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James V. Hall

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Hawaii’s history
is full of female
GOP trailblazers

A recent Associated Press story -- "Face of GOP in Hawaii grows more feminine" (Star-Bulletin, Nov. 21) -- was fine as far as it went. Unfortunately there seemed to be an assumption that women only recently became involved in the Republican Party of Hawaii. Women have played a major role in the party since the end of World War II.

Allow me to mention only a few of them:

» Elizabeth "Betty" Farrington. In 1946, Elizabeth Farrington, wife of Gov. Joseph Farrington, helped set up the Hawaii State Federation of Republican Women with clubs on all the major islands. These clubs are still active today in support of all Republican efforts in the state. She became Hawaii's first and only female delegate to Congress by defeating Jack Burns in 1954.

» Elizabeth "Libby" Kellerman. Kellerman was Republican National Committee- woman from Hawaii from 1963 to 1971. She also was elected as one of four female delegates to the 1950 Constitutional Convention that was convened to help Hawaii become a state. In 1949, she led 400 housewives, mostly Republicans, known as the "broom brigade," to picket the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in a protest against the dock strike.

» Eureka B. Forbes. Forbes was the only female state senator from either party from 1967 until she retired in 1974.

» Mary George. George was elected the first female member of the Honolulu City Council in 1974. In 1976 George was elected to the state Senate where, despite being a minority member, she acted as chairwoman of several key committees. She served as Senate Minority Leader for eight years until she retired in 1994.

» Carla W. Coray. Coray became the first female state major party chairperson in the early '70s. She was so skilled in grass-roots organizing that she was offered the post of co-national chairwoman of the Republican Party, which she turned down. Later, as auditoriums director, she had so many accomplishments during her 11-year tenure that the Galleria of the Blaisdell Center Complex was named the "Carla W. Coray Galleria."

The article briefly mentioned Pat Saiki as a former state party chairwoman and being the first Republican from Hawaii to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also was the first woman gubernatorial candidate to make it to the general election and had been earlier appointed by President George H.W. Bush to head the Small Business Administration.

Saiki put it best when she was quoted as saying "The Republican Party has always been open to women and has always encouraged women to run for office."

The operative word is "always." Woman have always, at least since 1946, have been in the forefront of the Republican Party of Hawaii as leaders, organizers, volunteers, donors, candidates and as elected officials.


James V. Hall is a former executive director of the Republican Party of Hawaii. He lives in Honolulu.

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