Hawaiian by Birth

Hawaiian by Birth

Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific

Joy Schulz

Studies in Pacific Worlds Series

240 pages
21 photographs, 7 illustrations, 1 map, index


September 2017


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2017


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

September 2017


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Twelve companies of American missionaries were sent to the Hawaiian Islands between 1819 and 1848 with the goal of spreading American Christianity and New England values. By the 1850s American missionary families in the islands had birthed more than 250 white children, considered Hawaiian subjects by the indigenous monarchy and U.S. citizens by missionary parents. In Hawaiian by Birth Joy Schulz explores the tensions among the competing parental, cultural, and educational interests affecting these children and, in turn, the impact the children had on nineteenth-century U.S. foreign policy.

These children of white missionaries would eventually alienate themselves from the Hawaiian monarchy and indigenous population by securing disproportionate economic and political power. Their childhoods—complicated by both Hawaiian and American influences—led to significant political and international ramifications once the children reached adulthood. Almost none chose to follow their parents into the missionary profession, and many rejected the Christian faith. Almost all supported the annexation of Hawai‘i despite their parents’ hope that the islands would remain independent.

Whether the missionary children moved to the U.S. mainland, stayed in the islands, or traveled the world, they took with them a sense of racial privilege and cultural superiority. Schulz adds children’s voices to the historical record with this first comprehensive study of the white children born in the Hawaiian Islands between 1820 and 1850 and their path toward political revolution.


Author Bio

Joy Schulz is a member of the history faculty at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.


"A compelling and thought-provoking study of nineteenth-century American missionary children in Hawai‘i—the generation that orchestrated the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and annexation to the United States. While the political story has been told, Joy Schulz adds considerably to our understanding of the social and cultural milieu of settler children who came to see the islands of their birth as their birthright. Hawaiian By Birth underscores the importance of family relations and generational difference to understanding the complexities of American empire. Clearly and concisely written, the book is well suited for classroom use."—Seth Archer, Western Historical Quarterly

"A thoughtful treatment fusing the study of childhood with imperialism."—CHOICE

"Both general reader and scholar will benefit from reading Schulz’s excellent contribution to the study of 19th century Hawaiian history and the role the children of white missionaries played in shaping it."—Reading Religion

"Schulz's child-centric approach is methodologically invigorating, and her interweaving of social and political events and trends with interpersonal emotions and tensions is a valuable contribution. In taking children seriously as historical figures, she gives them agency while also providing a much fuller consideration of mission colonialism in the Pacific. Hers is an engaging and persuasive reminder to take the history of children and childhood seriously. . . . Strong primary-source research and an engaging writing style make this book a valuable contribution to scholars of American relations with Hawai'i."—Emily J. Manktelow, Journal of Pacific History

Hawaiian by Birth is a superb study at the dynamic intersection of imperial, Hawaiian, cultural, and childhood histories. Joy Schulz is a passionate writer, and her work is filled with surprising implications for the history of nineteenth-century Hawai‘i.”—David Igler, author of The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush

“We understand that the normative, heterosexual family constitutes the nation-state. This remarkable, innovative study reveals the centrality of that family in ‘birthing empire’ through a history of childhood. Race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion intersect to advance U.S. imperialism in the Pacific and settler colonialism in Hawai‘i.”—Gary Y. Okihiro, author of Island World: Hawai‘i and the United States

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Imperial Children and Empire Formation in the Nineteenth Century
1. Birthing Empire: Economies of Childrearing and the Establishment of American Colonialism in Hawai‘i
2. Playing with Fire: White Childhood and Environmental Legacies in Nineteenth-Century Hawai‘i
3. Schooling Power: Teaching Anglo–Civic Duty in the Hawaiian Islands, 1841–53
4. Cannibals in America: U.S. Acculturation and the Construction of National Identity in Nineteenth-Century White Immigrants from the Hawaiian Islands
5. Crossing the Pali: White Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and the Racial Divide in Hawai‘i, 1820–98
Conclusion: White Hawaiians before the World

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