Emma Kaʻilikapuolono Nakuina
Emma Kaʻilikapuolono Metcalf Beckley Nakuina is widely regarded as the first female judge of Hawaii. Born in 1847, her mother's family came from kaukau aliʻi, lesser chiefs who served the Hawaiian Monarchy. Her father was a businessman from New York. Emma was well educated, attending a seminary school in Benicia, California, and learning Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, and English from her father.
Most importantly, she learned the Hawaiian laws regarding the distribution of water and was appointed as a Commissioner for Private Ways and Water Rights in 1892. The next year, the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in a US backed coup. Emma was faced with an impossible choice: continue to serve as Commissioner, which meant working with the colonizers, or quit, and take her expertise in traditional Hawaiian law with her. She chose to stay, and remained responsible for water rights under the evolving Republic and territorial government until 1907, when the circuit courts took her role. Emma never held the official title, but she is regarded as Hawaii's first female judge.
In later life, Emma wrote and published a book on Hawaiian myths and legends. Ostensibly meant as a guide for tourists, her writing did not hide her disdain for foreign influence on the islands. It is unsurprising the territorial tourism organization chose not to distribute her book. She also was a member of the Hawaiian Historical Society and the Daughters of Hawaii.