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Portuguese Hawaiian Profile: Rosalie Enos Keli'inoi, First Female Legislator
By Melody Lassalle

Rosalie Enos was born in 1875, Wailuku, Maui. Her father was Portuguese and her mother Hawaiian. Her father, probably Augustine Enos Sr., was a rancher and businessman in Makawao.

Rosalie grew up on Maui. She was a student at St. Anthony's School for Girls in Wailuku. Rosalie eloped at around the age of 18 with Thomas Lyons. Thomas owned a saloon and was a politician. Rosalie and Thomas had seven kids: John (Augustin?), Francis (possibly died before 1910), Thomas, Timothy, Enos, Kipoikai, and Francis. The family lived in Wailuku until their divorce in 1916.

Rosalie remarried to Samuel Keli'inoi (aka Kellinov). He was a successful politician in the local Republican Party. Rosalie and Samuel moved to Kapaa, Kauai in 1917. None of their children are listed with them in the 1920 census, so it is uncertain if any of them also made the move.

Rosalie was surrounded by politics most of her life. Her father was said to be interested in the subject and both her husbands dabbled in politics. Her interest grew after her second marriage. In 1924, she was convinced to run for office. In 1925, Rosalie became the first female elected to the Territorial House Legislature.

Rosalie was not an idle official. She introduce 16 bills in 1925, four of which were approved. Rosalie was deeply concerned with improving the plight of women in the Hawaiian islands and many of the bills she introduced were meant to do just that!

The most important was Act 274. Prior to this act, a married woman had no property rights in Hawaii. A married woman had no control over her land. She could not sell or give away land without her husband's consent. This act guaranteed women the right to own property. The act also designated a woman's property as separate from her husband's. This allowed women to do with their land what they pleased.

There was more to Rosalie than family and politics. She was a woman of many talents. She was fluent in Hawaiian, skilled at "kapa kuiki kuiki" (Hawaiian quilt making), and an accomplished pianist. As Hawaii's first female legislator, she paved the way for Hawaiian woman of the future.

© 2003 Melody Lassalle - All Rights Reserved

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