October 23, 1819

First Missionaries Leave for Hawaii

Greater Boston

On this day in 1819, a crowd gathered on a Boston wharf to bid farewell to the first Protestant missionaries bound for Hawaii. Among them were seven Massachusetts couples, four of them recently married. After a difficult five-month voyage, they got their first glimpse of the Big Island and its people. The islanders were friendly, curious, and easy-going, but their near-nakedness, ignorance of "civilized" ways, and apparent laziness shocked the missionaries. Although frustrated by the natives' lack of interest in farming, sewing, cleaning, and cooking, most of the couples stayed for years, building New England-style churches and schools, translating the Bible and other Protestant works into Hawaiian, and providing medical care. Most never returned to New England.

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