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Rosalie Keliʻinoe

Rosalie Enos Lyons Keliʻinoi (September 18, 1875 – November 2, 1952) was a Hawaiian politician. She was elected in 1925 to represent Sixth District of the Territorial House, which encompassed the island of Kauaʻi. In doing so, she became the first woman to sit in the Hawaiian Legislature since the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown.

Keliʻinoi was born in Wailuku, Maui. She was the daughter of Augustine Enos, a Portuguese immigrant merchant and rancher, and Kininia Makaokatani Enos, a farmer from Koloa, Kauaʻi. Keliʻinoi was educated at St. Anthony’s School for Girls on Maui and Sacred Hearts Convent in Honolulu.

In 1917, Keliʻinoi and her second husband Samuel Keliʻinoi — a successful Maui politician — moved from Maui to Kauaʻi to homestead land at Kapaʻa. With the support of her politically active husband and Kauaʻi Territorial Senator Charles Rice’s backing, Rosalie Keliʻinoi entered the political arena herself in 1924 and was elected to the 1925 Territorial Legislature.

Keliʻinoi only served one term during her time in office, but in that time, she proposed 16 bills and is credited with the passage of four bills, two of which specifically improved the welfare and agency of women living in Hawaiʻi.

Act 274 to provide married women the right to own, control, or sell property that they had owned prior to marriage - without consent of their husbands. Prior to this act, a married woman had no property rights in Hawaiʻi. She could not sell or give away land without her husband's consent. This act guaranteed women the right to own property, and designated a woman's property as separate from her husband's, allowing women to do with their land what they pleased.

Act 31 secured funds for pregnant women's welfare, specifically including support for women who became pregnant due to rape or domestic sexual violence, as well as funding for infant health. Keli'inoi took personal interest is such legislation after her mother had died in childbirth and she lost her two daughters at young ages.

She also pressed for Act 68, which awarded Kauaʻi teacher Adelaide Baggott back pay, filling the gap between her salary and what she should have received. Her fourth law was Act 51, which resutled in the Territorial government purchasing and restoring Huliheʻe Palace, the historic former vacation home of Hawaiʻi's Queen Emma Kaleleonalani in Kailua-Kona. The legislature then allowed the Daughters of Hawaiʻi to run it as a museum.

Outside of her brief and accomplished career in politics, she was a skilled pianist, and practiced kapa kuiki, traditional Hawaiian quilt making. Keliʻinoi loved meeting people and entertaining. She spoke Hawaiian fluently and was an accomplished pianist and Hawaiian quilt maker. At public functions her typical dress featured a black holoku with a Portuguese comb decorating her hair. She was lively, animated, and devoted to her family.

Keliʻinoi served as an example for women from Hawai’i who increasingly took on public roles in Hawaiʻi, including Elise Wilcox and Patsy Mink. As Hawaii's first female legislator, Keliʻinoi paved the way for women in Hawai’i politics. She was a champion for women’s rights who was ahead of her time, and her pivotal impact is still being felt today.

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