5 Notable Women Writers and Changemakers
March is Women‘s History Month. We rounded up some intriguing books by and about women from Hawai‘i.
From historical figures to everyday heroines, trailblazing women have touched every aspect of life in the Islands. From across the sea to across the nation—and into our local neighborhoods—these authors, poets, adventurers, are just a few Hawai‘i changemakers whose compelling lives and stories have impacted our world in big and small ways.
by Isabella Aiona Abbott
With her years of scientific research and teachings, Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott’s life work and legacy can be seen in this extensive resource guide about Hawaiian plants and their traditional uses. As a Native Hawaiian, Dr. Abbott illustrates the vital relationship between Hawai‘i’s flora and fauna and Hawaiian culture, and helps readers connect to their natural ecosystem through everyday life—illustrating how plants have traditionally been used as food, medicines, religious objects and for personal adornment. Stanford Hopkin’s Marine Station named a lecture hall after Dr. Abbot, honoring her work as a biological studies professor. Now, the University of Hawai‘i has followed suit, renaming the Life Sciences Building after our “First Lady of Limu.”
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by Susan M. Schultz
Lilith Walks is the culmination of several of the author’s talents: observation, paying close attention, and the art of small talk. During the pandemic, Dr. Schultz started to encounter and notice interesting nuances of life during daily walks with her dog Lilith. Her book is a collection of her collected vignettes. The author writes with humor, tenderness, curiosity, and a need to question the realities of the moment. As an English professor and founding editor of Tinfish Press, Dr. Schultz dedicated years to expanding the field of publishing in our state. Now in retirement, she continues to offer thoughtful reads to make us think, laugh, and feel inspired to take a walk through our neighborhood. With or without a dog (though it’s probably more fun with a dog in tow), we must all make connections with the world right outside our door.
by Brandy Nālani McDougall
Hawai‘i’s current Poet Laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall explores contemporary Hawaiian literature with the central connecting and historical theme of Kaona, “a practice of layering and veiling meaning as well as of finding meaning.” Through these works, McDougall celebrates indigenous voices and explores Hawaiian identity, culture, politics, and ecology. A professor of Indigenous studies at UH Mānoa, McDougall continues to expand and deepen our understanding of what it means to be Hawaiian through her example and literary works.
by Audrey Sutherland
In this memoir, solo wilderness adventurer Audrey Sutherland shares her Moloka‘i adventures and embrace of the philosophy, “Go simple, go solo, go now.” Pursuing her dream of traversing the Moloka‘i sea cliffs in the late 1950s, Sutherland defied societal norms and forged her own path alone—kayaking and swimming the dangerous Moloka‘i channels. Despite the perils and struggle, Sutherland persevered and discovered the isolated beauty of the then untouched Moloka‘i. Moreover, she showed us what can be achieved when preparation meets determination. This lyrical book will call us all to go simple, go solo, and go now.
by Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink
Explore this biography of first Asian American Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, Mink served for 24 years, advocating for women’s rights throughout her career. One of her most significant contributions was helping to pass legislation to allow girls to participate in organized school sports. Authors Judy Tzu-Chun and Mink’s own daughter Gwendolyn Mink illustrate the dynamics and hardship she faced as a woman and third-generation Japanese American. Insightfully written, Fierce and Fearless gives us a window into the significant life of the Honorable Patsy Takemoto Mink and her vital contributions to improving life for Hawai‘i residents.
All of these books can be ordered through da Shop, our 2020 Best of HONOLULU winner for Best Place to Find Your Next Great Read. Find more suggestions here. The Kaimukī bookseller is open for browsing Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.