Agueda Iglesias Johnston

Agueda Iglesias Johnston was a Chamorro educator and civic leader. Born in 1892 in Hagåtña, she started teaching when she was just sixteen years old. She became the principal of the Almacen Grammar School, the first junior high school in Guam, in 1925. In 1936 she became the principal of the island’s senior high school.

The Japanese Army occupied the island immediately after Pearl Harbor. Johnston’s husband, William Gautier Johnston, was a Lieutenant in the US Navy and was taken as a prisoner of war to Japan. Agueda Johnston was a community leader of the Chamorro people during the occupation. She kept secret radios to tune in to Allied updates on the war and distributed this information to the community with bars of soap.

She also gave supplies to George Tweed, the one US Navy radioman who was holding out on the island. At first, he was an icon of hope to the Chamorro. Once the Japanese began torturing people who were suspected of helping Tweed, she pleaded with him to surrender and spare their suffering. Tweed never surrendered, and Johnston was captured and interrogated by the Japanese. She endured torture and never gave up any information. Eventually she was released, only to learn that her husband had died in a POW camp in Japan.

After the war, Johnston returned to being the Principal of George Washington High School. She successfully lobbied the Americans to establish a Guam Holiday commemorating the American recapture of the island on July 21. She was a member of the Guam Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Guam Memorial Board of Trustees, and a founding member of the Guam Women’s Club. After her death in 1977, a middle school in Guam was renamed in her honor.