The late Edith Kanaka’ole, a leading Native Hawaiian teacher during the Hawaiian Renaissance movement of the 1970s, was declared one of five women to be honored in the 2023 American Women Quarters program.
The American Women Quarters Program by the U.S. Mint celebrates women who have made significant impacts on the development and history of the country by featuring their portraits on quarters. For the upcoming year, Edith Kanaka’ole, as well as Bessie Coleman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar and Maria Tallchief were chosen.
The U.S. Mint selected Kanaka’ole because “her moʻolelo, or stories, served to rescue aspects of Hawaiian history, customs, and traditions that were disappearing due to the cultural bigotry of the time.”
Born in Honomu, Hawaii, Kanaka’ole was an internationally recognized Hawaiian composer, chanter, dancer, teacher and entertainer.
In 1946, Kanaka’ole started composing oli, or Hawaiian chants, because she believed them to be the foundation of Hawaiian culture and history.
In 1953, Kanaka’ole also founded Hālau o Kekuhi, an internationally recognized hula company known for its aiha’a or “low-postured, vigorous, bombastic style of hula that springs from the eruptive volcano personas of Pele and Hiʻiaka, characteristic of Hawaiʻi Island’s creative forces.”
During the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970s, Kanaka’ole helped revive Indigenous cultures by teaching Indigenous practices, traditions and languages. She helped develop the first Hawaiian language program and a Hawaiian Studies mentorship program in Keaukaha School in Hilo.
She led hula classes at Hawaii Community College from 1971 to 1979 and at the University of Hawaii at Hilo from 1973 to 1979. Kanaka’ole also taught Hawaiian studies courses such as ethnobotany, genealogy, Polynesian history and Hawaiian oral arts. She died in 1978.
For 2022, the U.S. Mint placed portraits of Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong on quarters.