On Saturday, I drove with my husband and two of my daughters to the Iosepa Cemetery out in the Skull Valley region of Tooele County. There, we joined a small crowd of people to honor Hannah Kaaepa as a national marker was placed to celebrate her role in women’s suffrage. Hannah’s great grand-daughter, Noelette Cardejon Poulsen, was the keynote speaker and spoke of Hannah’s determination and commitment to her church, to her family and to her native Hawaii.
Hannah was born in Hawaii and immigrated to Utah at age 25 in 1898. She settled with her mother in Iosepa, joining other native Hawaiians who moved to be closer to a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In February 1899, she traveled to Washington D.C. for the third Triennial Congress of the National Council of Women with Susa Young Gates and others, where Hannah was asked to speak. In her remarks, Hannah urged Council members to use their influence to secure suffrage for the women of Hawaii. Later, she and other suffragists was hosted by dethroned Queen Liliuokalani who was living in Washington at the time and who had attended Hannah’s speech.
Hannah married in 1900 and with her husband George, returned to Hawaii in 1903. She had many children, but only two survived to adulthood. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 45.
The fortitude it must have taken Hawaiian saints to settle in a barren desert is remarkable. Skull Valley shares little with the islands of Hawaii, and yet for some 25 years, a devoted group of native Hawaiians made it work so they could participate in temple rites for fellow Hawaiians who had died. When the Laie Hawaii temple was begun in 1915, all but two of the Iosepa families returned to Hawaii to aid in its construction.