been awarded the Tweet Coleman Aviation Scholarship multiple times in past years. Her journey in aviation began in 2015, a year after getting injured on the job as a flight attendant. Nobi earned her Certified Flight Instructor Certificate in April 2021. In addition to flight training, she is working towards her bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Nobi’s passion for aviation is infectious. She is an officer in a local organization of women pilots, where she works on volunteer projects and provides mentoring to its members. One of Nobi’s sons is also a flight instructor.

For the past two years, Nobi has been assisting Janet with the Tweet Coleman Aviation Scholarships. She will continue to promote the scholarship through the AAUW Honolulu newsletter and social media. AAUW Honolulu is excited that she has agreed to step up and take on the role of the AAUW Tweet Coleman Scholarship Committee Chair. WELCOME, NOBI!

Featured AAUW Honolulu Volunteer: Lauren Kaupp

Lauren Kaupp loves volunteering with AAUW Honolulu because she gets to interact with young women who are enthusiastic about learning and growing. 

“Everything AAUW does is to empower women, which is very meaningful to me,” she said. “The programs I’ve been able to participate in as part of AAUW have allowed me to connect directly with K-12 students, which I really enjoy, as a former high school teacher.”

Lauren is currently the Science Specialist for the State of Hawaii Department of Education, where her work is centered on providing leadership in science and STEM education initiatives. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry, an M.S. in Oceanography, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. 

Lauren first got involved with AAUW through the now-discontinued TechSavvy program, which aimed to increase awareness of and interest in STEM among middle school girls and their families. She played many roles as part of the team, including co-chairing the event and coordinating the adult program. 

“The STEM work holds a special place in my heart, and although TechSavvy was discontinued, I love that AAUW continues to support women in STEM,” she said.

Lauren has been a mentor for the Girls Talk Back program for 3 years, and she continues to be impressed by the remarkable young women participating in the program. Girls Talk Back empowers young women to find their voices and serve as leaders in addressing issues that they are passionate about in their communities.

“At some point during each Girls Talk Back cohort, I have reflected on how amazing the program is and how much I would have loved such a program when I was in high school,” she said.

Being involved with AAUW has allowed Lauren to grow personally and professionally. In the past, she was able to attend the AAUW National Conference in Washington, D.C. and says the experience was amazing. Lauren is thankful to AAUW Honolulu Board Member Anna Viggiano for bringing her into the AAUW fold. 

“I really value all of the work that AAUW does and appreciate being able to be involved,” she said. 

Honolulu Civil Beat: Too Few Women Get To Invent – That’s A Problem For Women’s Health

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Improve campus sex-assault policies

By Ronja Steinbach  |  June 6, 2021. |  The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

On Sept. 29, 2020, I received an email from the University of Hawaii-Manoa (UHM) Department of Public Safety informing me of a sexual assault on campus. The assault took place at a residence hall across from where I lived during my freshman year.

What happened was not an isolated incident. It is the tip of a very large, very underreported iceberg. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, a staggering 20% of female college students will experience sexual assault. I wish that I was more surprised by the pervasiveness of sexual assault, but it is a reality that too many of us have accepted. I am currently a rising junior and I am the co-president of the American Association of University Women at UHM club and I want to change those statistics.

In colleges, sexual assault and harassment falls under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender. On June 23, 2021, we will be celebrating the 49th anniversary of this law, which was part of the Educational Amendments of 1972. It was principally authored and sponsored by Patsy Mink, the first Asian-American congresswoman, who was born in Hawaii.

As we approach the anniversary and the 2022 legislative session, it is important that we critically examine its efficacy and advocate for necessary changes in it implementation, especially at the University of Hawaii.

Title IX protections for sexual assault victims have long been inadequate. Cases are largely underreported and campus climate surveys from the UH system show alarming trends; from 2017 to 2019, there were statistically significant increases in the incidences of sexual harassment (5.7% to 8%) and dating and domestic violence (10.6% to 12.1%).

Furthermore, changes implemented by the U.S. Department of Education under Betsy DeVos and the former Trump administration undermined the objectives of the law with new rules that favored the perpetrators. One of the most problematic changes allows for the cross-examination of the person reporting the sexual assault. Many students fear reporting incidences and the prospect of being cross-examined further deters survivors from coming forward.

Other rules and guidelines continue to be problematic. One semester is around four months long, yet a case that is brought to the Title IX office has up to 90 days — around three months — to be investigated. A survivor may have a sexual assault case looming over them for nearly an entire semester. Academic performance may decline so the student may experience the setback of an entire semester. There is no question, 90 days is too long. An investigation should be thorough, but considering the severity of the situation, it should be completed, in full, in a timeframe that protects the survivor’s access to their education.

During freshman orientation, we are briefly introduced to Title IX procedures and available campus resources. That is not enough. Most students do not remember or feel that it is relevant to them. As an employee for UH, I have also completed the annual sexual assault training for the workplace. It is not effective.

Sexual assault awareness curriculum and training should be mandated for everyone in the UH system. It should be reviewed and designed in collaboration with students, so that it is relevant, and stops being viewed as an inconvenient but necessary task. Overviews of UH policies and information about campus resources should also be provided more frequently.

Awareness and support for better Title IX guidelines and a rollback of the toxic attempt by the previous administration to weaken its protections is imperative. We need to continue the fight to change the rape culture in which we live by having appropriate policies in place.


Ronja Steinbach, a rising University of Hawaii-Manoa junior, is co-president of the American Association of University Women at UH-Manoa.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Professional development will enable women to ascend, Oct. 20, 2019

AAUW Honolulu Career and Leadership Development Grant recipient Sara Ward penned this op-ed about the importance of professional development for women.

Read it here or if you aren’t a subscriber to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, read it below.


Column: Professional development will enable women to ascend
By Sara Ward

Oct. 20, 2019

It’s been a very long time since women were a novelty in the workplace — but why does equality still elude our workplaces?

Nationally, women make 20% less than men do on average. In your place of work, chances are the women make 82 cents on the dollar that a man, who’s doing the same job and with the same experience, makes on the average. That number is from AAUW’s most recent research into the issue, “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” (from 2018’s U.S. Census Bureau numbers). That pay disparity increases for women who are minorities.

In Hawaii, AAUW’s research on gender wage-gap numbers, also from the Census, found that the state was above that average in 2015 with 84 cents to every dollar a man made on average. But in 2017, women made just 81 cents to every dollar a man made; in 2018, it was 83 cents.

In a state where the cost of living is unbearably high to begin with, any kind of pay disparity — especially one tied to gender — is too much.

It’s been estimated that at the current rate of progress, the gender wage gap will close in 2105. That’s not a typo. But even if the gender wage gap was eliminated, women in the workplace face even more hurdles.

Women also face the challenge of advancement in their careers. Nationally, less than 29% are executives, according to AAUW’s 2016 study, “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership.” The numbers are even worse for women of color, comprising less than 4% of executives and managers.

This is why just addressing the gender wage gap isn’t enough. Women need to take the issues of wage equity and representation in upper management as intertwined and symbiotic.

Hawaii’s made progress in addressing the wage gap through recently passed laws that allow employees to talk about how much they make without fear of retaliation or ask for salary history.

But C-level executives shouldn’t just pat their backs and call it a day. They must examine their employee pool and their management teams and take an honest look at their policies regarding pay and advancement. Even companies with corporate cultures that think of themselves as progressive have implicit bias that underpays women and holds them back from contributing fully as senior management members.

Researchers have found stereotypes associated with leadership are overwhelmingly masculine and this shapes subconscious promotion decisions that skew toward men, even if people claim to have no bias toward which gender is in charge.

Grooming the next generation of leaders is always an important responsibility of any company’s leadership. But in many cases the continuing education for additional training and certification overlooks women. The opportunity to attend important networking events like conferences and conventions, which help build the professional relationships so important to becoming an effective corporate leader, often go to men.

I am lucky to work in theater production. I’ve worked as a volunteer, a child actor wrangler, line prompter, set changer, props designer, box office manager, officer manager and now assistant executive director.

It’s a profession I feel passionate about. However, I’m even luckier to have worked for people, and to continue to work for people, who recognize the contributions I bring to my job and nurture my potential with management responsibilities.

The faith and opportunities my superiors have shown me and given me in my career are true blessings. However, I do realize that many women, who are deserving of being managers or executives, are often overlooked.

Companies across Hawaii should ask themselves if they are doing enough to give the women in their organizations the opportunity to reach their full professional potential.