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Elizabeth Jessamine Kauikeolani Low Lucas (1895-1986)

Elizabeth, also known as Clorinda, was an enabler. She was Hawaii’s Jane Addams. A descendant of Hawaiian and Tahitian royalty and of King Kamehameha I, Corinda was born just after the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and three years before Hawaii was annexed by the United States. She learned early the meaning of the fundamental difference between basic values of her Hawaiian heritage—caring, sharing, trusting relationships, cooperation in work and in play—and the values of competition and achievement as the measures held by the Caucasians.

Guiding her wide-ranging professional activity was the long term goal of the community, a society that would value and respect all people and would be socially just for all. Her concern was that all children have the opportunity to develop the necessary skills, a personal sense of values and opportunity to guide daily living, and problem solving capacities that would enable them to take social responsibility for themselves, and as citizens, to maintain humane and just society for the future.

For three years following her graduation from Smith College (BA degree) in 1917, Mrs. Lucas worked in New York City for the national board of the YWCA in the Division of Education for Foreign-born Women. She was the first Hawaiian to have professional social work education. After she received the Diploma (equivalent to MSW) from the New York School (now Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1937, she returned to Hawaii as the Oahu County Chief of the relatively new Department of Public Welfare, then as director of Public Child Welfare. In 1943, she was asked to develop a pupil guidance program (school social work) in the state Department of Public Instruction. She served as director until she retired in 1960.

Mrs. Lucas was the first woman to be selected as a member and rotating chair of the board of trustees of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which serves orphaned and destitute Hawaiian children. With her leadership, units of the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center were established on the main Hawaiian Islands. Mrs. Lucas served as president of the board of directors of Kapiolani Children’s and Maternity Hospital, chair of the State Commission on Children and Youth, chair of the Kamehameha Schools Advisory Council, international president of the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asian Women’s Association. Her many awards include: Smith College Distinguished Alumni Award, the Distinguished Service Award for Home, School and Community Services of the Hawaii Congress of the PTA, the David Malo Award of the West Honolulu Rotary Club, the Francis E. Clark Award of the Hawaii Personnel and Guidance Association. In 1979, Mrs. Lucas was named a Living Treasure of Hawaii by the Buddhist Honpa Hongwanji Mission.

Social Work Pioneer - 1995