Beatrice Kapua'okalani Hilmer Krauss: an extraordinary woman

Painting of Beatrice Kapua'okalani Hilmer Krauss



March 5, 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of Beatrice Kapua'okalani Hilmer Krauss, Caroline's grand auntie.  Just last week in Kauai we found some of Auntie Bea's books for sale in a museum bookstore, not an uncommon occurrence in Hawaii:

Caroline with 2 of Bea Krauss' books.  Bea didn't know how to type, so she typed all the drafts with one finger on a manual typewriter.


I don't know a lot about Bea's past.  I met her when Caroline took me on my first trip to Hawaii to meet her relatives.  We drove up to the UH Lyon Arboretum, where Bea was either working or volunteering.  I remember feeling under some pressure to behave myself!  Over time, I came to recognize Bea Krauss as a committed, friendly, ethical, and serious person.  When LDS missionaries came to her front door one day I was visiting, she seemed delighted. She brought them inside for a chit-chat and some lemonade, then sent them on their way (I could tell they had stopped by before... this was their lemonade break).  After she passed in 1998, I was looking into her history, and what I found will no doubt be included in some history student's thesis some day!


From left, siblings Fred, Dorothea with Noel on lap, and Beatrice.  The dog's name was Sport.

Luckily for me, Bea Krauss wrote a chapter of her remembrances in the book Manoa: The Story Of A Valley.  She was born on the original Kamehameha School grounds (where her father was a teacher) and grew up in Honolulu, then moved with her family to Maui in 1912 to live on a 50 acre Hawaiian homestead for 6-10 years (the requirement to receive title to the land; one of 50 opened that year).  When she returned to Honolulu, she entered the University of Hawaii, where she received her BS and MS degrees, the first woman to receive a degree in agriculture from UH.





The first notice I found of her activities was a 1939 newspaper article, announcing her return to Hawaii after a year abroad.  "After being marooned two and one half months in the Azores islands when steamers ceased calling there because of the outbreak of war in Europe, Miss Beatrice H. Krauss returned to Honolulu on the Lurline late Wednesday afternoon."  She had been visiting the Canary Islands to study pineapple culture (she was an assistant plant physiologist with the Pineapple Producers Cooperative Association).


•  In 1948, there was a note that she was speaking at the Baha'i Center on "Aspects of the United States of America's Road to Freedom."  

•  I never knew her politics.  But she hit the news in 1948, during the trial of labor activist John Reinecke.  Reinecke was a local teacher (Kalakaua Intermediate School?) and accused of being a communist during the Red Scare era.  The school was seeking the dismissal of he and his wife, and wanted to revoke their teaching certifications (I suspect this is a pretty serious issue if you are a teacher).  Bea was one of 4 people who testified in their defense.  "Assuming they were Communists, she said, she still would feel 'they would be fair teachers.'" "When Mr. Sylva [board chairman of the territorial school commission] asked [Bea Krauss] if she had ever asked the Reineckes if they were Communists, she answered:  'Why should I?'"  She also volunteered that she had a copy of the Communist Party constitution at her home. [Honolulu Advertiser]

•  1949:  She was elected president of the Hawaiian Botanical Society.

•  1950:  Representing the Hawaiian Botanical Society, she wrote a letter in the Honolulu Advertiser protesting the plans of the Territorial Board of Agriculture and Forestry to  introduce axis deer to the Island of Hawaii. "It is the considered opinion of well-qualified botanists within the [Hawaiian Botanical] Society that such an introduction to the island of Hawaii will result in irreparable damage to the native Hawaiian flora, in some cases already disappearing, and will result thereby in needless destruction of things of interest, and value, to all scientists and lovers of nature."  [Honolulu Advertiser].  I don't know for sure, but I think this plea was successful.  Recently, axis deer were illegally transferred from Maui to the Big Island.  They got to Maui in 1950, but I don't know if they were there before this letter on June 29, 1950.

•  1959:  The Massie Trial.  During this infamous trial, the wife of a Navy officer accused some Hawaiian men of raping her, but eventually the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.  The mother of the alleged rape victim was unwilling to wait for another trial, and kidnapped and beat 2 of the defendants, one which was shot to death. Even though the mother admitted the assault and shooting, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter rather than murder, and "under pressure from the Navy, Territorial Governor Lawrence Judd commuted the 10-year sentences of the convicted killers to one hour, to be served in his office."  Ye gads!  Well, Bea Krauss wasn't involved in that case (although I can see her speaking out at this injustice).  However, this case was brought up as an example of brutality in another trial of John Reinecke, 1 of 7 defendants  on trial for conspiring, as leaders of the Communist Party of Hawaii, to "advocate the necessity of overthrowing their government by force and violence."  No doubt they had more firepower than Pearl Harbor and the other Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine bases!  But I digress.  Bea Krauss was called in as the 23rd defense witness, discussing her conversations with the police about the rough handling of the defendants by the police. [Honolulu Advertiser]

•  Bea Krauss wrote an article for the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper in 1966 describing her childhood memories using the Kahului Railroad (KRR) on Maui.  "When we first started using the school train we rode the mile from our homestead to the station on horses... and rode them home again in the afternoon."  "We were a pretty wild bunch on the school train.  At least, we were thorns in the side of our conductor - who was a sourpuss anyway."

•  1971:  An article mentions that she has been retired for 3 years, and now is teaching an ethnobotany course at UH. In addition, I found a note that says she was an assistant plant physiologist from 1926-1955 (that was a long spell; more on this later), an associate from 1955-1960, and a plant physiologist from 1960-1968, all with with Pineapple Research Institute.  Bea was involved in advances made in the use of plant regulators, thereby increasing the nutritional value, the quality, and the productivity of several varieties of pineapple (but I need to check this).  She then started her "second career" as a lecturer in botany at UH.

Bea Krauss, 1971, in a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article on traditional plant uses by Hawaiians. 

•  1973:  In a Honolulu Advertiser article about Bea, she noted, "Whenever my family wanted me, they'd find me sitting with a Hawaiian family and dipping my fingers in a bowl of poi."  

"On the first day of class, Miss Krauss often surprised her Botany 105 students.  She'd pass out her course outline and then make an announcement.  'I'd tell them not to take any notes.  I don't give exams and I pass everyone,' said Miss Krauss.  'I'm a very unorthodox teacher... [C]oming in at 65, I just had a new philosophy about education.  I give everyone an A or a B.  This is my way of thumbing my nose at the grading system. I've never been called upon by the administration or department.  They just think I'm a character so they excuse me.'"  When she started teaching, 60 students were enrolled.  In 1973, 550 students were enrolled.

"It's been a pleasure working with these young people.  I think young people today are marvelous.  I love people and working with students has made my life richer.  It was a great blessing.  I would have missed the best part of my life if I hadn't taught."



•  Two weeks ago, I was helping a teacher (Natasha) with a field trip to the UH Art Building.  There is some history here with Bea Krauss.  In 1972, UH decided to tear down Gilmore Hall to build the new Art Building.  In 1973, Bea Krauss was the leader of a group trying to protect Gilmore Hall and its trees.  "Other people on the faculty aren't in a position to speak out as I am.  They run the risk of upsetting people.  But I don't mind getting involved.  In my position, I run no risk at all."  What was her position?  She was an unpaid lecturer.  Yes, because Bea wouldn't sign a "loyalty oath" stating that she wouldn't try to overthrow the state, she worked unpaid, teaching one of the most popular courses on campus! She organized a sit-in the day before it was to be razed.  "We can't prevent it," she said of the demolition, even though she got the building placed on the Hawaii Register of Historical Places.  Bea and her supporters decorated Gilmore Hall with flowers, "We dressed her up in flowers because we wanted her to go down with dignity."  She was responsible for preserving and moving some trees, and I remember being told that she actually chained herself to a baobab tree to prevent its destruction (the Art Building seems to have been built around the magnificent tree).

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, this photo depicts Bea Krauss "gasping with emotional pain as she watches a wrecking crew begin the destruction of Gilmore Hall..."

•  1975: Bea Krauss was discussing her life for a symposium on women in science. "I knew I was getting paid less.  But it didn't bother me as long as I could live all right and travel."  The director of the Pineapple Research Institute's position?  Bea said she was told, "You women just have to accept the fact that you'll always take a back seat to men."  She was an assistant physiologist for 15 years, when the men were promoted in 5-10 years.  "I'm not a women's libber," she said, "I do believe there should be equal opportunity but I won't go out militantly for it.  I had equal opportunities to do research and publish, and I don't think I worked harder to get it because I loved my work and I worked hard anyway."

•  1982:  A conference on taro featured Bea Krauss as the keynote speaker.

•  1983:  This is for Caroline... Bea gave an interview about living in Manoa, and she had this to say, "One of the favorite pastimes in Manoa on weekends was to walk through new houses being built.  As soon as the frame went up, we'd walk through once a week and discuss whether the bathroom was in the right place and measure the bedrooms.  It would be unthinkable today.  But everybody did it then."  Now I see where Caroline gets her interest in touring homes under construction!

Bea is 80 years old.  "Not long ago a Hawaiian woman asked if Krauss could find her some popolo leaves to cure her father's bedsores.  On went the muddy 'working shoes,' and for the next couple of hours Bea tramped the lush acreage of Lyon Arboretum until she found a plant of the safe popolo variety" (Honolulu Advertiser).  "Krauss gained an enthusiasm for things Hawaiian partly because she considers herself Hawaiian in everything but blood..."  The article went on, "She never married. 'I was scared to death of boys when I was younger and as I got into my career I was taken up by that.'"

•  1985:  Bea Krauss was awarded the Kukui O Lota Award by the Moanalua Gardens Foundation for "her distinguished lifetime of selfless work as an educator, ethnobotanist, historian, and friend of all environmentalists."

The Beatrice H. Krauss Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Garden at Lyon Arboretum.
•  1987:  The Lyon Arboretum dedicates the Beatrice H. Krauss Hawaiian Ethnobotanical Garden.  She also receives an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from UH.

•  1989:  She was taped giving a number of short lectures on plants.

•  1994:  Bea is 90.  In an article titled "Botanist Krauss sees hope for Hawaii's future," it mentions "Preserving Hanauma Bay is a specific victory that brings a wide smile to [her] face as she talks about how the fish returned just one year after it was declared a fish preserve." 

•  1998:  Bea is placed on the list of Hawaii's Living Treasures.

•  1998:  Notice of the passing of Beatrice Krauss appears on the front page the Honolulu Advertiser.  She died surrounded by close friends and family, holding the hand of her niece, Karen.  Two days later, the paper features her in an editorial, and after reviewing her history, contributions, and awards, the paper stated, "But we'd trade all of those honors to be remembered, as Lyon Arboretum director Charles Lamoureux remembers Beatrice Krauss, as 'one of the most giving people I've ever known' - whether 'you were the governor of the state or the Dalai Lama or a third grader from Kalihi.'"  The editorial in the Star-Bulletin  was equally effusive.

At her memorial service, friend Irmgard Hormann commented, "She was always helping people: she was the most Christ-like person I've ever known.  She had a great appreciation of life, people, and nature."

•••

And one final note.  I am always surprised when people find that Caroline is a grand-niece of Bea Krauss, and start talking story about times spent in Bea's home.  In addition, I continually find books that are dedicated to Bea:

E. Allison Kay, A Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands:  "For Beatrice Krauss, who loves, studies, teaches and seeks to preserve the natural history of Hawai'i Nei."

Julie Stewart Williams, From the Mountains to the Sea: Early Hawaiian Life: "This book is dedicated to Beatrice H. Krauss and the late Donald D. Kilolanu Mitchell... my friends and my teachers of things Hawaiian."

Lois Lucas, Plants of Old Hawaii: "My deepest Mahalo to the many people who made this book possible.  First and foremost to Bea Krauss, who gave unstintingly of her knowledge, concern, and time to bring this material into fruition..."

And my favorite?

Robert Kamins and Robert Potter, Malamalama: a History of the University of Hawaii: "Dedicated to the memory of Beatrice H. Kapuaokalani Krauss who grew up with her University and as a student, teacher, ethnobotanist, and citizen exemplified its best."

This book was dedicated to Beatrice Krauss, and that is her picture on the front cover.

Caroline holding Wesley, standing with mother, Lisa.  In front are Katelin and Auntie Bea.



Makawao Cemetery, Maui County, Hawaii








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